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Editor's Note

May 1, 2004
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Techno fret-no.

When I was in middle school, I recall a day when my brother came home after work looking quite upset. "What's wrong?" my mother asked him. "I lost my job to a stupid machine," he replied.

My brother was the victim of a technology advancement for the restaurant business: automatic industrial dishwashers. (Such appliances were invented earlier but hadn't yet hit the Detroit suburb family restaurant where my brother worked.) Sure, the restaurant still needed the big pot and pan washers, but the regular dishwashers were all let go. It was the first episode I experienced, albeit indirectly, of technology replacing people.

As you know, this scenario has occurred in the surveying profession as well. With the advent of robotic surveying tools, enhanced software programs and machine control technology to name a few examples, surveyors have been displaced more and more over the years. It is a fact we cannot dispute. The level and frequency of this displacement, however, can waver. But much depends on the drive, intellect and confidence of the individual professional.

Drafters essentially do not exist anymore in this industry. Or do they? I believe they do, only in a different manner than previous times. Designers are still needed in the industry, and if a professional designer takes the time to advance in his or her specialty area, he or she is still quite marketable. The drive of the individual is similar to the concept of "an army of one." We all must fend for ourselves. Had my brother let his displacement rule his world, he wouldn't have later applied his determination and restaurant skills to climb the ladder to management. But he did. And it kept him marketable for years afterward.

Perhaps you used to design on a drafting board for hours in a dimly lit room at the beckoning call of an engineer or business owner, and were later displaced, essentially, by an advanced CAD program. Perhaps much of your business has come from staking on construction sites. Now, with machine guidance and control, physical staking services are becoming less and less necessary. But the importance of a surveyor is not. Nobody knows the lay of the land better than a surveyor. Models of sites must still be designed. Are you up to the task? With business savvy and determination, you may today be reading this article in the comfort of your own home office, or at least a comfortable office space, using your creativity and intelligence to form models that guide the construction of a building lot.

It's up to you to determine your place in the profession. Technology will not stop advancing. But with some resolve and acumen, you too can be marketable. Or dare I say "irreplaceable"?

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