If it can be automated, it will

With automations in place, the need to spend time on manual tasks disappears; you can do more in less time and your duties are delegated to the machine, which completes them in the background while you do other things. You're free to move onto new endeavors. As John Maeda says, "Savings in time feel like simplicity."

I guess you'd agree with me that, while the job of scribes was fundamental for spreading knowledge back when printers didn't exist, there's no point in copying documents by hand today.

Automation shifts our perception of what we do and augments our production capacity, often devaluing the human labor involved.

When the technology allows for it, we relegate essential tasks to automated systems which don't require any human input, while other tasks—less important but harder to automate—end up filling the bulk of our time with manual labor.

Effortless automated processes are easy to underestimate. One click and you've got access to millions of online publications, books, and other content. One more click and the book is sent to your Kindle, printed at home, or shipped to your house.

If it can be automated, it will.

However, it's important to remember that the amount of labor involved to complete a task—or the lack thereof—doesn't determine its importance, and that the time and effort required to perform a task heavily depends on skill.

Even when we assign excessive value to processes that involve manual labor, the importance and necessity of a task should be defined with independence of the amount of hours required to complete it and its complexity.

Still, difficulty and expertise highly determine how much you'll get paid for work and, as more and more processes are automated, we'll have a harder time finding jobs that pay well.

This trend to delegate processes to the machine contributes to the undervaluation of manual work, except when the human factor provides something different that makes it unique.

October 13, 2020
Nono Martínez Alonso

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Pencil sketch of Nono Martínez Alonso.