When I talk about automation, I don't necessarily mean robots running around showing holograms. What I mean are computerized systems that will run processes with little or no human interaction. Automation will redefine many jobs and replace many others. 

There's a paper published in 2013 called "The Future of Employment: How Susceptible are Jobs to Computerization?" What's particularly interesting is the appendix that ranks jobs by probability of computerization. For instance, out of a 0 to 1 scale, Choreographers have a probability ranking of .004 (there you go, Jason Crespin at Amarillo Little Theater!). 

On the other end are occupations such as receptionists, cooks, welders, and telemarketers. Some of these probability scores are .99 out of 1.

If you've ever used Amazon or watched a movie through Netflix, you understand why Hastings shut down in Amarillo (yes, I'm oversimplifying, but in general terms it's apparent what's going on). It's also apparent we can't hold on to the old way of doing things. 

What we can do is become a hub of invention and entrepreneurship and make a systemic change in our local economy by promoting a series of small and dynamic businesses, in essence creating our own startup culture. 

What's a city go to do with that? It's all about infrastructure. I don't mean water, sewer, and roads. Those are the things cities are already doing (and they're the things Amarillo is finally getting around to fixing). I'm talking about network infrastructure and how cities are starting to build tools to give these kinds of new companies with new ideas the opportunity to thrive. I'll talk about more specific examples in my next few posts.

What we can do - right now - is build the right team with the school districts, Amarillo College, West Texas A&M, and Texas Tech because the core of my argument rests solely on education. This kind of education should have relevance to the student and hope for the city. The city of Amarillo has never built such an economic and strategic partnership with our educational institutions before - until now.

We have to think deeply and critically about where Amarillo needs to be in the future, and these are the conversations I've been having with people.

Oh, and yes, even lawyers are under threat: Robot Lawyer.

The Cost of Public Service

A couple of months ago a local court jester attorney saw me downtown, held up a wine glass, and yelled, "Well, there's our corrupt city councilman." He then followed that with an onslaught of incomprehensible sputtering punctuated by some fairly detailed obscenities.

What are you supposed to do when faced with that? Argue? Ask why he's calling me corrupt? Talk to him rationally? 

No, you have to take it because that's supposed to be the gig.

I ran for this city council seat and won because our city needed some deep and systemic change. We needed to fix our antiquated infrastructure. Our sewer and water pipes simply aren't good enough for long-term growth. We were paying city employees - your employees - poverty wages. Our roads are cratering before our eyes. 

And we needed a solid plan for the future, which I proposed we could power on the back on clever technology and partnerships with local higher educational institutions. We needed to work on an economic development plan that provides opportunity for growth and jobs in all areas of our city, especially places north and northeast that we've ignored for decades.

These are hard discussions and tough problems, and I feel I've barely made a dent in them. Instead I spend quite a bit of time dealing with the "politics" of things and I really would rather not. 

We're missing for proverbial forest because of the trees, and in this case we are in the middle of an economic transformation that will rival the industrial revolution. It's not immigrants who are going to take away jobs. It's automation.

If we're smart and make good policy, Amarillo can be a leader during this economic transformation and how all parts of our city can benefit. But then comes the cost. I've really thought deeply during the past seven months on the personal cost of this job that pays $10 a week. (A lot of people are happy to call me inept or incompetent or corrupt on Facebook, but I've never talked to them or seen them at a meeting when I ask for help.)

This isn't about an election or reelection. There's going to be plenty of that going around these next few months. This is about serious discussions and why we've failed to have them.  This is about where Amarillo is today and where we have to go in the future. 

So I've decided to talk about it here.

Let's go.