We Should Stop Worrying About Automation

Many pundits far and wide talk about how our newest technologies will be eliminating millions of jobs. Artificial Intelligence (AI) mostly, in addition to other new tech, for some reason to many, feels different.

In the past, whenever we’ve seen technology eliminate jobs in one area, we’ve seen huge numbers of job increases in other areas. This has happened every time there is a massive technological shift, and there is no reason to really think that it won’t happen again.

The reality is that we are at the exact point where we were every other time this happened – we are in the panic stage where we are concerned over job loss because we can’t yet conceive of the jobs which will be available after this change.

If history is any guide, there will be millions of new “jobs” on the other side of this.

Our conception of work will need to change.

We are already seeing the revision of the work week in some places (some companies are moving to a 4 day work week, with no reduction in pay, and seeing the exact same levels of productivity). I’d argue that the “work week” is still overly padded with busywork and unnecessary time-wasting activities, much of which can be eliminated by telecommuting and shorter work weeks.

Work will become atomic chunks of activities that we do whenever we want to, wherever we can. Instead of layers and layers of middle management which may contribute little, we will move to a much flatter structure, with leadership, algorithms, and then workers. There may also be a wizard class who helps to code the algorithms.

Either way, we have to look at this future of work with an eye to using technology to augment ourselves, and not to replace ourselves. Even if we were to replace ourselves, it will be to free us up to do work which is more human – how many times have to spend (or felt wasted) hours and hours on something an algorithm may have been able to do for you.

Instead of having our human employees spend time on tasks which could be completed by some robotic process automation, why not free them up to take on the creative tasks that only humans can do? Isn’t that infinitely better for both your company and the humans themselves?

When we look at robotic process automation (RPA) and other kinds of automation, we should look at them as augmenting and assisting our humans, and not eliminating them. Or if they will be supplanted by the robots, then find new places for the humans, more fitting for humans to do.

Leverage the unique creative ability of your human workers – humans have the potential to do so much more – why have them pushing words and numbers around when they could be doing something more interesting, creative and useful for both you and them.

Forget universal basic income, convert your workers from mindless, non-human tasks and have them instead focus on the good stuff, the stuff humans are best at.