Is technology to blame for our stubborn unemployment? President Obama scored ATMs and airport kiosks in a 2011 "Today Show" interview, blaming them for "structural issues with our economy." Other technophobes have piled on. Former Labor Secretary Robert Reich wondered late last year: "What if we're stuck at a new normal of high unemployment and low job growth? It's possible because technology might just have gotten the best of us." In March, Salon.com declared "Your iPhone kills jobs." And in May, the Economist suggested "technology may destroy more jobs than it creates."
The road to wealth does indeed pass through the graveyard of today's jobs. But history shows that better, higher paying jobs are always created by technology—even if no one seems to remember this during periods of creative destruction.
The trick is to lower the cost of new machines and inventions that can do things never before possible, making them available for wide use. Here are a few recent examples that could be economic game-changers and job-creators:
• Three-dimensional printing. By now, you've probably heard of 3-D printers, the gadget du jour for geeks that creates objects from computer models, building them layer by layer. Right now, they are priced between $1,000 and $10,000, with the most expensive version able to print multiple materials.