RE: "If a robot can do my job, I’m not doing it properly"

Posted on September 06 2014

Hey Doug,

How’s it going? I read the article you posted the other day and I really have to disagree with your comment:

Scary stuff. But then, hasn’t every generation since the dawn of industrialisation had a similar fear? To be honest, if a robot can do my job, I’m not doing it properly….

1. “Scary stuff”

I think we are going to agree on this, but let me just say it: automation is awesome. Automation is how I got into web development. I don’t think technology needs to progress at all cost, but intelligent robots doing dangerous and/or boring jobs? That’s awesome!

The really scary stuff is that–

2. “If a robot can do my job, I’m not doing it properly”

See, as it was mentioned in the video, robots don’t need to be perfect at the job they are assigned to do, just better than most humans. Actually, forget about that. They can be “only” just as good as we are – as long as they are significantly cheaper.

There’s a few ways how to define the word “business”. One particular definition that really stuck to me described it as an entity with a primary purpose to create profit.

Let me tie everything together:

When faced with a decision to either pay 5,000 people at, say, \$15/hour or 500 robots each operating for (and I am just making these numbers up) \$10/hour, why would anyone, whose goal is to create profit, go with the first option?

Let’s consider a few things to see how companies act when it comes to making these kinds of decisions:

  • companies creating off-shore companies to pay lower taxes
  • companies avoiding hiring women, because they might get pregnant (I can’t find a good link for this, but I’ve seen people with hiring power commenting online that this is common to avoid the chance of having to pay maternity leave)
  • companies (especially in tech) obsessed with hiring younger people (with old people being seen as less productive, with families and thus not being able to work 3 hours extra every day, etc; I worked in an environment like that)
  • and there are more examples, but I think you can think of some yourself at this point

So let’s ask a few more questions:

  • If a man (asking as a female) can do my job, am I not doing it properly?
  • If a younger person can do my job, am I not doing it properly?
  • Heck, if a person with white name can do my job, am I not doing it properly?

Yes, these are really just variations of one question and yes, the last point is not exactly the same as my main point here – well, actually, it is.

What’s scary is that profit-driven companies are exploiting new technologies and instead of using them to make a better life for everyone, they only use it to pay their CEOs more money and give them more bonuses.

As the video said, I think some professions will be safe for a very long time, including yours and mine. But there certainly are questions to think about.