The Art of Jobbery

By Joshua Seidemann, Vice President of Policy, NTCA–The Rural Broadband Association 

March 30, 2018

Google Doodle this week celebrated what would have been the 310th birthday of Hannah Glasse. If you don't know who she was, don't be ashamed; I also needed to click the Doodle to learn.

Hannah Glasse was the mother of the modern cookbook. At a time when anyone who ate well was relying upon the efforts of servants or hired cooks, Glasse collected nearly 1,000 recipes and published The Art of Cookery Made Plain and Easy. It was, reportedly, a best-seller for nearly 100 years (with chapter XXIII titled, "A Receipt to Keep Clear from Buggs," who can argue?).

Growing up, we had a collection of cookbooks at home. My sisters later divided my mother's collection among themselves, though the box of handwritten recipes on index cards remains a mystery worthy of Agatha Christie or Sir Arthur Conan Doyle.

I don't know the last time I saw a handwritten recipe; these days, I watch the ladies in my family text screen shots of recipes back and forth. Sometimes, they will even take a picture of a cookbook page to share across the wires.

About two years ago, Quartz published "The Internet Should Have Killed the Cookbook, But Instead It Reinvented It." The article described everything I have witnessed at home, as well as the proliferation of cooking websites and videos. But, it explained that Food52, a cooking website (which was described as perhaps "the single greatest threat to the old-fashioned cookbook") took the best of the web and reimagined it into a book.

So, rather than burden the reader with one author's view of the kitchen, "Genius Recipes" presents 100 recipes that are, effectively, crowd-sourced. The collection relies upon the tastes and testing of professional and amateurs who appeared on the website's blog over a period of years. Each recipe features a "killer app" (hence the title, "Genius Recipes"). So, if I (or anyone else) thought the Internet would be death knell for cookbooks, we were wrong. It just made things better.

Similar reasoning can be applied to the proliferation of AI. The Wall Street Journal published an article last summer, "Don't Fear the Robots." The author proposed that the growth of AI might change the job market, but it won't shrink it overall. The article explains:

. . . an incredible 57% of the jobs that workers did in 1960 no longer exist today . . . Workers suffering some of the largest losses included office clerks, secretaries, and telephone operators . . . Who is old enough to remember bowling alley pin-setters? Elevator operators? Gas jockeys? When was the last time you heard a manager say, "Take a memo"?

The national unemployment rate is currently a bit under 6%. Better than the nearly 10% in 2009, but higher than the early 1990s. However, evidence drawn from employment trends and concurrent technological advances tend to demonstrate that the aggregate impacts seem to operate independently of each other. Sector-specific job losses are usually compensated by new job creation in other sectors.

Hannah Glasse can rest easy. Her innovation persists, not simply despite, but also taking full advantage of, technology. And the same can be said for jobs.