The second industrial revolution is upon us and it’s called automation, but this time around we’ll have to work with machines, not just control them, to succeed.
The first industrial revolution or machine age relieved some of the limitations of human and animal power for improving the world. Not much happened in terms of our economic wellbeing and welfare until the steam engine was invented along with a host of related technologies in the late 1700s. Since then our living standards have soared. We’re far wealthier than our
predecessors; we have longer lives and are better off on just about every indicator.
The second machine age is about doing something similar for our cognitive capabilities, our brain’s mental capabilities, with technologies like computerisation, software and networking, and not just because of Moore’s Law – the doubling and redoubling of computer power every 18 months.
Machines will replace humans in thousands of jobs in every sector of our economy as they will unlock opportunities for humans at the same time. Nor is this science fiction, as machines today are performing surgery, navigating cars and even flipping hamburgers.
Of course there are those who say technology is going to solve all our problems. There are others who look at job destruction and spin a very pessimistic story. In the past we’ve always been able to come up with new jobs as old jobs got replaced. While technology has been destroying jobs, it has also helped create new jobs. Entrepreneurs like Steve Jobs, Bill Gates and many others have helped invent whole new industries.
Smart machines are increasingly capable of extending physical work activities to more cognitive capabilities such as making judgments or sensing emotions, and have the potential to bring a dramatic economic growth spurt, through changing our daily work lives.
At a time of slow global economic growth automation could raise
global productivity growth by 0.8 to 1.4 percent annually.*
Automation contributes to productivity and enables businesses to improve their performance by reducing errors and improving quality and speed, but to realise its full potential, people and technology must work hand in hand.
At Finsbury Green we see this in our workflow automation where our technology removes data duplication and eliminates errors. It also increases productivity and personal accountability with
automated milestones and alerts, calculation of production quantities and dispatch schedules as is the case with our campaign technology. It is flexible and allows for rapid customisation, embedding customer specic business logic, processes and knowledge into the system.
Our technology is but one simple example that can genuinely have a good outcome.
We can control our future to a much greater extent. Neither the optimistic nor the pessimistic scenarios are inevitable.
We can embrace automation so that it is not just a matter of sitting back and watching this unfold. It really should be viewed as something that complements humans, not just substitutes them.
* McKinsey Global Institute Report, A future that works: Automation, employment, and productivity.