I had an interesting conversation with my mother earlier today. We were discussing a previous purchase of mine from Redbox and she commented on how Redbox and Netflix put Blockbuster out of business. This eventually lead to a discussion in which I commented on how the world needs more of this type of automation.
What is particularly interesting is the response I typically get when I make that statement. In almost all cases, the response is something like “Technology takes jobs away from people.” or “Technology does not always work.” Each one of these statements has a fallacy that I want to address.
On the first – “Technology takes jobs away from people” – Automation through the use of technology does not necessarily mean jobs need be taken away. What it does mean is that those tasks no longer require a human which gives the human that would normally be doing that job, the ability to use their brain power for much more advanced tasks. Why should a human waste time doing something that a computer can do more efficiently? What benefit does that human provide the rest of society by doing the job we can teach technology to do for us? Automation of tasks that can be automated enables us to use our brain power on the truly hard problems.
On the second – “Technology does not always work” – I’ve heard many variants of this to include that the “Human element is missing”. My response to this is that neither of these statements means we should not automate tasks – they mean we should make the automations better. Efforts have been made to make technology seem more human. I have mixed feelings on these efforts. For automated tasks, seeming more human can be valuable in helping make the experience easier for humans. On the other hand, there are some tasks where seeming more human is not good enough. There are cases where you need a human to actually reason and/or empathize with a complex situation (and these are not the things I think should be automated anyway).
I’ll close with this – If man-kind wants to truly advance, we should automate everything we possibly can and use human brain power on higher order problems. To that end I say – automate everything.