Is Unplanned Obsolescence Sneaking Up On Us?

US Navy CarrierUS Navy CarrierA Model T Ford is obsolete; so too a P-51 Mustang fighter plane, the Bell Telephone System, and if you are retired, you, too. Ultimately the earth will be obsolete if geologists and cosmologists are correct. Even at some point, perhaps our universe. When one considers it, obsolescence seems pretty pervasive.

In our usual think tank the other night (the shower, while waiting for the soap to rinse off) we considered some specific obsolescences:

1.  U.S. Navy Cariers/ships. To project power around the world, the Navy has relied upon some dozen or so floating airfields and their attendant escorts at enormous cost. That has worked pretty well; America has benefitted (more or less) from sole superpower status since Communism failed. Note though, that a chunk of the cost of this is still buried somewhere in the National Debt. Note even more, that missiles now enjoyed by even insignificant countries, can sink these presently floating anachronisms on short notice at low cost. The entire U.S. carrier fleet is now obsolete when it comes to fighting a real war. How do you rely on floating airfields when enemies have not only missiles, but satellite watchers? (No, ISIS and such are not a real war.) As so often: The future has arrived unannounced, before it was expected. Damn! A large chunk of the U.S. Navy is obsolete!

2.  Then there are all those schools and colleges presently preparing students so poorly that hundreds of thousands of foreign “guest workers” are being imported because our government says there are no Americans capable of doing the work? What use are local schools when the best teachers can be made available on the Internet at enormously lower cost? They are only an overwhelming waste of resources, is what. Add in the abysmal quality of most local education now and the whole thing is patently ridiculous. It’s waiting for an old fashioned taxi when an Uber  driver is available from your cell phone at lower cost. Old style taxis are obsolete as schools in expensive buildings.

3. If those aren’t enough for thought: What are today’s foreshortened U.S. workforce members to do for a living after the machines take over? The workforce is obsolete, too. China announced its first all robot factory; another is opening in Louisville. A place with 100 3D printers and three employees; one for each of three shifts.  Former Labor Secretary Robert Reich has said that income redistribution will be needed to support the unemployed masses after the machines take over. Given that government is trying to support present beneficiaries with deficit spending, exactly whose incomes will provide these funds seems a good question.

Perhaps our entire socio-economic model is obsolete. We have more than a sneaking feeling that our government is very obsolete. Hell, maybe our species is obsolete?

We have no idea. But we’re fairly confident that the current “we’re entitled” model is obsolete and that a lot of unsuspecting folk are shortly to be hornswoggled thereby. We expect the U.S. to resemble a disturbed anthill in response. Given the National Defense Appropriation Act 2012 and the currently politicized Patriot Act renewal, so does our government.

A lot of this seems to reflect political promises to voters that work is somehow obsolete. Yeah … Well, we’ll see how it works out as we proceed, right?

About Jack Curtis

Suspicious of government, doubtful of economics, fond of figure skating (but the off-ice part, not so much) Couple of degrees in government, a few medals in figure skating; just reading and suspicion for economics ...
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