I could lose my new temp job, proofreading for a publishing company, to another more-productive or more-qualified human, but probably never to a machine. Unless science and technology can create a program that will evaluate every single nuance of the English language, they’ll be able to run spell-check and the basic grammar check they do now, but they’ll never catch everything. Still, not even a human can catch everything, but we can get closer than a computer.
That’s what’s happening in many fields today, however. Many jobs formerly performed by flesh-and-blood humans are not being given to machines. Experts say that in the wake of the wave of automation of farm and factory work, technology is quickly taking over service jobs. Erik Brynjolfsson – an economist and director of the MIT Center for Digital Business – and Andrew P. McAffee, associate director and principal research scientist at the center are authors of a new book titled “The Digital Frontier”. The book claims that the automation of jobs has picked up in recent years because of the combination of technologies such as robotics, numerically controlled machines, computerized inventory control, voice recognition and online commerce storming the business world.
Brynjolfsson and McAffee assert that faster, cheaper computers and “increasingly clever” software are giving machines capabilities, like understanding speech, translating from one language to another and recognizing patters, which were once thought as distinctively human. They say because of this, automation is moving out of the factory and into call centers, marketing and sales, and parts of the services sector – all areas that provide most of the jobs in our economy.
According to Brynjolfsson and McAffee, one in 12 people in sales lost their jobs in the last recession. The downturn prompted businesses to look more closely at substituting technology for people when possible. That resulted in a 26% jump in corporate spending in June 2009, when the recession ended. It also resulted in a rather flat payroll change.
The authors wind up the book by saying that computers will continue to tend toward narrow and literal-mindedness. They’ll excel at assigned tasks, but will falter when solutions require intuition and creativity – exclusively human traits. They write that a partnership between humans and computers is the path to future job creation.