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 with saying automation does not make "us" dumb. It makes some of us dumber. Automation takes our plane of knowledge to a different level all together. Computers take care of the minutiae. We don't walk behind a horse-drawn plows 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 are).
There will always be hold outs that get nostalgic about the good ol' days and still want to do things the old-fashioned way (read manual) just because they're more comfortable doing it that way. These are the people who will be stuck pushing the buttons as the article mentioned and eventually be left behind.
If doctors think that the software is making them less efficient at helping patients I ask is that really the case or is the doctor just the self-obsessed curmudgeon that refuses to admit that he doesn't know it all or actually have a legitimate concern that a software process is putting road blocks in front of the diagnosis?
If the latter then I say this would just be a matter of filing a software feature change request and getting the software changed (automation technician); not scrapped completely. Why eliminate something just because you don't understand it and refuse to adapt to more efficient software?
Finally, I have to address this quote "Their (humans) insight, ingenuity and intuition, honed through hard work and seasoned real-world judgment, can't be replicated by algorithms or robots." because this is about the only piece of this article I agree with. I'm with Mr. Carr here 100%.
I agree wholeheartedly that we humans have these organs called brains that are unparalleled not only in sheer computing capacity but all of the features he describes.
Since we have this mighty organ in our skulls the ones that decide to actually use it will embrace and excel with automation. The ones that don't.well..at least we'll have someone to push the buttons for a few more years until us automators develop a "button pusher" robot.
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