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CloudFactory

Jul 1, 2014

C-3P(No!): Quelling the Fear of Robots within the Changing Economy

Luddite.”  

In the tech realm, them’s fighting words.

Honestly though, I think we can all feel a little sympathy for the Luddites, both modern and historical. There is no doubt that the future can be intimidating; it’s little surprise that more and more people are siding with their conservative cause. Jobs are at risk. The middle class is shrinking. And, didn’t we all gasp in horror when Ken Jennings bowed down to his new computer overlord Watson on Jeopardy?

General_grievous

From all estimates, Watson was just the beginning. Soon, it seems, robots and advanced machinery will be taking all of our jobs. It feels as though our contemporary world constantly pumps out gizmos that streamline the processes that used to require human beings for completion. And many people greet these innovations with open arms.  

Indeed, those opening their arms the widest can be considered the antithesis to the Luddites: the corporate upper-echelon. Observing the rate of technological advancement, corporate decision makers pragmatically worry that full-time employees will amount to nothing more than unnecessary expenditures. And, especially when the going gets tough, cutting needless costs rises to priority numero uno.   

Unfortunately, the primary concerns of both parties seem mutually exclusive: workers are afraid of unemployment, and upper-echelon corporate decision makers are afraid of full-time employees. Is there any way to resolve the two?  

The answer? A resounding yes.  

Consider a well-known statistic from a study on farming in America. In 1900, 41% of the American population worked in agriculture; a century later, the percentage had dropped to just 2%. But here’s the kicker. This 2% produces more food than the 41% ever did. 

This example represents a best-case scenario for how technological advances improve general wellbeing. Fewer Americans working on farms didn’t equate to hordes of unemployed people roaming about; rather, people started seeking different jobs and focuses. This, in turn, helped advance and better our society as a whole.

Logically, if technological advances ultimately lead to the positive outcomes--like farming automation and staple crops--then aren’t the short-term woes of job-shifting overshadowed by the long-term goods?

Regardless, major global organizations are preparing for a rapidly computerized world in which many of their current employees will become superfluous. And while that is great in many ways, what they fail to consider is the asymptotic trajectory of technological advancement. In other words, there will be an upper limit: not all of our problems will be solved via technology in the near future--at least not affordably. Like the farming example, a limited number of jobs will still be needed to complete back-office tasks (the ‘2%’, if you will). Although the percentage is low, it is greatly important to consider just what these tasks will be, and who will complete them.

Marc Andreessen, renowned investor and tech-innovator, puts it (or should I say ‘tweets’ it) best:

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The tasks that software and machines cannot accurately or inexpensively complete require subjectivity or prior knowledge--tasks that are not necessarily ‘cookie cutter.’ However, firms need not retain full-time employees to complete them. Indeed, the latest affordable breakthroughs in technology, like the Cloud, should be used to keep an edge, and should be used to find the most economic labor force. 

CloudFactory knows this. We believe in technology. We believe in the 21st century zeitgeist of innovation and implementation. We know that technology has the power to transform entire industries. But we also know that companies cannot stay afloat by only using robots and machines. That’s why we identify the tasks outside technology’s reach, and use human workers to do them at not just a lower cost, but also at a greater accuracy. Machines split the tasks, humans complete them

Robots are not predators, and humans are not prey. In today’s competitive market, the best way to achieve goals is to capitalize on the potential for a symbiotic relationship between these two seemingly warring forces. 

To learn more about how CloudFactory harnesses the strengths of both robots and people, visit our Solutions page.

(Image via Wikia)

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