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American Dream Cracking?

American Dream Cracking?

I recently read something from McKinsey about automation and the future. The overall theme, which was a little too rosy, is that the automation future will happen slower than we think and that it will be a world where humans will work with machines (rather than total takeover by machines). Automation will bring about economic growth and business prosperity.

That's wishful thinking.

Why? Because businesses are driven to reduce their costs to improve their profits, so their thinking will be: machines can work 24/7, don't require benefits or pay, and are faster and more efficient than humans, and just don't have those messy human emotions. Shareholders might even push businesses toward that end game. And, greed is just too strong in our society today. That greed thing has been going on since at least the '80s.

So unless our culture changes, businesses will drive toward total automation and it will probably be sooner than you think.


But, there will come a time when businesses wise up and realize they need humans. They will need human beyond the need for more customers. It will be similar to the "eureka" moment the manufacturers had a few years ago when manufacturers realized their engineers no longer knew how to get to the next level in manufacturing because the engineers had lost their skills. Part of the knowledge and skills come from actually doing the work - not handing the work over to someone else. Think about it. Do you learn how to be proficient at something by watching someone? Or is it through practice? Yes, I learn a lot by reading and watching videos but the real skill development comes from actually doing it. It's through trial and error that you start to understand what is going on (and is left unsaid).

It is likely that machines will not be cognizant of what needs fixing. Machines will most likely continue on as they've been doing. It is a human being who will recognize that something needs to change or that there is a problem.

In the beginning, only a handful of people will be smart enough to know that we need humans and will start the chain of using humans as their differentiator. It is kind of like the employee engagement philosophy that has arisen since the Great Recession. In the beginning only few people were talking about the importance of engaging their employees because the bulk of the businesses were busy laying off people. Today, employee engagement is pretty much all I hear (or doing what you are passionate about).

So between now and the time businesses start to value humans, we face the possibility of great misery and unrest. Unless our culture changes.

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