If it helps to think through the consequences of rapid technological change and its downstream social and economic effects, it is worth remembering the time we ended sharecropping:
“While southern farmers gradually made technological adjustments during the 1930s and early 1940s, agricultural engineers and tinkerers worked independently or for farm-implement companies to solve the most perplexing technological problem in southern agriculture: mechanization of the cotton harvest. During the 1920s, Texas and Oklahoma farmers on the southern Plains began using sleds that stripped the cotton bolls from the plants, but mechanical pickers were not efficient until the International Harvester Company built the first practical spindle picker in 1941. Continued labor shortages after the end of World War II and technological improvements during the 1950s made the mechanical picker a commercial success. By the late 1960s, mechanical pickers harvested approximately 96 percent of the cotton crop. Because each two-row picker replaced approximately 80 workers, the machine displaced at least a million men and women in the harvest field after the mid-1940s.
The development of the tractor hastened the mechanization of southern agriculture. Although only 1 percent of the farmers in the 11 cotton states owned tractors in 1920, the later small, general-purpose tractor produced after the mid-1920s was well suited for the southern farm. Great Plains farmers in Texas and Oklahoma adopted the tractor first, and southern farmers gradually turned to it as well. During World War II, Arkansas, Mississippi, Alabama, Georgia, and North and South Carolina farmers increased their supply of tractors by 100 percent. Until the end of World War II, however, the adoption of tractors and other mechanized equipment was a response to a declining labor supply rather than a cause of flight from the land. Even so, by 1945 than 20 percent of the nation’s million tractors were located in the cotton states.
By the mid-20th century, the most mechanized southern farms were located on the Yazoo Delta or Basin, the coastal plain of Texas, and the southern Great Plains in Texas and Oklahoma. In those areas, level terrain, large fields, and few obstructions made the farms ideal for the efficient application of mechanization. By the early 1970s, southern farmers began to use airplanes to spray their crops with pesticides, and the mechanical tobacco picker was practical in certain limited economic situations. Mechanical pickers also harvested citrus fruits, and eight-row planters seeded the cotton crop. By the late 1970s, tractors, combines, corn pickers or picker-shellers, pickup balers, and field forage harvesters were common implements on southern farms, and all major aspects of southern agriculture were mechanized.
Technological change has contributed to the decline of the southern farm population and agricultural workforce. Mechanization also has encouraged the consolidation of farms, stimulated a neoplantation movement, and enabled southern farmers to produce more food and fiber than ever before. By doing so, mechanization has helped improve the quality of southern farm life.”
Melissa Walker and James C. Cobb, The New Encyclopedia of Southern Culture: Agriculture & Industry (University of North Carolina Press, 2008), pp-85-88
I want you to try a thought experiment.
I want you to go outside into your yard and then back into your house and look at every device that is related to either 1.) electrification or 2.) telecommunications. This includes your smartphone, your computer, your television, your stove, your dishwasher, etc.
Every single one of these things is an application of these two basic technologies. Now, I want you to imagine how deep learning AI will transform our world in the 21st century, as what we are now about to go through is going to be bigger than what happened in even the 20th century.
Can we afford to be stupid and continue with dysfunctional Boomer politics as usual or should our government like China’s government instead turn its attention to the task of harnessing this technological revolution like previous ones in the 20th century?