In conversation and on the web I’ve heard people who have read Nicholas Carr’s article in the Wall Street Journal “Automation Makes Us Dumb Human intelligence is withering as computers do more, but there’s a solution” as describing technology as threatening, especially the kind that takes jobs away.
I don’t look at this as a threat but rather as a challenge. The difference is important. Through a lens of threat, victory is defined as technological status quo and that is not a battle that will be won. Posing it as a challenge in my opinion defines victory as human’s successful adaptation with the new technological reality of the world we live in.
The solutions posed by Mr. Carr in his article are at best partially correct in that in the end the best results will be achieved by a combination of human and machine. However he misses the essential point that industry is not going to driven by benevolent desire to deploy technology that best suits and takes advantage of the human mind. Industry is going to select technology that lowers the cost of doing business and increases profits. There is nothing wrong with this and it’s how things have always been done.
The challenge we must meet is to identify and prepare for the roles that we as humans can provide value to industry. That challenge, as described in The Second Machine Age, by Erik Brynjolfsson, Andrew McAfee, is to find roles where humans and technology work in tandem and are tied together with a strong plan and strategy. They demonstrate this in their book with real world examples of this combination beating out “top technology alone” as well as “human technology teams” using poor planning or strategy.
The real threat for us is that the pace of change we are facing is far greater than we realize and time is against us. Jobs from truck drivers to attorneys are being taken by machines. Just as we have done in the past, we need to think how we best work with machines and pursue those paths.