If This Then That

Automation is generally considered a good thing. The more you can automate something the more you have time for more pressing matters. If you can outsource something, and the cost of doing so is less than what it would cost you to do it (be that time or money) then the logical thing to do is to outsource that thing, right?

That being said, we increasingly have longer and longer work weeks. We pull more shifts for less money for more days. Though 'productivity' (an abigious metric if ever there was one) continues to rise and rise the amount of time we spend with our families goes down and down, along with our pay. Inequality and automation in a terrifying marriage. 

http://thecurrentmoment.wordpress.com/2011/08/18/productivity-inequality-poverty/

http://thecurrentmoment.wordpress.com/2011/08/18/productivity-inequality-poverty/

 

Yet unemployment in some sectors has never been higher. We live in a post-industrial, post-manufacturing and soon-to be post-service world. Every time you walk through the automated check out you cost someone their job. And no, you can't stop that, but maybe you can slow it down a tad - because the people at the top don't suffer from automation, it's the people right at the bottom. 

I discovered an app recently called 'If This Then That' which is all about programming your phone to do ever more detailed customizable functions of your daily life. It can do almost anything. For example IF I take a selfie, THEN email it to my mum. Or whatever. It has a plethora of time-saving and life brightening applications and I got really stoked. Think of all the time this will save me at work! Every time I upload a photo to the work Instagram it now immediately uploads to the work Facebook and the work twitter. Brilliant!

And then I thought  'geez, I hope they don't invent a program that can do social media, or I'm out of a job.' And there's the central dilemma of the progression of technology and the life of the worker: the things that make our life easier now will take our livelyhood away one day. 

Sure, you could employ everyone to build a road. Have one dude mixing cement, another flattening the road, another redirecting traffic, another measuring stuff. 100% employment. Instead of ATM's have a dude with a bag of money. Instead of Amazon, go down to your local bookstore. You see what I'm getting at here. 

Amazon killed my father - and raped my mother!

Amazon killed my father - and raped my mother!

But if you follow that logic there is no progress.  We're back in the dark ages using our donkey to grind corn. Or whatever. Where would civilization be without the cement mixer or the 'stop' sign? So as the inevitable goose step of progress marches on I must have faith that new industries will be created to replace the old ones. Right? No one ever thought 'apps' would be a thing - now it's a multibillion dollar industry with thousands of jobs. 

The irony is I love automation, I think it's great. It saves me time. It's convenient. It makes my life better. But how long before I too become a victim of that, just like everyone else and become one of three things: a computer maintanence person, a software programmer or a content creator? Part of the big, giant machine entertaining itself through to oblivion.  How long until I become like one of those obese figures from Wall-e that just sits on his fat ass all day, entertaining himself? 

Guys, I was thinking we could go out... Guys? Guys..?

Guys, I was thinking we could go out... Guys? Guys..?

If this (automation) then that (the world ends). Something to think about. Or not. I don't know.

Follow @JorgeTsipos on twitter to get his automated humour and listen to his free weekly podcast Unnatural Selection.