My Grandfather Before Computers
My siblings, cousins, and I were talking about our paternal grandfather recently. He was very bright, but uneducated (immigrated to the U.S. at age 10). He worked in the garment industry, his best job being as a cutter — figuring out how to waste the least amount of cloth in creating a garment.
This was highly skilled work in its time, as it required substantial mathematical/spatial ability. The skill was made completely obsolete by a technological improvement — the use of computers to minimize wastage of cloth. While economists talk at length about skill-biased technical change, here was a case of unskilled-biased technical change. There are many others. The shipping industry a century ago, for example, when steam replaced sail. There is no reason to expect skilled workers always to be the main beneficiaries of technical improvements — to have demand for their labor, and their wages, rising compared to unskilled workers. Nor do unskilled workers always suffer lost jobs and lower wages from technical progress.