I’m sure everyone has had the experience where at the mention of some new or potential productivity enhancing invention, somebody laments “what about all the X that this will put out of work?”. This concern isn’t always voiced or seemingly brought to mind, and I can’t put my finder on what determines which innovations set it off in people’s mind and which ones don’t. Because this creative destruction -as Schumpeter called it- is all around us, and sometimes people simply enjoy the benefits without realizing the jobs lost. A better appreciation for how creative destruction makes us better off can be had if we keep it in mind at when we think about all technologies and innovations, rather then only considering it when the destruction part is most obvious. To wit, the New York Times reporting on the ongoing destruction of point-and-click camera market by smartphones:
Cameras, mostly point-and-shoots, are still found in 82 percent of American households, according to the Consumer Electronics Association. But for many consumers, the point-and-shoot they have now may be the last they ever own as they favor the camera in their smartphone….
The sales figures tell the story. While smartphone sales in the United States continue to skyrocket, unit sales of point-and-shoot cameras fell nearly 16 percent from 2008, according to the market research firm NPD Group. That corresponds to a decline of 24 percent in dollars, to $1.9 billion , from $2.4 billion….
Facebook says that since the site was founded in 2004, its users have uploaded more than 50 billion photos, making that feature one of its most popular. Flickr, the photo-sharing site, says users add more than three million photos to its inventory every day. Yet Flickr’s data shows that the most popular camera among its 55 million users is a smartphone, Apple’s iPhone 3G. Not a single point-and-shoot makes it into its top five.
Keep stories like these in your head for when someone argues that we are worse off because of some creative destruction.