Every once in a while I’m transported back in time. I see or hear or smell something that strips away the high tech digital world of the present. On August 4th 2016 I could have sworn that I was passing through some kind of time slip. I have posted about the Shay Reproduction Roadsters before however for those who don’t know these are antique car design with modern modern materials. The Aesthetics of the older vehicles bring to mind thing like the feel of fine leather upholstery and the smell of wood polish. There was a time when people drove for the pleasure of the open road and not just going from point A to point B. There was an age when a person’s time was their own and a craftsman was appreciated for the quality of his work and not just the sheer volume of production. The artistry in the architecture blended with craftsmanship and skilled hand gave life to the machine. Mass production made them affordable but each piece had its own personality. We gave them names and made them members of our families. When the older ones began to break down we learned how to repair the machine and extended it’s lifetime until there was no choice but to let it go. As I look towards the future of the motor car I can see a time when Artificial Intelligence just might have the potential to deepen our connection with the vehicles. I can imagine how smart cameras embedded in car will recognize our faces and the cars will know our names. When it will learn our routine and wish us a good morning as we step out of the house. There will be lots of bells and whistles. There is already cars with Wi-Fi networks to keep us entertained. Advanced warning systems to keep the driver from changing lanes at the wrong time and cars that drive themselves are becoming more and more common. But, in all of the wondrous technology that is on the rise I have to admit that I will miss the simple pleasure climbing behind the wheel just driving.
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Today we have machinery that does most of the work. But there was a time when each spike was driven by hands of a worker. Each beam was placed on a platform that was also laid down by human hands. The heavy iron rails had to be moved into place and precisely positioned. The land wasn’t joined by steel as much as it was the blood, sweat and tears of men who placed it there. Today, I was reminded of one such person who’s very name brings to mind myth and legend. The real John Henry. I understand that some of my international friends may not be familiar with the story of John Henry, so here are the basics. John Henry was a railroad worker and possibly a former slave who was working on the Big Bend Tunnel in West Virginia. At the time when the industrial revolution was bringing about new technologies. Namely, the steam hammer. A machine that drives steel without rest. A machine that threatened the livelihood of every worker building the rail system. In an effort to save the jobs of himself and his coworkers John Henry challenged the steam hammer to a race and he won! The power and strength of a man who could out work a machine must have been an awesome sight. However, the story ends in tragedy. John Henry dies of exhaustion that very night. The steam hammer gets the contract to complete the railroad. Why would I write about such a sad story on my normally upbeat blog? Because, it’s happening again. Our world is changing. More and more I see and hear about automation. Robot cars are replacing Uber drivers, self checkout is replacing cashiers and software applications are set to take over other jobs. This not a race people can win by brute force. This is a thinking game. ( using the word game metaphorically). At the time of the steam hammer a man of John Henry’s strength and power could have done very well by shoveling coal that powered the machine instead of trying to out work it. He could have adapted to work with the technology and become an invaluable part of that team. As we move into the future of automaton I want to encourage you to think differently about how to adapt to the new work environments. The robot car can never be as romantic as a horse and buggy ride in the country. There will be those older folks who would rather pay someone to do their shopping for them rather than face the self check out. Jobs won’t go away completely. Instead, new niches will form and with them will be new opportunities.
I see the railway in the feature image and I see a man, a machine and the new opportunities that lay unseen just beyond the next bend in the tracks.
History. The word actually says His story. In the age of automation history is short. 3D printers are set to replace the skilled hands of an old world craftsman. Artificial intelligence is ready to take over the jobs of lawyers, financial planners and even educators. Even doctors are at risk of being replaced by a bot. But even with all the miraculous technology of the near future there is something that cannot be provided by advanced robotics. History.
History is more than just a timeline of events. It’s the impartation of life’s energy. Let’s face the facts. Life as we know it is finite. When someone expends the blood, sweat and tears needed to create anything they are imparting their life.
The image above is the dashboard of a 1929 Ford pickup truck. The curved surfaces were designed by a human mind. The raw ore was mined by men who certainly expended sweat and blood in the mine. The steel plate was probably stamped out by hydraulic equipment operated by human hands and intelligence. Someone then did the final polishing and another person installed all the little gizmos inside.
Yes. This antique dashboard is more than just conveniently shaped chrome and steel embedded into wood. It’s a whole collection of lives and stories. It’s the human experience forged into something that is functional art.
No matter how sophisticated the automation software is. No matter how accurate the fabrication robots are. The one thing it can never impart during the process is life.
Your writing, your art, everything you do is an impartation of your life. That includes the time you take to visit my images and read my writing. Thank you dear followers for sharing your life with me. It’s a gift that is graciously received.
Image was taken at the West Virginia state Fairgrounds in Lewisburg West Virginia which is in Greenbriar County.
I’ve always loved the artistry of older cars and Trucks. Some people can quickly rattle off the make and model. They’ll tell you all about the horsepower, fuel economy and history that went into the vehicle. I’m not that guy. I’m the guy that just wants to drive. And yet there’s something special about early models. The curve of fender. The chrome and leather along with the fine woodwork created something that was more than the sum of its parts. Driving a roadster is about the journey more than just the destination.
Pictured here is a Shay reproduction vehicle based on the 1929 Roadster. It was made in the 1980s. I think about the world that we are going to live in within the next 20 years. Will a car even have a steering wheel? More sophisticated doesn’t necessarily mean more perfect. The melding of man and machine was perfected decades ago in a time when iron and steel merged with flesh and spirit to produce the freedom of an open road.