Retaining the Human Element in an Automated World

The world is moving and changing at a tremendous rate. From now till the year 2020, we will see an unprecedented amount of growth in terms of technological innovation and advancement. It’s no longer a question of bits-vs-atoms where the companies that build products using ones and zeroes dominate the conversation. The sharing economy was created as a result of innovative companies like Uber and Airbnb finding interesting ways to create products that merge bits and atoms. In this regard, growth is not purely dictated by the Moore’s Law. Another necessary component of the sharing of the economy is the human factor. However, the market seems to be gearing towards full automation. Uber has already started experimenting with self-driving technologies in order to decrease the reliance on human drivers. It acquired Otto, the self-driving startup for trucks, back in August. The end-goal is to have their own fleet of self-driving cars and completely eliminate drivers. However, the more the human element is eliminated, the more it persists. For instance, in the case of a Packing Company providing Packing and Shipping services, the process can only be automated up to a certain point. Therefore, humans will be needed to coordinate the entire process.


Technologists, tech pundits and visionaries, scientists, and policy makers have already started to raise concerns over the rate of the sort of growth mentioned in this post. One of the most debated issues is whether or not robots and artificial intelligence will steal our jobs. Economists have proposed solutions involving the idea of a universal basic income. In June of this year, Swiss people voted a referendum that included a clause about implementing a universal basic income. Another concern is that the sort of growth we will witness in the years to come will widen an already-alarming wealth gap between the rich and the poor. Sociologists even have a term for this type of inequality. They call it the Matthew Effect, a term coined using the biblical reference of The Parable of the Talents from the book of Matthew.  The Matthew Effect can be vaguely stated in the following manner: “those who have much will be given more.” Public intellectuals seem to disagree on most of the proposed solutions to these issues. However, they all agree that finding solutions that work will involve the perspectives of humanists. We can take another example using the same packing company mentioned earlier. In the future, said company may have to rely on Otto’s self-driving trucks for its moving and shipping services. Although the trucks can drive themselves to customers’ locations, a humanist may argue that humans are needed to pack and Wrap Furniture. That’s a valid argument considering the fact that logistics is very complex and cannot be fully automated.


On another front, an emerging technology such as the Internet of Things (IoT) will automate our lives further. The appliances in our kitchen will be connected to the internet. Our refrigerators will even remind us to get groceries. As a packing company, Packing Service, Inc. will tailor its shipping services to take advantage of the available technological infrastructure. However, our professional staff will do its best to focus more on the customer’s needs and not the process.  Automation is inevitable, but in an automated world, interactions between humans will be more valued.


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