Many of us have heard that robotics is changing the culture of work. When we hear “robotics” we might think of the assembly line in a car plant, which used to be manned by live workers. Now, robots do most of the assembly of cars — robots can work 24/7, without bathroom or meal breaks, at a sustained level of precision that humans simply can’t match. Some of us might even have robotics in our homes — a Roomba to pick up dust and dog hair and mud tracked in by the kids, rather than a person to push and pull a vacuum cleaner.
There’s another robotics revolution on the near horizon: self driving cars and trucks. Right now there are 3.5 million professional truck drivers in the U.S., and a total of more than 8.7 million people employed in the trucking industry. In turn, those truckers support small town diners, motels, and truck stops all over America — like the one Phyllis and I ate at in Georgia that offered the best chicken gizzard dinner in the county.
Think about what happens when those trucking jobs, and the small businesses that support those truckers, go away.
“As truck driving becomes automated, the diners, motels, and stops that populate the main routes through middle America will become nothing more than nostalgic relics.”
We’re not ready for yet another profound dislocation.