I recently had the pleasure of reading the last book from Jeremy Rifkin http://www.thezeromarginalcostsociety.com/
I very much appreciated the enlightening analysis about how intelligent automated technology will rapidly replace human labor, not only in manufacturing but also in service jobs and unexpected areas like law, financial services, education, medical services and so on.
Alarming titles like “technology is destroying jobs” have been around since a long time but the best way to explain the phenomenon in my opinion is that technology will slowly but relentlessly make human jobs obsolete, meaning that we must find new creative ways when adding our “smart brain processing contributions” to create value.
For a few years, I worked in projects involving software and in particular, in SaaS; I learned to appreciate how a well-programmed server with a powerful database can really become an essential player in a service chain involving several player, artificial and humans, connected in a technology framework.
I was so involved in the design role but also quite frustrated about inefficiencies in the process management, especially when interacting with humans. I discovered myself daydreaming cynically of replacing with a software platform some of the human players involved in my daily routine.
The point here is not having you judging me a horrible arrogant person (I am not proud of that daydreaming), however think for a moment about the following: we are used to expect ANSWERS from humans and PROCESSED DATA from systems.
Let’s make a simple example: a customer common question is “when can I have the product (hardware or software) I am paying you for?”
When the question is when, the answer is supposed to be in the form of HH:MM:SS DD:MM:YY (“You will get it by Monday, 24th, at 5pm” is just as an example, a good answer).
Now a list of answers that are not answers at all:
- Courier site says your material is currently in France
- Last time we shipped you it took 5 days
- Current shipping schedule is next week but flagged as not confirmed, will recheck in a few days if it’s confirmed
- I need to wait for tomorrow to check as I am currently too busy
- It’s almost ready
- Thanks for your mail, I am currently out of office (In this last case, a server already took over)
When you simply act as a human interface to data, you can’t be other than an inefficient “router” simply passing them over.
If you interact with a customer, and the customer is a human, you cannot pass by database information; you must add some intelligence, process and validate data, make assumptions and take the risk for transforming data into an answer (or a calendar date, in this case).
Human intelligence is able to apply and process an algorithm involving data, experience reasoning, situation appraisal, potential future impacts and empathy feelings.
If a date already existed in the database, any machine could pass it over (and Siri can turn it into a nice vocal answer too) to the customer. But if you provide an answer, it has your name with it, a human connection to real life, to a human interaction.
This very valuable processing task demands your personal touch. Personal touch is personal, thus involves responsibility. And responsibility today is in short supply.
So, if you just pass data over, if you just route out whatever you read in (someone else’s) mail, or in a database, then there’s not risk at all. If you simply do what any simple query can do, you stay in the safe comfort zone.
I am patiently waiting for the day an algorithm with be able to process plain data and provide real answers.
It will make my current task obsolete, but not myself, as I will be motivated to improve, and challenge myself in order to add that “quid” still missing from the machine. So folks, what is your quid in the data you daily receive and exchange?
Are you providing valuable answers to humans you interact with or would they get the same faster data by having simple access to a software service platform?
Are machines replacing us as we behave as humans, or as we behave as queries?
Think carefully. Good luck.