Theory of Transfer

In the middle and towards the end of what are called the middle or dark ages, people in "civilised" countries - and most of the rest of the planet, really - had no access to what we take for granted today: flush toilets. Their solutions for disposal of faeces and urine was to use pit latrines which were rare in urban areas, buckets in the bedroom or closet like a bunch of remandees in Kamiti or, most commonly, the nearest bush, trench, wall or side alley. I have a story about the latter method that I might tell you later. Remind me if I do to link to it later.

The sanitation methods mentioned above created an industry of people who were tasked with "waste disposal" including chamber maids and poop men whose work was to empty these buckets, which was commonly done in the nearest street or stream. We all know what happened as a result. Cholera, plague, typhoid, worms and dysentery made their homes among these urban dwellers. But I digress.

Improvements in urban sanitation and water transportation systems such as flush toilets (thanks, Crapper) meant that millions of poor poop disposal agents were out of a job.

The same thing happened to horse farmers when Ford's model T came along; American workers when cheap Asian labour popped up to make everything everyone uses today; Gusii blacksmiths when Indians brought cheap iron tools to Kavirondo; African traditional medicinemen when modern medicinemen came with their stethoscopes; kerosene lamps when Tesla perfected alternating current; Nyayo bus services when the Kenyan government allowed the matatu industry to take root; phone booths when mobile phones were invented; magadi sellers in Marakwet when Mutisya and Patel brought salt for the first time from Mombasa; there is probably an example right next to you right now. I have only stopped because I want to sleep early tonight.

The point in that narration is this: when new things or innovations entered into the market, people who depended on older or inefficient or undesirable tools or industries to survive often if not always ended up out of a job. Of course it is impossible to completely wipe out some jobs, for example: did you know that nurses are the modern chambermaids? That work is brutal! Urgh.

The result of these changes in the market is usually job losses at the outset. At this point, I can dive into stories of titans of industry of past ages who were wiped out when the market asked for other things, like what is happening to oil producers in the electric car "revolution" and yap around about the need to be able to predict coming market trends and take the jump before the soil crumbles beneath your feet and you fall into the river. I could, but you and I both know that life is a gamble.

I could also talk about agency, mentorship and the importance of building skills, fortitude and humility into ourselves and our children but I am not a motivational speaker. I am here to talk about something else that you may also have noticed: The demand for these goods and services gets transferred elsewhere.

Chambermaids were replaced by plumbers, municipal engineers and sanitation companies including honey suckers; horse farmers by mechanics and automotive engineers, lamp lighters by those people at Kenya Power or kanjo whose work it is to flip the switches that turn street lights on, and my personal favourite: horses were replaced by cars.

As a result, a lot of workers in various industries were replaced by workers in the same or different industries employing differring skill sets to get their jobs done. Further,

  1. These skills take time to acquire and in a lot of cases also take money and/or willingness which people in the shrinking industries may not possess or be willing to invest.
  2. The number of jobs created is usually roughly equal to or greater than those lost as a result of the innovations, especially if the population is expanding at a rate greater than the replacement rate.
  3. Other opportunities are created for people possessing skills which incidentally or tangentially or indirectly or do not apply to the industry in question, for example the accountants who were hired to work in Thomas Crapper's toilet company or the watchman employed to protect a Ford showroom somewhere in Los Angeles.

While a lot of people end up suffering for some time due to these losses which come unexpectedly to them, they usually tend to find some other things to do because that bread is not going to bring itself to the table. That is not to say that it is alright for people to lose jobs, no. That is just a statement about the nature of life here: things happen.

In Conclusion, work can neither be created nor destroyed, but changes in form and either grows or shrinks to meet the needs and demands of society at that point in time. This obviously sounds similar to the law of conservation of energy, but who says it does not apply? To illustrate, as populations in the Far East and Europe age, there is increasing demand for products and services that cater to old people, and for those that support the economy due to the decline of energetic people to work. This is the Theory of Transfer.


I read somewhere that I cannot seem to trace now about a guy who was killed by a piece of frozen bird shit that fell from the sky somewhere in Brazil or Chile and am only mentioning it here to add emphasis to the point. I have no agenda beyond that.