In the age of automation, jobs are often killed off in the capitalist process of "creative destruction." Indeed, these processes are more powerful and longer-lasting than even the most adamant observer may have noticed. For example, while most people know there are now fewer than 60,000 coal miners in the U.S., a figure that continues to drop, most people generally do not know that peak employment in the coal industry was almost 100 years ago. Even less known is that the biggest employer in the energy sector is solar power, clocking in with a mighty 350,000 workers already - with solar installer one of the top three fastest-growing jobs in the late 2010s!
All of this can be quite scary, because retraining isn't as easy as just turning on a dime. You can't just go to bed as a coal miner and wake up as a solar technician. However, a trip down memory lane can be reassuring, as it reminds us that there is nothing new under the sun. Jobs have always come and gone, and people have always adapted. Most of the time the new jobs are safer, less physically arduous and more intellectually stimulating. The more we look back at where we used to be, the clearer it is that when it comes to work, the curve of history is away from enduring repetitive drudgery, being physically worn out by age fifty and facing a high risk of workplace injury (not to mention how segregated old workplaces used to be, by race and gender). If we so choose, we could be headed en masse into the sunlit uplands of creativity, independence and even passion for our work.
Still, we must never forget how we got here. Let's check out some jobs that have gone the way of the dodo!