How do we Automate that?

How do we automate that?

A simple, and innocent, enough question. However, is it aimed at saving you (and your firm) time or is it intended to remove you from your chair?

These initiatives start sweetly enough and often with the best intentions, but in a world where Bloomberg has already automated much of its financial news nothing is sacred. Amusingly the gradual drift towards the singularity appears, if you believe the hype, to be unavoidable or thankfully nowhere near.

But must we embrace change?

We are often told we can’t fight it. History pours scorn on the luddites, itself a term of abuse in the United Kingdom and elsewhere, but the short- or even medium-term displacement of workers by machines (or indeed by other cheaper immigrant workers) is not a new fear. Governments have little fiscal capacity at present to subsidize displaced workers; a robot tax redistributed to said workers might be the only option.

Let's take an easy example --the shop till--, now restricted to a self-service checkout zone requiring one eagle-eyed cashier to watch six to eight shoppers. So what are those people doing who would have worked in a shop during college or between terms? Well they are either running start-ups (bubble or not) or they are working for Uber or Deliveroo. These are not better jobs; they are just different. And at least until the delivery bots get a lot cheaper and quicker, these spots appear relatively “safe”.

But can coding rather than gig economy delivering replace waitressing or working in a shop in an entry-level job that anyone can get? We would argue unfortunately not, since the level of skill and aptitude required is above and beyond many other roles. The naïve expectation that one can go to a coding boot camp and simply become the next Zuckerberg or SNAP is probably only put out by those who have something to gain.

Why? Because these successful people had extraordinary vision, execution and luck. It is like saying that because you can sit down at a keyboard and write a story, you are going to become JK Rowling.

So if we can’t all be rock stars and millionaires, many of us are left as middle children. So what should we do? Focus on roles that require human interaction. Selling complex solutions to problems is certainly going to be tougher via an electronic platform than face to face. Then again, when is the last time you went to a travel agent?

The best approach is to embrace and control what you can, but also to be aware that the introduction of technology, cheap or not, is not necessarily being done to help you. Companies won’t come to your funeral, they don’t care about your hopes and dreams, and generally they just care about their bottom line. If they tell you otherwise, they are also liars.

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