The following post is by Sean Lewis, Marketing Director for AGC of Washington
One of the pieces of wisdom my mom always told me was, “find a need and fill it.” She, of course, didn’t come up with that concept on her own, but I’ve always found it to be good advice, right along the lines of “nature abhors a vacuum” and “necessity is the mother of invention”. As I look around our city, region, and planet – and even just in the A/E/C world – there are plenty of examples of this concept in action (I’m all for this kind of change, when it’s a product of natural forces. When government dictates it or fights it – not so much).
Using new technologies, Uber and Lyft have transformed how many of us get from place to place, sending 9.0 Richter-scale tremors through that industry, comparable to what the Model T did to the horse and buggy. Interestingly, there wasn’t a vacuum there at all until new technology suddenly opened the door to it.
Electric vehicles have made their mark too, with technology that continues to advance rapidly, and although I still have my doubts about how a driverless car is going to take me to the exact spot where I want to be dropped off like a human driver can, it’s amazing to see how that technology (and its affordability) is advancing as well. Even automated construction vehicles like graders and pavers (and many other commercial vehicles to be sure) are coming soon, with amazingly accurate GPS-guided systems.
We’re re-using architectural wood products like never before. We’re creating buildings that generate their own energy. We’re “printing” concrete walls now to build structures with efficiencies never seen before. Apartments and homes are seemingly getting smaller and smaller, at least in Seattle, as every square foot of space becomes more and more valuable. And the vast majority of them, for right or wrong, do not automatically come with a parking space.
Although I’ve always been a staunch resister to those automated check-out lanes at the grocery store (I guess I uncharacteristically feel sorry for the checkers whose jobs are becoming obsolete), my wife and I recently made our first restaurant order and purchase at an in-store kiosk, without ever interacting with a single human being. An actual person did bring our order to us, and I can only assume that a human was somehow involved in preparing our food – but the writing is definitely on the wall for both of those positions too. And heck, even pizzas are now being delivered in urban areas by little R2D2-esque robots (are we supposed to tip them?).
And I won’t even discuss drone delivery-service technology. Well, yeah, I guess I did, so I’ll add that when this becomes commonplace, it’ll be the dream of every 10-year-old with a BB gun (oh, to be young again).
All these advancements are naturally driven by need, technology, and consumer demand, and virtually no industry is immune. We’re automating so much, so quickly, things like human beings engaged in vehicle-driving and burger-flipping and delivery services might soon be no more than sepia-tinted images in a history book. Whoops – I mean, on a history website.
Clearly, mom was right: nature does indeed abhor a vacuum, and necessity is indeed the mother of invention. What happens after that, though? Could it be that Blog Author is the only occupation not endangered by technology?