The Boomer Apocalypse

by Jim Powers

Just as you thought the Zombie Apocalypse was finally fading into well-deserved obscurity, and that it might be safe to put the shotgun back on the rack and leave the bunker, Internet pundits are sounding a new warning. The Boomer Apocalypse is here. Hidden among the millions of folks born between 1946 and 1964 is a little known secret. Immortality! Boomers, it seems, are immortal. Don't believe it? Why not? It's all over the Internet.

An important note: This monthly column will be an extended rant about technology. Specifically, it is about the future consequences of the unconsidered growth of technology.

"So, Jim, what's up with 'The Boomer Apocalypse' title?"

I was born in 1950, firmly securing my Boomer bona fides among those born between 1946 and 1964. I've lived the typical Boomer life. Started working at a little corner grocery store after school when I was 13 and have worked every day since then. Got an education. Married. Been a photographer, newspaper reporter and editor. Published a couple of newspapers. Owned my own software development company. Bought and sold a few homes along the way. I've learned on the Internet over the last few years, though, that I, and the rest of the Boomers, are the cause of all the now and future economic pain in the United States! It's got to be true, right? It's on the Internet.

It seems a large number of Gen X and Y folks believe that if the Boomers hadn't been so greedy, hadn't expected so much, hadn't organized unions and demanded living wages, that the country would be better off economically now. Boomers have been accused of "using up" the resources of the country, leaving nothing but economic bones to be picked over by those coming of age in the 21st century. Worse, those same Boomers are now getting old, retiring from jobs, and becoming a huge drain on the economy as they begin drawing from Social Security and Medicare. I've read hundreds of projections about the future consequences to the economy, to job creation and availability, and even to housing, as the country has to somehow support all of these old people.

I think all of this is a diversion, and a dangerous diversion. The reality is that Boomers are not immortal. In 25 years, the youngest of us will be 74 years old. Which means most of us will be dead. And while we may be retiring at a faster rate and making more individual demands on the system, we will also be dying at an ever accelerating rate. If we are a burden on the economy, it is a very temporary burden. If we caused all the economic woe of the last few years, an extremely odd concept to my mind, what value is there in condemnation? It is the future, not the past, with which current generations must be concerned.

The "Boomer Apocalypse" is self-limiting. And while so much angst is expended on a self-limiting concern, little is being directed to a more direct threat to future economic security, the unconsidered expansion of technology into every corner of our lives. We are not going to stop the growth of technology. Commercial interests are driving the speed at which technology grows. It is important, though, that we consider the consequences of that growth and make conscious decisions about its direction.

Industry estimates suggest that in 25 years, up to 70 percent of the jobs that exist today will not exist because they will have been replaced with intelligent robots. And the rise of so-called "sociable" robots suggests even more fundamental concerns about our future. We will take a deeper look at these issues in the August column.

Jim Powers is Editor of the Tyler County Booster. All opinions expressed are those of the author and do no necessarily reflect those of this Newspaper or its management.