We will all become obsolete / by Tim Querengesser

Like my father before me, I'm about to become obsolete before I'm ready. 

Both of us can blame computers. 

My dad was in his late 50s or so when society decided he was no longer useful. That was thanks to the personal computer, which made his beautiful, hard-won skill of fixing mechanical typewriters similar to my current skill of writing and creating journalism for print media. 

Like my dad had to concede, in the late '90s, as his clients were reduced from huge corporations to, in the end, a handful of friendly old ladies who refused to give up their typewriters and adopt computers, I can see the demand for newspapers and magazines on an accelerating trend downwards. 

The hardest part about becoming obsolete is that you can see it coming clearly for years, before it actually happens. Once you get there, to the end, you've already fought the war. Then you just give up and walk away.  

Still, there's a pause and needed reflection at the end.

The main difference between our experiences, my dad's and mine, is that my dad was approaching retirement age when society took his career out behind the barn. I'm only in my late 30s, and I'm about to be taken back there.  

This has me thinking.

Back in the '90s, I remember reading Future Shock, by Alvin Toffler, and thinking its key message, that the acceleration of technological change was becoming too fast for humans to cope, was talking about my typewriter-fixing dad.

Today, I realize that book's message was about me. And all of us.

What might the acceleration of obsolescence mean for my still-unborn children? Will they even be out of their 20s before they have to consider a whole new set of skills?

Will they ever develop talents they can hone over decades to the point of mastery? To the point of my dad, adjusting the 1,000 moving parts in an IBM Selectric in the space of an evening, on his kitchen table? 

That's something that will likely die with him. The typewriters will outlast the ability of humans to fix them (those Selectrics are built like tanks).

On March 1, I'm leaving the magazining and newspapering industry that sees me as the current managing editor of Metro Edmonton.

This industry has paid my bills, more or less, since 2002. I'm not ready to leave it. Indeed, my skills are entering a new phase, where everything I encounter, read, experience, somehow finds itself informing my work.

I'm just getting started. No longer an amateur. But I'm done fighting the war. And that's fine, I guess.   

© Copyright 2017 Tim Querengesser. No reproductions without license. 
Image credit: Steve Lodefink/Flikr