If you belong to the age group of 5 to 50, please listen up. At some point in our lives, you and I may be victims of the ruthless march of automation. On a positive note, futurists are predicting that manufacturing will see a revival soon. But most probably a robot – a Baxter variant (http://www.cnbc.com/id/49344701) with a price tag of $25,000 will be doing the work that humans were happily doing earlier. Generally speaking, a job once claimed by a robot is never going to be returned to humans. A robot doesn’t have to look like a humanoid, but a banal command line program that is silently crunching data also is equally consequential to our lives. In an ensuing “battle” of man (and woman) vs. machine, men and women are poised to lose. Big time.
Honda robot Asimo
Don’t get me wrong, I love to work on automation projects. I hate as much as anyone else to work on monotonous tasks day in and day out. Moreover, when I take on automating a mundane manual process, I too feel proud to see the end-product running like an automaton with tremendous speed and splendor, which a 1000 humans can’t match. Such is the power and proficiency of automation.
Automation increases productivity, produces extra wealth and creates comfort for a section of the populace. It also creates new opportunities and new ways of doing the work. The problem with automation is that it disrupts the economy by changing the way things are produced and people have been served. More often than not, the disruption means displacing the current workforce, which couldn’t adapt to the new environment. Since the changes happen in tremendous pace, for an average Joe, it is nearly impossible to keep up. It unsettles the status quo.
It bothers me personally. The disruptions and displacements, which automation would bring to our lives are not going to be always pleasant. Without exception, each one of us is vulnerable to this new reality. The impact of automation is all-pervasive and has been proceeding with such an amazing pace and vigor. All professions are vulnerable. There are no fences to run into. There are no trenches to hide.
I think the only option is to adopt an embrace and outrun strategy to survive the automation tsunami.
1. Embrace automation
If you can’t beat it, champion it. Be the forerunner of process automation. This will help us to be leading the automation efforts. If we could be agents of disruption ourselves, we could become less fearful. If a machine can do something as good as a human can, simply go ahead and automate it. If you refused to do it, someone else is going to do it anyway. In the process, it will take you down along with it. Ouch!!
2. Refuse to be a humanoid
If a machine can’t do a job as good as a human can, make sure that you opt that as your specialty. Be the best at doing it. Bring in the high game of doing that job with an ultimate human face. This is the battleground that we can confront and beat the machine with a single stroke.
If you look around, you may be able to see many people act like machines, when they have a choice to be otherwise. Do not blame me, if this reminds you of your recent visit to the doctor’s office or an encounter with an airline worker. Anyone who is reading out from a script, will be outrun by a machine, some day. It’s coming.
If we walk, talk and act like a robot, the profit engine will soon find a better performing Mechanical Turk. We have only one choice: leave the things that machines can do the best, to the machines and the rest to the humanity. Migrate to the new realms of work, where we can do a completely human job, that a machine can’t even “dream” of getting into.
Machines are marching forward for their ultimate world domination. Fight back like a human! Remember: machines by themselves are impotent. But when man’s greed joins hands with mighty machines, nothing can stop them!
Photo by Honda News