I recently saw an article come across my Twitter feed by Nicholas Carr on the Wall Street Journal online that I couldn’t disagree with more. The article was entitled Automation Makes Us Dumb. Based solely on the title you can see how this article and my philosophy could easily conflict. I urge you to read the article in its entirety and come back here after you’ve done so.
Let me start by saying automation does not make “us” dumb. It makes us dumb. Automation takes our plane of knowledge to a different level altogether. Computers take care of the minutiae. We don’t walk behind a horse-drawn plow anymore because we have tractors and I don’t hear anyone complaining about that!
The “dumb” ones either are incapable of thinking at a different level or might be just lazy. They succumb to “button pushing” and become an assistant to the computer; not the master. This isn’t automation’s fault; quite the contrary.
It’s the fault of the human that refuses to embrace change and to see that technology is where things are headed. Automation saves us, humans, time and produces a much more reliable and consistent output.
Humans are inherently messy with tasks. We forget things and just do things wrong even when we’ve done the exact same task 100 times before. A computer does not. It’s either 100% wrong or 100% right. Even when it’s wrong, it’s at least easier to figure out what went wrong if it’s 100% of the time.
The article references how pilots get too used autopilot and thus cannot handle flying by hand. I see the point here. I can see how it would be seductive to just let the computer handle everything for you.
We all get tired and just unmotivated sometimes but it’s the strong ones that realize this isn’t a very wise career decision. I think we don’t need to know how to do things manually but to fix the automation when it breaks. We need automation technicians to fix the automation; not to revert back.
We’re becoming a bunch of “automation technicians”; a new field of study just like 100 years ago when no one had heard of this whole IT thing. Rather than learning how to do things manually, we’re learning how to work on the algorithms and hardware that allow us to do what we do (at least the ones that will survive…