What We Often Get Wrong About Automation

from HBR

When leaders describe how advances in automation will affect job prospects for humans, predictions typically fall into one of two camps. Optimists say that machines will free human workers to do higher-value, more creative work. Pessimists predict massive unemployment, or, if they have a flair for the dramatic, a doomsday scenario in which humans’ only job is to serve our robot overlords.

What almost everyone gets wrong is focusing exclusively on the idea of automation “replacing” humans. Simply asking which humans will be replaced fails to account for how work and automation will evolve. Our new book, Reinventing Jobs: A 4-Step Approach for Applying Automation to Work, argues that while automation can sometimes substitute for human work, it also more importantly has the potential to create new, more valuable, and more fulfilling roles for humans.

More here.

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27 Responses to What We Often Get Wrong About Automation

  1. Matthew Frederick Brown October 23, 2018 at 12:42 pm #

    Automation is the next big step in manufacturing and other industries, and the introduction of robots and related technologies is a whole industry in and of itself. There is this fear that if and when robots are introduced to a specific job, then there would be no reason for humans to be there, and therefore, unemployment will skyrocket. What that fails to take into account however, is that no matter what industry robots are introduced to, they are generally introduced as a complement to the human’s work. If that were not the case, then there would be no humans in a car factory, as the plethora of robots can build the cars themselves. That’s not the case however. The robots may take away certain low-skilled jobs, but they will introduce a whole new industry in the process. Robots still need to be manufactured and maintained, and once economies of scale is reached, and the learning curve is decreased enough, then there is no reason the construction of robots cannot be a low-skilled job. Yes the introduction of robots has the potential to erase many jobs, but in doing so creates a whole new industry with the chances of greater successes for the human race as a whole.

  2. Peter Duca October 23, 2018 at 3:34 pm #

    I feel like anyone who is skeptical of the automation capabilities of technology in today’s business world is certainly missing out on great opportunities to add value to their firms. Technology today is created to leverage labor, increase performance, and make the current jobs that humans do easier. Automation is not meant to replace workers, lower labor costs, or eliminate jobs; on the contrary, employee retention increases and employee pay increases as a result of automation. Automation is a tool that can create a large amount of value for firms; companies with larger technology capabilities are able to provide a larger value to consumers. It is certainly something to be embraced rather than denied. Automation revolutionizes and revises the current method work is done; it does not eliminate work altogether.

    Take the accounting field for example. In the past, accountants performing tax and audit services had to rely on paper documents of records and updated laws in order to research accounting law easily. They performed many recalculation tasks and other recording tasks that needed to be completed manually. With the dawn of technology, accountants can automate many menial audit tests and perform tax research with real-time, up to date information in a shorter amount of time compared to sifting through a book. The role of accountants has changed from preparing and recording financial data to analyzing that data and providing value to clients. Automation never eliminated the accounting profession, but it certainly revolutionized the industry and added many opportunities for new ways for accountants to serve clients. Automation can lead to increased performance, lower overall costs, and can create a competitive advantage for firms who utilize it.

  3. W. Velazquez October 26, 2018 at 12:25 pm #

    Automation is becoming more common in our everyday life, so it is safe to assume that businesses are also becoming more automated. The use of automation in corporations scares many people, but they are only afraid because they do not understand why automation is being introduced into the workforce. The public is afraid of the impact that automation will have on the economy. People question their need to prepare for the workforce if by the time it is their turn to enter it automated machines will be their co-workers. Automation is likely to eliminate jobs, but it will create new ones. People can have a difficult time understanding that when companies opt for automation, they companies are not opting for the removal of jobs, they are thinking about the benefits for the workers and for the company.
    Having automated machines in the workforce will lower operating costs for companies. This can increase wages and offer employees more opportunities within the company. If the machines are performing the simplest tasks that were once done by workers, the workers will be free to perform tasks that are more difficult and challenging. Automation can also be used to help perform tasks that are difficult and dangerous for workers. Before automation many tasks were done completely by hand, this was dangerous and increased the liabilities of the companies if anything were to happen to their employees. Using robotic machines to perform the tasks remotely greatly increases the safety of employees.
    Automated machines continue to be developed and with the advancements in technology, they are more useful to the growth of organizations. It is easy to understand why people are fearful of the inclusion of automation in the workforce, but it is also easy to see why companies are introducing automated machines into their organization. Technology is rapidly advancing and we have to make sure to advance with it. We need automation in the workforce to challenge us to work harder and to work smarter.

  4. Michael Robins October 26, 2018 at 4:55 pm #

    Automation certainly has its advantages. It also has many disadvantages that Jesuthasan and Boudreau seem to leave out. The picture they paint about automation does not account for a few major points about the concept of automation. With this being said, I do agree with most things they bring up about it. A huge benefit of automation is that it increases efficiency and productivity. This is supported in the oil rig example. Instead of workers having to be on an oil rig, there are now rigs that can do the job all by itself. The work also gets done faster and potentially better. Simply put, the reality is that machines can do a better and faster job than humans can most of the time. There is not really much debate to that. Automation, as mentioned by Jesuthasan and Boudreau, also has the potential to grow income for workers. This is due to increased productivity and decreased costs for a firm. The Willis Towers Watson example is a very good one of how automation can be very beneficial for a company and its workers. The company operated much more productively and saved money while doing it.
    With all this said, a few disadvantages of automation were missed. Even though it could add jobs, it is more likely to kill jobs in the long term. In most industries, a lot of firms do not bring back workers and re-train them. The oil rig example is, a successful use of automation, is not a common one. Many firms choose to lower costs as much as possible and see workers as the first ones to go. A key point missed is that automation spreads. Automation is a way for firms to cut down costs and increase productivity wherever possible. In the oil rig example, there is nothing holding back Willis Towers Watson from now automating the new jobs created. This is because it will save them even more money and be even faster. My parents see this everyday in their fields. More and more people are replaced by machines and software while those same people do not have the education, training, or skills to fit in anywhere else within the firm. Although the workers in the oil rig were able to retain their jobs in a different scope, this is not the case for many fields, especially ones that are tech heavy. Automation can work and has potential to be very beneficial based on the discretion of firms. If taken advantage of too much, it can be exactly the opposite of what this article presents. It will be very interesting to see how automation impacts the future of businesses.

  5. TylerP October 26, 2018 at 5:17 pm #

    I choose to believe that the notion of automation ‘replacing’ humans is nothing but a misconception. Automation as a whole, has done wonders for the world of business, and it’s also expanded the capacity for social good. Machine learning has made it possible for blind people to use computers and smartphones. Artificial intelligence on the other hand, has made self-driving cars a possibility, which could save millions of lives per year in traffic accidents and give disabled people a newfound independence in life. The benefits of automation in any kind of industry, far outweigh any negatives that may arise from the advancements of automation. While it is a problem that some people are losing their jobs due to automatic technologies being implemented in their sectors, it must be noted that technology is not going to go anywhere anytime soon. In fact, automation efforts to improve various business processes are only going to improve in the future. Ideally, automation actually creates new jobs and fields of work as there must be humans to create software, physical components, and to perform maintenance over time to all automatic technologies that will be produced in the upcoming decades. Essentially, it should be looked at in a way that by implementing automation to complete mundane, easy, and repetitive tasks, across any specified industry, will allow for humans to perform new and more valuable roles within their forms of work. It is easier to accept this when one considers that automation and technological advancements have been changing the very definition of work since the early 1900s. Technological advancements have been booting people out of their factory jobs and opening the door for more business jobs and computer based work. That is why I favor automation, I believe it signals that we are advancing and that our lines of work will become more intuitive, and that’s for the better.

  6. Yash Wagle October 26, 2018 at 6:57 pm #

    As technology continues to rapidly advance automation in the jobs along all industries is seemingly inevitable, yet for all the benefits of this automation there surely will be some drawbacks. After reading article like this one, along with a Washington Post article from I commented on a couple weeks ago titled ‘He’s one of the only humans at work—and he loves it’ I can’t help but scrutinize the arguments made in these articles. As this article states automation “has the potential to create new, more valuable, and more fulfilling roles for humans.” Although I could come to agree that these jobs would be more enjoyable and “fulfilling”, there will surely not be enough jobs to replace the jobs that will be taken away by this automation. Furthermore, the potential job market for these “new” jobs would be extremely competitive as jobs are scarce and the number of people vying for the jobs would be high. I believe, articles like these try to gloss over this point of job scarcity as it was never made in the article. In that Washington Post article I read however that point was made, as when the article was describing JD.com goal for fully automating all of their warehouses, and eventually having no human workers, which would even include Zou Rui one of the engineers who works in one JD’s fully automated warehouses who even said that he enjoyed this new job. Another thing this HBR article does not fully go into debt to is the fact that these “new jobs” would require people to have very adaptive skill sets. As automating is continuously advancing, the human jobs required to collaborate with these machines will also constantly change. Once again this point was made in the Washington post article “higher education didn’t prepare him (Zou) for the specifics of the JD job. Zou completes a training course every two months”. This statement presents what I believe is the most dangerous part when it comes to automating, besides the jobs that would get lost, the jobs created would require workers to constantly adapt or face becoming unnecessary.
    Yet, as I underlined earlier automation is inevitable, and therefore it is necessary to adapt. I believe that one of the things that we must immediately as a society is modify education. By understanding how to communicate and work alongside of AI at a younger age more people can be ready for the new jobs that arise.

  7. John L. October 26, 2018 at 7:14 pm #

    The shift towards automation will be a beneficial aspect to companies in the economy. Humans will be replaced by machines to do routine, laborious tasks allowing human workers to devote more time to tasks that require more mental exercise. In order for humans and the economy to evolve, individuals need to realize the importance of automation in the work place and how ultimately it leads to greater convenience and results for everyone in the equation. Allowing automation to take over routine and hazardous tasks on worksites, keeps human workers safe while at the same time allowing them to exercise their brain to come up with better solutions for the problems that present themselves on the job. More time to think leads to a greater amount of innovation within the economy, which leads to greater advancements in automation within the economy to further improve the lives of humans.
    The increase in automation will eventually lead to new industries to emerge within the economy. The surge in computer science related jobs, exploded after the introduction of the Internet and personal computer. More and more jobs are created every day to create and manage websites, databases, and applications that are used throughout the Internet, workplaces, and personal computers. The new jobs that are created as a result of automation tend to be better paying, safer, and less physically intensive. Change is not easy for anyone being replaced by a machine, but in order to advance as a society we must embrace the benefits that automation brings with it and adapt to the new workplaces we find ourselves in.

  8. David S October 26, 2018 at 7:32 pm #

    Automation definitely does not mean the absolute replacement of human workers. Automation has definitely enabled an increase in a company’s capability of profitability and productivity and should not be as a an enemy to human workers. By having an increase in job automation, there is an increase in potential fields and methods of completing jobs task that would not be possible without this boom in available technology. Automation is also beneficial to companies because it reduces their production costs without forcing them to reduce their number of human laborers.
    The main concern that causes many to misperceive automation as a major threat to human laborers is the idea that the introduction of new technology to a process means the elimination of need for skilled workers. However, this is not the case. There is still a need for skilled workers, the basis for those skills has simply just changed to being reliant on new technology rather than previously acquired skills. This makes it easier for companies to recruit and actually creates more opportunities for the creation of new jobs. The knowledge to be skillful in operating new technology can be taught to anyone regardless of their previous work or skill background. This definitely serves as an advantage for people who are searching for new jobs or currently working in the field.

  9. Michael Martini October 26, 2018 at 8:10 pm #

    The first thing that always came to my mind about robots doing a human’s work will take away jobs. However, my opinion has been recently swayed. Although these robots will definitely take away jobs for some people, it can open up plenty of new jobs for others. For example, even though the robot can do a human’s work we still need people to create these machines that do the work. We also need people to main the machines and make sure they are working properly. It seems to balance out jobs because it both takes them away and opens up new ones. Also, robots can take away the low-paying, less-skilled jobs and force people to work more efficiently. Not only will the people be more efficient in their work, but the machines will also cause businesses to be more efficient since they will get the jobs done much quicker and much more accurately. I believe that automation has opened up a whole new world for us and has done nothing but improve our world and our economy altogether.

  10. Gary Wolz III October 26, 2018 at 8:55 pm #

    Automation is the future and a lot of people really have to start getting used to that. We hear all the time about how people are losing their jobs to robots/ machines and how they are soon going to take over the world. While yes this does happen it also greats other jobs and creates an even more efficient workspace. As this article goes on to describe although jobs will be lost, they are normally ones that require little skill or very basic skill sets to get the task done. These jobs will no longer be a thing for people to fall back on and creates a drive to get a better more skillful job. Some might argue that these people have no other options or they will not be able to adapt to the new job climate. This can be true for some people but not the majority, everyone has a skill they just have to focus on finding it and might in the end create a happier working class with people who really love their skilled jobs. Now with the new AI in place the efficiency with what is being done is a lot higher which in turn also creates a lower chance of things going wrong or mistakes. This allows a company to make a lot more money, which then allows them to pay their employees more. With new AI also comes new jobs. There needs to be people who build, design, and maintain these machines. These can be considered more skillful jobs, providing a greater income to these people as well, which is all part of the cycle in which automation really helps society. Another big step that comes with automation is safety in the workplace. Automated jobs can replace hazardous jobs that people with low skill levels would be forced to do. Dirty work in these environments are becoming a thing of the past while all the data for different areas can now be seen or stored in one, allowing for a better watchful eye. The world is always changing and with this change comes the idea survival of the fittest, which although people might think since it is a modern world we should not still be in survival of fittest but we do. Each person has to strive to be there best and make the most of their skills because automation is something that is very helpful and here to stay.

  11. Deen Malik October 26, 2018 at 8:59 pm #

    The topic of automation and A.I. robots in the workplace or replacing human labor has been a big topic of discussion recently. Everyone knows technology is meant to make life for human’s easier and simple, yet we could ask ourselves are we overthinking how far we are taking this technology? My opinion on the matter at hand is that i was first opposed to the idea of having automation and robot’s become a factor in the workplace, especially to a degree of having to fire human labor workers who work to support their families and to have a purpose in life. I would always ask myself that question why would we do such a bad thing to innocent people who are just trying to get through life, what just so you could make a little more money with efficient work from a robot? But then i read this article and there were many times throughout this article where i began to question myself even more about what side I am, but i came to a realization that i don’t have a side in the topic at hand. in fact i feel as if automation in the labor workforce would be a plus even for those who’s jobs would be taken. The robots would be taking the place of the physical labor while the replaced humans would be overlooking the robots. In thous scenario everyone wins and the world furthers there advancement in technology and become more efficient.

  12. Nicholas Russo October 26, 2018 at 9:00 pm #

    Automation has been gradually increasing over the years as technology has been rapidly improving. Many are scared for what is to come because of the increased use of this. One just must note how to adjust to this. Automation will definitely increase because of the advantages it presents in all aspects making companies more profitable by not having to pay for a salary of someone doing that specific job. One must be weary of making changes to their skill set. Some must completely alter what they have formerly learned to make sure they stay employed. Automation can help in every day life though making simple tasks even easier for us. Automation overall will help our society save time and money. we just need to be precautious that we make worth of ourselves over a machine to stay employed.

  13. Dimitri Drosos October 26, 2018 at 10:04 pm #

    I think this article provides some reassurance about automation. When reading this, the benefits seemed to outweigh the costs. It is easier to understand the situation as a whole because of the oil rig example, which highlights how there is an increases profitability payoff and greater diversity. Essentially, automation does not limit human capacity; instead, it enhances it. The aspect I thought was important was that many of the jobs that appeared to be dangerous can be replaced by robots.
    One article from AutomationWorld written earlier this month states that manufacturers are using artificial intelligence and machine learning to help solve specific problems regarding production. In turn, this would assist operators improve uptime and bring production to an optimal level. Again, the idea that humans can work in harmony with machines is demonstrated in this article. However, this example is specific in what this kind of alliance does. It allows manufacturers to complete their research in the most efficient manner. Process time is reduced, and waste would follow suit.
    What is even more interesting is that there will be a greater attraction in the workforce. Not only does collaboration between already existing workers and machines take place, but it draws in more human workers. This is arguably the best benefit of automation. After reading this article, automation has positive characteristics about it. Its implementation in the future could improve the way things are done in certain industries.

  14. Daryna Chumak October 26, 2018 at 10:55 pm #

    Automation is a topic of diverse and relentless debate, reflective of the nature behind the idea itself of automation. Much like this article debates, the TedxCambridge lecture (Link below) given by economist David Autor, challenges the future of work in the face of automation. Those that challenge automation pose threats of job loss or obsoleteness obsoleteness, but history shows us time and again that this simply isn’t true. This does not mean however that a positive impact of automation innovation is set in stone either. David Autor asserts that while a leap forward in human processes can have anticipated and unanticipated gains, the extent and success of these outcomes is governed by our institutions. The outlook of automation using historical analysis provides us two lenses. First, technology magnifies our leverage. Second, the human race has boundless creativity and desire for more. We have seen automation take hold many times already. A 38% drop in agricultural jobs since the 1900s, where despite a 95% reduction in farm employment no shortage in food supply exists. Perhaps either that the introduction of the ATM decreased the numbers of banks tellers by 1/3rd but also caused the number of bank branches to increase 40% in the same period. Regardless of the implementation, mankind always finds a foothold to utilize and cultivate growth. Innovation can change the world in ways we cannot anticipate. However, with the masters and creators of innovation at its helm, one can argue that innovation is instead a force of human nature and society as we know it and have always known it to be.

    https://www.ted.com/talks/david_autor_why_are_there_still_so_many_jobs?language=en&utm_campaign=tedspread&utm_medium=referral&utm_source=tedcomshare

  15. Shaunak Rajurkar October 26, 2018 at 11:29 pm #

    This article emphasizes the notion of “reinventing” the human work cycle instead of simply replacing jobs. The goal of automation is currently being treated as if it simply aims to maximize productivity and efficiency of tasks, while furthering the prospects of human work. In the short term, this means that machines must work in tandem with humans. This cannot be the only benefit of automation. The authors, Ravin Jesuthasan and John Boudreau cite that a side effect of cutting labor costs and improving speed, quality, and service, actually results in higher compensation of employees due to greater long term productivity. In addition to this, co-operation between humans and automated machines allows organizations to “attract a larger and more qualified applicant pool.”
    As the article describes, the most common way to approach the benefits of automation in a hands on industry is to take a binary perspective: if it increases safety and saves money on the bottom line of the cash flow statement, it is pragmatic to implement it. Automation is beginning a new industrial revolution, and thus it should not be treated as if its benefits will result in this type of linear efficiency. Humanity has the unique characteristic of organized sentience (as well as opposable thumbs and the fact that we are not underwater). This has allowed us to create more complex civilizations than animals and machines that are mentally superior in raw processing power, such as blue whales. Although this seems irrelevant to the discussion of automation, it is a key factor in choosing the ideal automation strategy. Willis Towers Watson, an oil extraction company, has used automation in the implementation a more complex and thorough oil extraction process, and has reserved their human capital for more “variable, mental, interactive, and less hazardous work.” In shifting work away from repetitive tasks, they have reformed their human-workforce to include services “that were originally provided by third parties.” Upon further research, this includes strategic solutions for offshore drilling, as well as financial and audit services originally provided by Big 4 Accounting firms.
    This revolution can quickly be taken further if the reforms extend from physical automation to artificial intelligence. A growing trend in the energy sector is to use AI for ocean exploration. ExxonMobil in particular has deployed numerous robots applying AI tactics to increase their accuracy in detecting natural seeps in “high-risk” regions. In addition to indicating robust energy resources, the robots’ detection of natural seeps “can contribute to protecting the environment” if environmental protection firms continue to work alongside energy firms in an unprecedented partnership. AI and the growing popularity are responsible for this type of efficiency. Firms cannot be afraid of this rapid change and must brace themselves for a period of aggiornamento during this revolution.
    In a larger scope, the article describes the three general ways that automation will impact existing jobs. Automation will eliminate work, augment work, and create entirely new work. It is the duty of those who are pioneering automation in their respective industries to provide foresight into the new jobs that automation will create. To prepare for this, reputable universities have not only been creating curriculum to address this new work, but they have been working with the private sector directly to ensure full immersion. If we can continue this revolution throughout every sector, we will be better prepared for the post-automation future.

  16. Mackenzie Greenfield October 30, 2018 at 7:46 pm #

    I do think that companies will have to move to some automation to stay competitive in today’s world. I don’t think we have a choice. Hopefully, as pointed out in the article, companies will take the benefits reaped from increased productivity and other positive outcomes associated with automation and use them to grow and expand the company which will generate positions to replace those that were lost to automation. These jobs will likely be different, as was the case in the oil rig, but hopefully companies will also try to provide training or assistance for training to those who lost jobs in the skills that may be needed for the new positions. Even without any company expansion into new areas, the introduction of automation will likely lead to new jobs. Workers will be needed to program the automation, maybe monitor it, and conduct preventive maintenance and repairs.
    I especially support the idea of using automation in situations that may put human workers at significant risk. Companies should always strive to create a safer workplace.
    There is also likely to be advantages to the consumers with companies being able to deliver more product faster to the consumers. Some companies, such as Adidas, have moved to automation for making some of their sneakers (https://www.businessinsider.com/adidas-high-tech-speedfactory-begins-production-2018-4). They have two automated factories – one in Germany and one in Atlanta GA and say they can get sneakers to the market three times faster. I think it important to also consider that, because of the lower costs associated with automation, one of these factories is here in the US. If the factory was relying on human labor, it is likely to be in another country with a cheaper labor force. So at least the factory is here and, though it may not have as much positions as human powered factory, the jobs that it does supply are in the United States.

  17. RyanL November 1, 2018 at 11:40 am #

    In this article, which delves into detail about common misconceptions about the movement towards automation, Ravin Jesuthasan and John Boudreau offers an optimistic perspective on its auspicious potential. I agree with the authors’ point of view that automation is not really “replacing” humans, rather it is creating more value-added and fulfilling roles for our future generations. Essentially, although some jobs will be removed in the short-term, there will also be newer and more diversified occupations resulting from automation/implementation of advanced technology. As with the example of how automation has benefited the oil industry, advances in technology has helped make possible the creation of an autonomous oil rig. One end result was that some original work activities ,which were previously hands-on, repetitive, and life-threatening, transformed into more technical-related/critical thinking activities such as mechanical and electrical engineering work.

    In my opinion, I believe that the general workforce should be open to the influx of new technology developments relating to information, artificial intelligence, and software. Occupations that are more technical can help maintain employee-retention in corporations, as finding a replacement would be more difficult due to the requirements of unique skill sets and specific knowledge. Automation may also improve an employee’s ability to complete ordinary tasks more efficiently and quickly, rather than removing their role within an organization. At the manager level, the potential reduction of human error in receiving/justifying data can help managers make more informed decisions with higher accuracy.

  18. Brandon Ruiz November 2, 2018 at 9:08 am #

    Every day new technology is being developed in order to improve the future of society in every way possible. It’s this continuous innovation that creates new technology that can be used to improve various different things in our world today. One major way that new technology has the power to change our society is through automation. Automation of certain things eliminates time consuming tasks that we as human beings do now. The elimination of time consuming tasks is something that businesses and organizations are especially interested in. This is due to the potential increases of productivity that it would cause as well as the possible reduction in labor costs. However, some people worry that an increase in automation in the workforce would result in an increase in unemployment and reduce the amount of jobs that are currently available. These worries are valid considering that automation has the power to completely eliminate certain jobs, but what people don’t consider is the potential automation has to create new, more valuable jobs.

    In an article by Harvard Business Review, they talk about a specific situation within the oil and gas industry where automation clearly benefited the organization as well as its workers. Traditionally workers on oil rigs have to do jobs that include intense manual labor that is often hazardous, but now it is possible, thanks to technological innovation, to create a completely automated oil rig. Its easy to see this potential automation as a way to simply get rid of those workers and reduce labor costs, but the organization instead chose to go about it a different way. They focused on ways of optimizing their human labor force instead of on completely eliminating it. This led to the company reallocating those workers to doing activities formerly done by third parties as well as to the new jobs that the automation of the oil rig created. This led to the organization having to pay more in order to retrain workers and hire new more highly skilled workers. However, in the end it benefited the organization by increasing diversity within its workforce, by causing 45% increase in profitability, and by increasing workforce retention.

    The way that this organization implemented automation into their workforce provides a great example for other companies to follow. The only problem is that there is no guarantee that other businesses and organizations are going to follow their example. They have the ability to go about this in a detrimental way. They could simply decide to implement automation as a way of decreasing their labor costs. If something like this was done it would definitely leave a lot of people without jobs while also not optimizing the full potential of the implementation of automation in the workforce. Automation works best in conjunction with people who manage it, people who make improvements upon it, and people who augment the productivity of it through working together with technology to reach the common goal of optimization. Businesses and organizations need to realize this before they cause serious residual consequences on our lower and middle class workers. The implementation of automation in the workforce is beneficial to the advancement of our society, but implementing automation while not decimating your workforce is something I feel is important and needs to be encouraged more.

  19. Sandra C November 2, 2018 at 4:20 pm #

    As a Supply Chain major, automatic technology is highly spoken about it my field. The use of automation in Supply Chain is mainly in manufacturing and packaging. It is put in place to lessen the amount of human error, and aid in cost efficiency. There are many opinions about the use of automation, and the biggest fear is that there will be a decrease in jobs. Although the number in jobs will decrease overall, the quality of the job increases. Every automation program needs a trained mechanic to run the machine. This mechanic would be earning more money in their role than before. Not only is the salary higher, but the job is more fulfilling.

    I believe that automation is a great way to create innovative technology. From working in manufacturing, I have seen this first hand. The risk of human error is significantly decreased, which will help in less products being damaged and not used. Along with less human error, automation brings a safety feature as well. A topic that the article brought up is oil rigs. When there are oil accidents, humans working on the rigs are significantly affected. For example, the Deepwater Horizon oil spill was the cause of an oil drill that caught on fire in 2010. If automation was running most of the work, there would have been less human fatalities. The explosion may have even been avoided had there been automation that warned the workers of issues. There are also many manufacturing sites that have hazardous waste. By inputting automation, humans would have less interaction with materials that cause health concerns. Although jobs are at risk to automation, it seems clear that the changes are relevant and needed in some sectors of work.

    Boudreau, Ravin Jesuthasan John, et al. “What We Often Get Wrong About Automation.” Harvard Business Review, 11 Oct. 2018, hbr.org/2018/10/what-we-often-get-wrong-about-automation?utm_source=pocket&utm_medium=email&utm_campaign=pockethits.

  20. Amanda Nitting November 2, 2018 at 5:56 pm #

    When the discussion of automation enters a conversation, there are a couple of reactions that are the result. The ones that see automation as a good thing predict that new advancements in this area will open up better opportunities for workers. However, on the other side, it is also evident that the progression of automation has led to workers losing their jobs. This is due to machines being capable of performing a task that a worker can do without the company having to pay the machines a salary. Although this is a valid point that needs to be considered, there is a big potential of these workers being able to get out of a dangerous environment and be used in a more creative and innovative way. Technology and automation are two aspects of the world that have a major influence on society and contribute to the condition of the economy.
    A topic that stood out in this article was the way in which oil rig companies are adapting to automation and then how that correlates to what happens with their workers. Working on an oil rig is not only repetitive, but it is also isolated and dangerous. One of the main problems that could come from this is for the people that are in their forties or older who have spent their entire lives doing this type of labor. They are used to this working environment and the dangers that this position entails. However, some companies want to reinvent these positions and expect that “these newly reinvented jobs required increasing pay levels by between 7% and 15%” (Jesuthasan & Boudreau). With that in mind, it could be a better thing for the people who have these jobs because they will be getting to learn new skills. The article uses this example to show the positives that can come from how automation will not necessarily harm the worker but provide new opportunities in certain skill areas and give others the capability of contributing to the business in ways they might not have thought they could before. This could be that one might think they would always work on the rig but now might get promoted to a different position where they will be safer and make more money.
    The ways in which automation has expanded will continue to get various types of feedback. Change is not something that society is known for being the best at accepting since most people are like to remain with the lifestyle they are comfortable with. Since this is the case and technology and automation are booming heavily, it will be interesting to see how the workforce will utilize these discoveries. Automation is important because it allows companies to produce more of their goods. When automation is combined with technology the amount of work that can be achieved is a lot faster than just laborers. Since this oil rig example is just one instance where there can be positive solutions for workers, hopefully, more companies will think in a similar way. This is so that instead of machines just replacing human laborers, those workers will instead contribute in a different way. Those people will have to put more work into being skilled enough to be able to handle a different area of business than they did before, but the pay will be better. This will, therefore, help those will families or just be able to have a higher income.

  21. Jonathan Rodrigues November 2, 2018 at 7:30 pm #

    The debate on whether or not automation is a job-cutting strategy is as prevalent as ever. While automation is not new to many industries, such as the auto industry, it’s occurring at a faster pace now and spreading across many industries. Its benefits have been describes as a way to increase productivity, overcome worker shortage and to eliminate routine jobs placing employees in higher value jobs. And of course, the downside is that jobs can be outright eliminated as robots move in. But, as these jobs are being eliminated, the need for people skilled enough to be successful in a new field of business will skyrocket. Thus, the unemployment rate would remain steady and the work force would switch into new fields of expertise.

  22. Marco V November 8, 2018 at 10:53 pm #

    Automation has swept across all industries throughout the world. From helping pharmaceutical companies reduce time to find new compounds that target diseases to increasing productivity in warehouses. For example, Amazon uses automation to transport packages across their warehouses safely through artificial intelligence. It reduces the number of workers and these robots can link together and carry multiple items or bins across the warehouse. Humans continue to oversee the robots and technology continues to grow. Another example is Tesla’s gigafactory where most of their cars are produced. Large robots run the entire factory with little human intervention. This automation saves Tesla on labor and helped them produce roughly 600 vehicles per day at the beginning of 2018. Indeed this does cut down on human labor, but robots build a better car at a faster pace. In the long run, future jobs will be enhanced with the help of robots.

  23. RJC-Rider November 9, 2018 at 2:15 pm #

    In a growing automated world, many workers have a fear of job losses due to their jobs becoming obsolete due to robotic advancements. The article above mentioned this as a fear and an additional separate school of thought that is more positive centering around the new jobs that this will create. The authors basically believe that yes some jobs will be done away with due to automation, however, this will not lead to job loss but almost a job upgrade. I agree with the author’s stance that automation will really improve the work of the average laborer by augmenting their abilities. The average laborer might also graduate to a higher level of technical ability in controlling the machines rather than doing the work themselves. Companies of course will continue to benefit, but the articles explanation I found to be very helpful. Companies through automation will be able to increase efficiency and production which will allow for increased profitability. This new profitability can then be put to use in hopefully training existing employees for higher level positions and tasks.
    What concerns me is job availability for those currently in the workforce. New automation and technological upgrades to a job will increase the need for workers to be more tech savvy. Most laborers may not have this knowledge but college graduates coming into the workforce may. For some companies this might be a more attractive set up to hire workers with already existing technical knowledge to perform the newer tech jobs possibly resulting in more job loss than this article implies for the average worker. On the contrary though, I could foresee a company prefering to retain employees because they are already familiar with all other aspects of the job and just need some more technical knowledge and training. I eagerly await to see the economic outcomes of the increasingly technologically advanced modern workplace.

  24. Anthony L November 9, 2018 at 3:43 pm #

    This article claims to explain what people miss in the automation debate, however it fails to provide an actual answer to the major concerns of those who are wary about the current trend of automation. As with any technological innovation, jobs are created as well as destroyed. The two most important questions to answer when assessing the benefits and drawbacks of this technological innovation. The first is does the amount of jobs created offset the amount of jobs destroyed, and the second is can those who lost their old jobs successfully transition to these new jobs. When advances in farming technology reduced the need for small time farmers, those people were able to move to the cities and become factory workers. In contrast, modern trends towards automation do not create suitable alternative positions for the low skilled work it replaces, “Automation eliminates or replaces many routine tasks performed by people at work. Research shows a growing polarization in the job market, where highly skilled and educated workers are commanding good jobs, while those in unskilled roles or positions with lower levels of education required are low paid,” Thus low skilled are much more likely to lose their jobs as a result of automation. It is very difficult for a low skilled laborer to transfer to a high skilled career, especially if the laborer is advanced in age. This means that many of the jobs created by automation will be taken by those who are already high skilled workers and not the now unemployed unskilled laborer. It is also unlikely that the jobs created will offset the jobs lost because of the shear amount of jobs replaced by automation. For example, “Some 40% of all jobs are predicted to disappear with automation in Australia,” So even if some people who lose their jobs are able to find work in the newly created jobs, there will still be an increase in unemployment.
    Another factor that prevents those who lose their jobs due to automation from adapting to these new positions is intelligence level. According to The Atlantic, “80 million Americans [have] an IQ of 90 or below,” These people usually are better suited for low skilled work rather than skilled work. Since genetics determine, “…about 50 percent of the difference in intelligence among individuals,” there will always be those who will be better suited for unskilled labor no matter what improvements are made to our educational system. There is nothing wrong with being unintelligent, however unintelligent and intelligent people play different roles in society. Thus, automation robs unintelligent people of work that is best suited for them. Automation is causing, “…those positions that can still be acquired without a college degree [to disappear]” Thus, automation creates benefits for the intelligent at the expense of the unintelligent. These trends if left unchecked will likely foster social and political instability, because of the large population of unemployed that these trends will create.

  25. Chris Vena November 9, 2018 at 6:10 pm #

    Simply, automation is the use of automatic equipment in the manufacturing process. When I think of automation I think of using it to cut manufacturing costs, while the pessimistic side being that there will be a high unemployment rate. In this article the authors bring up a good point that although pessimists may believe that unemployment and automation are positively correlated, the other side of this is that automation may add value to human’s jobs. I really never thought of this considering how replacing humans with robots could possibly be good for humans. This article demonstrates that automation can cut costs, like I mentioned earlier, and this could in turn lead to higher compensation for employees. After reading this article I now view automation as more a complement to humans. Robots will not take everyone’s job but will assist in making jobs easier and more effective ultimately helping the economy.

  26. Brendan C. November 9, 2018 at 10:05 pm #

    The concerns related to the impacts automation will have on future job prospects is certainly a thought that has run through my mind. At the same time, I have optimism that automation will become a key driving force in creating economic growth. This Harvard Business Review Article presents a fair argument citing how automation will change the work environment, and as a result, will “create new, more valuable, and more fulfilling roles for humans.” By reducing the cost of production through automation, companies generate greater cash flows, which ideally result in more jobs, increased pay, and investments in research and development. Furthermore, the article highlights how the benefits are more than just “economic accounting” measures, as automation changes the workplace dynamic that results in “larger and more qualified applicant pool.”

    I agree with the analysis presented in this article, however, I think the long-term impacts of automation are not so clear where further analysis is still necessary. The article illustrates how automation in the oil industry reinvented the workplace process, where there was a net amount of activities shifted and created, rather than totally eliminated. However, this article mentions that a percentage of the new jobs created came from “services that before had been provided by third parties.” This analysis fails to take into consideration economic impacts faced by the third parties who no longer provides the services. If these third parties face a substantial loss in revenue, then production will be reduced in the short-term with the potential for complete shut down in the long-term.

    A recent article from The Wall Street Journal illustrates how automation is going to play an integral role this holiday season where robots have “reduced training time for new workers and doubled productivity over manually picking orders.” (https://www.wsj.com/articles/from-reindeer-to-robots-automation-set-to-deliver-this-holiday-season-1538569800). With online orders becoming increasingly popular, it is critical for companies like Amazon or Walmart to have the production capacity to meet the demand. By integrating the work between humans and robots, companies are able to satisfy large increases in demand, which requires more workers paid at a competitive salary. A long-term concern I have in relation to automation is the possibility that the increase in demand for greater skilled workers will result in greater competition that leads unequal opportunities. A greater skilled workforce requires employees with postsecondary educations. In an environment where college is unaffordable and selective, there is the possibility that the gap between the middle-class and lower-class will increase. In this situation, the economic gains would be offset by increased unemployment rates.

  27. Adam C. November 9, 2018 at 10:40 pm #

    This article discusses the increased role of automation in the workplace. Its main example is in the oil and gas industry and how automation has replaced the dangerous jobs with more mentally stimulating ones.

    While I agree with the analysis done by the article, I think that they minimized the impact of short term backlash. There will undoubtedly be an amount of people that are unable to be retrained based on reasons such as financial or physical. These people may not have enough money to acquire the increased education needed for the new job or be too old to retrain for the new position.

    Furthermore, I don’t think that all jobs will have the diversity success as the one listed in the article. Some of the newly created jobs may appeal to those that primarily study STEM as they have the necessary skills. However, most of the people that study STEM are male, thus perpetuating the original diversity problem. Ultimately, the increase in automation will undoubtedly push society forward; however, it will be immediately felt by those unable to adapt to the changing times and has the possibility to shift original problems around. There definitely needs to be more long term automation studies before automation takes over all human labor.

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