What the Hell Happened to the Paperboy?


He aggressively scolded us for not folding the paper perfectly down the center, or maybe the rubber-band was a quarter inch off center, but regardless we were to make it right immediately. We were maybe eight or nine years old at the time and desperately trying to prove our worth. Our thin busy fingers never gave up the task. This was the late 60’s when many of the neighborhood boys had newspaper routes. My handsome neighbor Billy was one of them. 

He was a Tom Sawyer type in that he convinced his sister Lori and I that girls were incapable of folding newspapers just right. We were determined to prove him wrong and we kept at it all summer. A huge stack of unfolded newsprint, neatly tied with twine, was dumped on the curb each evening. Do you remember those warm summer days, as if taffy, stretching into long soft evenings? The paperboy was responsible for folding, and rubber-banding the stack in preparation for early morning dispersal.   

Somehow Lori and I ended up managing this aspect of Billy’s job, unpaid mine you, and I have to believe with interest I’m due at least $10! 

I realize I am taking an extraordinary amount of time to get to the point but hang in there I’m close. 

It was maybe twenty years later when cars replaced the boys on bikes. If you were up early enough you would see the beat up grey sedans driving smack down the middle of the road with someone in the backseat tossing papers to both sides of the street.

They say the newspaper industry is dying (except for the Washington Post because they have a Jeffery IV). Most people nowadays get their daily news via online sources where much of the content is generated by ruthlessly efficient article-writing robots. We have several family subscriptions to a variety of online newspapers that allow for multiple sign-ons from various locations. It’s a family affair.


The point being, in a relatively short amount of time, paperboys and young sisters hoping to please their big brothers, have been outsourced. Seth Godin says, “technology destroys the perfect and then it enables the impossible.”

Technology has taken over many of the mundane tasks in our lives. I don’t have to set a fire to keep the house warm or open a window to cool it down. I can call, text, or email someone instead of paying them a visit. I order almost everything online, instead of visiting an actual brick and mortar store, and it is technology that enables me to organize my own travel plans with the click of a button. When I get to the airport even my iris’s are on file through the miracle of mathematical pattern recognition. 

“Technology is a useful servant but a dangerous master” Christian Lous Lange

The libraries have all been hacked, with all this fangled automation students hardly ever handle real books, or browse through dusty shelves scanning for relevant titles, then photo copying the important pages. It’s all online and a search engine can give you a list of germane titles in a matter of seconds. How fun it that?

“When you think of the good old days, think one word: dentistry” P.J. O’Rourke

Cars can drive themselves with or without people. My co-worker Katie and I had a brief discussion on the morality of self-driving cars. How will they decide moral issues like avoiding the children crossing the street or adverting into the Oak tree which destroys the passenger? Will the car eventually favor sustaining itself over human life? And if we program self sacrificing attributes into a car’s OS does that in itself constitute new life? It’s complicated!


A computer can read an X-ray more precisely than a human, diagnose and recommend treatment in a fraction of the time (were leeches really so bad?), schedule trains, vacuum the house, monitor temperature, manufacture just about anything from cars to computers. AI systems are developing as rapidly as a two year old (think Alexa with attitude), augmented realities whisk us off to Neverland where the pirates are real, and devise mobility is trending. 

Technology is creating music, art, and new forms of photography. An OS can run the entire home more efficiently then I ever could and alert you when someone approaches your front door. It’s uncanny how fast technology is changing our lives.

“Almost everything will work again if you unplug it for a few minutes, including you” Anne Lamott

Seth Godin challenges us to consider this question: What can I become quite good at that’s really difficult for a computer to do one day soon? How can I become so resilient, so human and such a linchpin that shifts in technology won’t be able to catch up?

I start to panic because clearly making waffles, replacing the toilet paper, and spewing facts to highly intelligent students can all be achieved with technology. I grab a cup of warm coffee and head to the back deck. Staring blankly at the mesmerizing lake allows the calm to wash over me. Breath in breath out.

“He had to focus on something important that would hold him to his mortal life” Rick Riordan

I like (okay, love) making observations about the world, the people in it, and the circumstances we create in this marvelous playground of life. That’s kind of unique. I want to understand why we’re here, what is our purpose, and what’s next. Like my eight year old self, my not so thin fingers are still busy striking a keyboard. I’m hopeful that my words will have a purpose in our future but quite possibly I’ll be outsourced by a well designed program that can spit out an essay on the mechanics of life in a nano second. I’m not sure writing robots have the ability to enter into the humane perspective, express optimism, or convey hope but maybe they have a great sense of humor? 

What can we do that is uniquely human but also unprogrammable? And while we’re on the topic, h
ow do we get rid of all those pesky software engineers? It’s worthy of our consideration (I’m talking about developing your loftier skills, not recruiting assassins). I think poets are pretty safe, dog walkers, nursing moms, psychics, plumbers, and maybe comedians. I don’t care how well you accessorize this life. Other than that you’re toast. And if you ingenious types would leave a few suggestions in the comments we would all be grateful.

“Science and technology revolutionize our lives, but memory, tradition and myth frame our response” Arthur M. Schlesinger

What will become of the human who has finally mastered the art of folding the paper directly down the middle and perfectly centering the rubber-band? If my hands are empty, my skill obsolete, how will I prove my worth?

Anecdotes:

  • I like originals
  • Vacuuming is not a skill
  • I miss the sound of my Dad reading the paper in the morning
  • Billy you owe me $10
  • Blogspot comments are meant to test your endurance, you have to copy your comment before posting because trust me it will get lost, you will have to try at least three times to publish, stop whining, just do it.
  • I’m on a brief hiatus to France ~ if a 100 of you could share this post on your social media sites ~ that would be swell! 




I’m Living in the Gap, brushing up on technology resistant skills, drop in?

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