Machines vs People

When I was little, and I would hear people bemoan the loss of human jobs to automation, my immediate question was always: but don’t we need people to make the machines?

I have had time to think it over, and my opinion has developed from there, but not, fundamentally, changed.

The point is: machines do things. People decide what gets done. If a machine can cannibalise your job then trust me: it will. So find what makes you more than a machine. (I’ll give you a hint: t’s your brain). Machines, technology, these are tools we employ to make better products, improve our services, etc. But a person – a human – has to decide how to use it, how to improve it, and how to develop its use over time.

And the Weakonomics blog now also raises this point:

Toyota is learning that when you automate too much you lose a couple of things.  First, you lose the people that know how to make the item.  You’ve replaced masters of their craft with people that push a button on a machine.  Second, machines don’t really have the ability to make an item better.  So if no human is making your item, no one is figuring out how to make it better.  By bringing workers back to replace robots, Toyota is finding their human workers are making certain materials for their vehicles more efficiently than the robot ever could. Sometimes this is a limitation of the robot.  Other times it’s simply the fact that a robot doesn’t know how to make something better until someone tells it what to do.

Yes, he concludes, “machines do take our jobs. However we can always be one step ahead of them”.

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