Let the droids do the boring stuff

Is simpler work getting automated and outsourced? I think so. That leaves complex and creative work that continue to be in demand, and even increase. Work that has a high degree of task standardization is getting replaced by machines, and this trend will only accelerate.

Andrew McAfee discusses technology’s impact on the labour force in a TEDx Boston presentation, particularly 1) language translation (already here & growing) and 2) automated vehicles (coming soon). If something as complex as translating an article or negotiating a vehicle in heavy traffic is already being automated, how many of today’s jobs will go that way? There will be less demand for standardized human labour, and the whole notion of a standard job will quietly go away. The end of Taylorism cannot come soon enough, in my opinion.

McAfee says that networked computers are as revolutionary as was the steam engine, in how they change the way people do work. The steam engine overcame our physical limitations and computers will help us overcome our cognitive limitations. Here’s why, says McAfee:

  • economies run on ideas, which drive innovation
  • computers are making innovation more open and inclusive (especially for the bottom of the pyramid)
  • technology is freeing us to do better things and this trend will increase

We are not just losing standardized work tasks but we are gaining the tools and the time to do greater task variety, and of our own choosing. Networked computers allow us to learn informally and share tacit knowledge, leaving the boring stuff to the droids. Probably our greatest limitation is our ability to cast away our old ideas about how we learn. We need to think for ourselves and take advantage of network technologies, wider social connections, improved peer interactions, and informal learning. Economies run on ideas, not assembly lines. Work is learning, and learning is the work.

2 Responses to “Let the droids do the boring stuff”

  1. Jon Husband

    I’m reminded of a Kleptones’ song, in which the main lyrics go (paraphrased, not verbatim .. I think)

    “Machines do the work .. people think”


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