When Your Profession Dies

My father’s entire profession was wiped out by the digital revolution. He was in machine translation. An authority in his field everywhere in the world where machine translation was done. Over 300 publications. And nice earnings. We were never wealthy but we experienced no financial hardship in the late-Soviet years and in the 1990s because my father started his own business developing and selling machine translation systems in 1988.

And then you know what happened. Google Translate made the entire profession irrelevant within a few months. This is not the unusual part of the story, though. Automation wiped out a lot of jobs and even professions and will wipe out a lot more. What’s unusual is that my father had no bitterness over it, no regret. He liked Google Translate, and thought it was a great tool for translators. He was already in his fifties when it happened but he switched to another career path with greater ease than I switch hairdressers. The new career path lacked the aspect of being well-known and having admirers, so he became a writer and developed a whole new circle of admirers. Again, this is all in his fifties and soon after emigration.

Curiously, he was a lifelong passionate political conservative. He was very conservative in all of his tastes and preferences. But he was also capable of this kind of monumental change, and he embraced it with elegance and good cheer.

Mind you, I’m not saying that automation that wipes out professions and expects people to be endlessly malleable is good. I hate that bastard. What I’m saying is that being against something doesn’t mean it’s OK to become a victim and feed other people to the rabid dogs of your resentment. Bad shit happens to people. We are all against bad shit. But whether the bad shit that will inevitably happen (because that’s the nature of human existence) will turn you into a piece of garbage, that’s completely up to you.

5 thoughts on “When Your Profession Dies

  1. This is a big example of stoic behavior. What is the point of whining about things you have absolutely no control over? Better to just move on to other things.

    Liked by 1 person

  2. Clarissa, I’m so enjoying learning about your father. What a remarkable man. I am sorry that he has passed away, and pray that you and your mom and family will find consolation in your memories of him and hope for a happy reunion in eternity.

    Liked by 1 person

  3. “developed a whole new circle of admirers”

    That reminds me a bit of my father, who after years of struggling was finally able to walk away from things he wasn’t good at (including managing money, being diplomatic to people in power and being a tough-when-necessary boss) and was able to devote himself to his strengths (including writing and nurturing young journalists) and in the process became extremely beloved.
    After his death, I lost count of how many people told me they thought of him as a second father figure (or were closer to him than to their real fathers).

    Liked by 1 person

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