These days, there seems to be a lot of fear that the human workforce will be completely replaced with machines. And let’s be real, Artificial Intelligence and automation are taking over a lot of jobs. But career options have gone through major evolutions before, and they probably will again. If you’re feeling anxious about the future, take a moment to look over these commonplace jobs of the past.
When Computers Were Human
The word “computer” is derived from “compute” – to calculate something. Today, powerful machines perform complicated calculations, but before that was possible, people did. Women, to be more precise. They’d been helping the busy and important men at universities do this for some time, and in the 1960s these female computers were essential to NASA’s Space Race efforts.
This is such a clear example of when tasks that previously required a lot of skill have been replaced by automation, but we’ve made it work for us. Think about how much has been made possible because of the capabilities of today’s computers. Not only that, but now that these calculations don’t take up so much time and brainpower, those resources can be used for other things.
Maintaining Strict Tea Standards
From 1879 to 1996 the Board of Tea Examiners was an official branch of the United States federal government. The seven-person operation was responsible for ensuring only the best tea got into the country, and they did this through the tried-and-trusted taste test method. Incredibly, this group of experts was only disbanded in 1996.
Knocker-uppers were human alarm clocks, not men who went around getting woman pregnant! Before you could set your phone to do it, and before there were even digital or analogue alarms, men (and sometimes women too) were hired to wake people up so that they could get to work on time. They used sticks, pebbles and clubs to knock on windows and doors. The only question here is who woke up the knocker uppers?
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In classical times men who held high office were known to indulge in Dionysus’ juice frequently, and get themselves rather drunk. But they still had to remember the names of other men in high places, to maintain their political and social standing. That’s where nomenclators came in. The only thing these slaves were tasked with doing was knowing everyone’s names, so that they could whisper them to their drunk masters as required.
Lighting the Way
Before streetlights were electric, lamplighters had the important duty of lighting, refuelling and extinguishing street lamps using ladders and long poles. This took place in the late 1800s and early 1900s, during the Industrial Revolution.
This career is not what you might be thinking; it didn’t involve bringing anyone back from the dead. Rather, a resurrectionist dug up dead bodies and sold them to universities for medical students who needed to study anatomy. Obtaining cadavers by legal means was tricky, so this was often the easiest solution. Macabre grave robbing, or doing what was necessary for the greater good?
Whether social norms or technological development rendered a job redundant, the fact is that once it wasn’t required any more, people found other things to do. Against the odds, the United States tea industry has survived without a Board of Examiners.
In this era, new careers such as app developers and social media influencers have evolved. The world is changing, but it’s hardly the first time that has happened. And human beings have already proven that they can change along with it. Isn’t it lucky we’re an adaptable bunch?