We Are the 1 Percent

With the touch of a button I eliminate 500,000 jobs- watch!

Ever use an ATM?

I am old enough to remember when, if you needed cash (and who did not), you went to the bank and stood on line with a personal check made out to cash.

If you waited too long (and I had this experience many times) the lines were out the door on Friday as 3PM, closing time for the bank appeared. If you were really unfortunate you could be left cashless for the weekend, or in search of a friendly grocer who would cash your personal check.

Those were the days!

Then along came the ATM machines -- and suddenly, like magic, you could get cash any time you wanted.

Today we all use ATMs.

They're great.

The problem is that every time you use an ATM, you (yes, you) personally fire a bank teller.

If you've got machines doing the job, who needs to pay bank tellers?

This weekend we are on Key Biscayne in Florida.

To get to Key Biscayne, you drive over the Rickenbacker Causeway.

It used to be that you had to stop and pay a toll to get on the Causeway. Now, it's all automatic (don't ask me how they do it, but they do). No more lines. No more tellers. No more jobs, also.

Every time you buy something from Amazon, you personally fire a store clerk. Every time you livestream music from Pandora, you personally fire a clerk in Tower Records, which you personally helped to close down.

I am reading a fascinating book that makes all of this very clear: "The Second Machine Age" by Erik lBrynjolfsson and Andrew McAfee. It is filled with fascinating information on the impact of the Digital Revolution.

Let's look at photography.

Of the 3.5 trillion photos that have been taken since the invention of photography in the mid 19th Century, fully 10 percent were taken in just the last year. That's pretty astonishing.

What is more astonishing is that more photos were taken in the last two minutes than in ALL of the 19th Century.

Clearly, photography is exploding (mostly thanks to everyone having an iPhone that has a camera).

Photography was once the domain of KODAK, which pretty much owned the medium. At its yellow and red height, KODAK had more than 145,000 employees.

I can remember the thrill of opening a Christmas present that said 'Open Me First'. It held a Kodak Instamatic camera. 36 exposures to a roll of film. Rotating flash cube. You took the film to a Photomat store and in 24 hours, you got your 36 pictures back. Amazing.

Then, along came Instagram -- a company of just 15 people. They built an app that shares 16 billion photos -- and wiped out KODAK. 70 billion photos are uploaded to Facebook every year.

When KODAK went, it took with it not only its 145,000 employees (Kodak filed for bankruptcy), but also everyone who worked in the photography business supply chain - the people in the Photomap booths, the people who sold cameras, the people who made the chemicals, the paper, the plastic, the packaging, the ad agency -- on and on and on. Millions of people unemployed thanks to one app and 15 people.

And, of course, the hundreds of millions of us who USE the app.

Push the button - wipe out a million jobs.

That's what you are doing.

And of course, Instagram and KODAK are not alone.

Every new app, every new cool, money saving, time saving, must have this thing piece of new technology does exactly the same thing. Wipes out jobs. Wipes out people's lives and careers.

There is a lot of talk now about the 'hollowing out of the Middle Class', and it is all very real.

But searching for a scapegoat amongst the 'evil bankers' or the 'evil capitalists' or the 'evil 1%' fails to address the bigger problem and the real cause.

The enemy is us.

So to speak.