Automation

The Automation sector tends is one place where we are likely to see staggering changes to our world and lives very soon. Automation roughly means machines and computers, often combined and using them in place of humans to do work faster, cheaper and/or better.

Here is a funny little video showing the simple principles of automation:

Nice thought. We have been automating things for the last few hundred years or so.  Buy, the exponential technologies are increasing this pace almost to a frenzy.

Most humans make their living from working and automation is shifting this work to machines.  Machines, on the other hand, work 24/7, don’t get sick, tired, need to be fed, tend to be predictable and don’t care if you throw them away. Humans, on the other hand, can be, well, a lot of work.

Hmmm…

While we have always adapted to machines taking our jobs, from the printing press to the Roomba, it only looks smooth and easy if you are not the one losing the job.  Most people don’t have extraordinary skills. That means that robots and artificial intelligence can beat them at almost anything. And, while humans are very slow to evolve, technology is evolving in months and getting dramatically better.

The faster automation is improved, the more important that our  leaders respond correctly. Listen to US political leaders sometimes talk about jobs and they seem focused on “bringing manufacturing jobs back” or finding a way for more people to go to college (*yesterday’s college, by the way).

Business leaders have an easier decision in the short term. They are supposed to make more money and automation does that for them. Where will their customers get money to buy the stuff they produce? A very good question for another day.

Now, future automation is really here already. Most of us just don’t realize it. It is a strong well well-defined, a trajectory. Automation is replacing many, soon to be most, traditional jobs and the jobs of the future are not being created as quickly.  Oops.

Don’t believe me?

America now has a record breaking 260,000 robots working in its factories  | Daily Mail Online Last year, robots were ordered and shipped into North America at a record-breaking rate. There are now an estimated 260,000 robots working in factories across the continent

Now, are we on the path to a dismal future like this?

Not necessarily. But, given the speed and our current way of making bad decisions, being slow to grasp change, inadequate and mostly self oriented responses, we are likely to not handle the increasing speed of human replacement automation well.

Of course, the flip side is that automation may still be used for its best purpose. To free humans up to do other things with their time. An easy transformation if it wasn’t for that pesky human nature and the deeply ingrained self interest from millions of years of scarcity.

We’ll see.