The future of automation: a more integrated outlook

The dystopian narrative around the future of automation is well-known. Automation will take our jobs, it’ll increase poverty, it’s the beginning of the end.

On the flipside are the oft-repeated assurances that automation is a force for good. That it will create more jobs, improve work/life balances, make workloads better and so on. And it does do these things.

But none of these assurances outline what the future of automation will actually look like.

So, between the dystopian narratives and positive assurances, what does the future of automation really look like?

First, what is automation?

Automation is a blanket term for technologies that allow machines or computers to complete tasks without human intervention.

Automation brings a host of benefits to businesses. In the office, process automation handles routine, repetitive processes that demand time-consuming manual keystrokes. Plus, it can help make the best use of data by acting as a bridge. For example, it will extract data from one source and smoothly push it from A to B, then fire subsequent automations as part of a workflow.

In turn, this removes the risk of human error in manual data entry. It takes on the daily drudgery to make human workloads more engaging and interesting.

Meanwhile, in factories, automation reduces the risk of operating heavy machinery for humans. It speeds production lines and ensures pinpoint accuracy.

In both places, automation increases efficiency, consistency, and productivity. It’s a technology that isn’t going anywhere.

And so, naturally, people are wondering what the future of automation will look like.

The teething pains of automation

For all the positives automation already brings, there are also a few teething pains currently impacting automation.

The first of these is automation anxiety. Automation anxiety is the fear of automation replacing humans and causing someone to lose their job. Often, poor automation deployment strategies aggravate the anxiety.

Automation disruption also causes some resistance. As automation settles into new tasks and processes — be it in the office or on the factory floor, it causes disruption to the workers. That is, automation changes what workers need to do. And, while that change may be for the better, it still takes some getting used to.  

Then, there are the ethical discussions around automation and around its cousin technology, artificial intelligence (AI). Debates on the acceptable use of such technologies are far from settled.

There’s also economic uncertainty caused by automation use. Specifically, what the changes it brings to the job market will do to the economy.

The fictional future of automation

These teething pains fuel the fictional future of automation.

The fictional future of automation is the over-the-top, doom-and-gloom narrative that sees robots taking all jobs and tasks.

In this scenario, automated robots will increase poverty. Or even become the ‘boss’ over humans.

Essentially, the fictional future of automation is fuelled by fear.

A more integrated outlook

The question remains, then, what is the future of automation more likely to look like?

Our answer: integrated.

Automation software works through integrating with your systems to improve process efficiency and help humans get more done. This integration will (and is) extending to AI, which is also slowly getting smarter.

All this leads to the future of automation: integration with humans.

This sounds drastic, but it’s not quite as intrusive or sci-fi inspired as, say, brain-chip technology. Rather, it means that automation and humans will integrate — work together — to complete tasks of all manner of complexity.

Automation will become even better at helping people with their work. In turn, people will be more used to the presence of automation and the help it can bring.

In short, there’ll be reduced automation anxiety. Instead, we’ll see automation acceptance. The technology will be fully integrated into the workplace, into society, into life.

It’ll be a fact of life — no different than most people having a phone. It won’t be weird or scary, it’ll be another tool that we don’t give a second thought to using.  

The integrated future of automation

The future of automation is often presented as a dystopian view of poverty as robots take our jobs.

But the reality is one with a far more integrated outlook.

Rather than viewing automation as ‘us vs it’, automation will integrate with us, it will become a feather in our caps, a tool that will help us as we climb to the next heights of technological innovation.

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