I'm so freakin' old that I can recall the days when there were elevator operators and gas-pump jockeys. Before this decade is out technology will do away with the need for bank tellers, grocery store cashiers and assembly-line workers - and so it goes: automation marches on. Innovation is the subject of this 1937 article - and the journalist briefly reminisced about a time in Sixteenth Century Danzig when the town elders ordered an inventor strangled, "lest his invention reduce many workers to beggary"; in our age of open markets, that sort of thinking is taboo. But in 1937 there were several innovations afoot that made the economic planners in FDR's New Deal rather uneasy about the continuing march of unemployment and with that in mind it was deemed suitable that a committee be convened to study the matter. The board of brainiacs called themselves the National Resources Committee and their study was boundless and all encompassing. This article summarizes the findings of one of the organization subcommittees; their 450,000-word report was titled "Technological Trends and National Policy, Including the Social Implications of of New Inventions". The head of this subcommittee was the famed sociology professor William F. Ogburn, and as the title implied, the report studied the blessing and the curse that is the nature of technological innovation:
"Because 'inventions create jobs as well as take them away,' the subcommittee would term invention neither an unmixed bane nor an unmixed blessing. But inventive sciences influence labor, natural resources, human minds and social institutions."
The inventions they were most curious about were television, plastics, air conditioning, synthetic rubber, synthetic fabrics, prefabricated housing, fax lines, long-distance air travel, automobile trailers and mechanical cotton picking.