The pros and cons of automation of the workplace

Is automation making our jobs easier or is it easing us out of our jobs? The argument continues…

AD: What’s that you're reading?

BC: It’s about the ill-effects of technology on mankind.

AD: I’m not surprised. How on earth do you manage to pick out such articles like a...

BC: ...needle out of a haystack?

AD: I don’t know about that, but I'm sure that you will use it to needle me. So what’s the rant about this time?

BC: Does automation really result in job cuts?

AD: It’s a common fear shared by employees the world over that one day, they would be replaced by a computer or a robot...

BC: I’ve read some articles which say that by 2016, over 750,000 jobs will be lost in the US… And most of it could be blamed on automation.

AD: Can you imagine robots sitting in cubicles and playing solitaire on their computers?

BC: I’m sure that those who have lost their jobs don’t find it funny.

AD: But how are you so sure that automation is taking away these jobs? It could also be a result of outsourcing.

BC: I recall seeing an article published in 1961 that talked about labour unions blaming automation and technology for the high unemployment rates they were facing at that time.

AD: But then, people opposed the industrial revolution for similar reasons, centuries ago.

BC: In fact, a new phrase was coined in the 1930s to describe this phenomenon — technological unemployment.

AD: But automation has amazing benefits, beyond the usual efficiency and speed of response advantages that we talk about. For instance, robots are used for intricate surgeries.

BC: It'll ensure greater accuracy…

AD: ...and also minimise chances of infection because of the absence of human intervention. This would result in more lives saved.

BC: But I don't see technology replacing people in the service sector. It's probably one field where automation has to stay in the back-office because people are more comfortable dealing with a human interface.

AD: Imagine having a robot serve you coffee when you order room service.

BC: Well, at least it won't spit in your coffee if you're mean to it.

AD: I make my own tea, thank you. Unfortunately, industries like retail are affected in more ways than one... While the entry of electronic scanners, computerised check-out facilities and vending machines has reduced the need for manpower, online shopping...

BC: ...has made physical stores redundant.

AD: Right. Apparently, an American company has invented a textspresso machine that helps you order your cup of coffee even as you're on your way to the coffee shop. So your order will be waiting for you, nice and hot, when you get there.

BC: Even sectors like agriculture, accounting, education, manufacturing and banking have had several layoffs because of technology...

AD: You’re talking about people being displaced, but today, sitting in front of a web camera, one teacher can reach — and teach — thousands of students across the globe…

BC: Talking of reaching places, imagine calling a cab service in the future — an automated voice takes down your request, a software package sends you a confirmation to your mobile and finally a robotic car that drives itself comes to your doorstep...

AD: With projects like Google’s driverless car, that day may not be too far away...

BC: But Google’s car might bring other advantages that a normal car possibly can't.

AD: Like what?

BC: It will probably be fitted with two engines — a fuel engine to power the vehicle and a search engine to find your location.

sureshl.india@gmail.com

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