The Scourge of Automation

Posted by admin at January 26, 2017

It is always amazing when you travel to the more developed parts of the world. I live and work in a country where 10 hours of electricity daily, is an inexplicable miracle. So to go to a country where the light bulbs never blink, everything is wired and powered up 24/7, is an utmost pleasure to tech mind like me. And since there is an abundance of electrical power here, developer and thinkers in counties like these are focused on developing solutions that replace human capacity is several fields of work. Automation.

A phenomenon that means more people can enjoy a faster and timely service from a tireless machine. Every service and utility becomes smart. But this implies that people will serve themselves. And not everyone is as super smart as the service they need. Even for the smart ones there is the awkwardness of not wanting to look stupid making mistakes with new technologies. I myself have had minor awkward difficulties with simple tasks such as self checking at the airport, pedestrian lights, operating parking meters for the first time, or the funniest one, getting on and leaving an escalator (I have to time it, raise one leg forward and hope I don’t trip). Coincidentally as I write this article, I am trying to get the flight information from the in-flight entertainment console but the GUI is a bit clunky. Finally we all know the hell we go through when the ATM decides to debit us and not pay! Now imagine someone who is not tech savvy or has never used these technologies before. How will they cope?

From a corporate point of view, automation is most profitable, reduced cost in human resources, increased productivity as service is provided to customers all day round. Also from our point of view as consumers, can you remember the last time you ran out of cash on a weekend and there was nothing you could do about it. Automation is the way of the future. Self-aware service systems that make our lives better.

I am a designer and a believer of all things automation: Internet of Things, self driving cars, automated teller, automated checkout machines, smart everything etc. However nothing feels better that talking to flesh and blood, no matter how inept or unhelpful the person is. Human interaction is essential. We need to talk to someone to educate us on how to best use these services.

Also what happens when the service is interrupted due to failure or malfunction in the system. Once again we need people.

My thought on automation is that while the systems are being perfected to deliver fully automated services, where the customers will not require a substantial amount of tech knowledge and yet receive the best service, automation should be augmentative in nature. This way, instead of completely replacing human capacity, automation should supplement it. There has to be the human option in case things go wrong or even on customer preference.


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