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human-automationWritten by William E. Rogers MBA, CFP, EA

This is not something out of a science fiction movie, or requires any stretch of the imagination. Every day, every week, and every month that goes by from now until some point in the not so distant future, a new technology is being launched that automates a task once performed by a human. Many of us marvel over all the cool things that our gadgets can do for us. But, have we ever wondered what the world will be like if we suddenly find ourselves one day competing for our jobs against a robot?

The truth is many of us dread that very thought. Unfortunately, there is nothing that we can do to stop this trend. You see, businesses have every incentive there is to automate. It reduces costs, eliminates human errors, speeds up response time, offers round the clock service, and did I already say it reduces costs?

Yes that’s right you are a cost?

Companies constantly gripe about the cost of providing their employees with health insurance, 401k plans, and paying overtime. Meanwhile, the median wage in the U.S. has remained stagnant in large part for more than thirty years.

Consumers have also played a pivotal role in the proliferation of automation. We are a culture that is increasingly impatient. We no longer want to wait in line. We don’t want to wait for doctor appointments. We want to be able to speak to someone 24/7… so on and so forth… Hence, technology has become the answer to getting us what we want, when we want it, and where we want it.

Therefore, the more we utilize technology in our daily lives someone, somewhere on the other end is being displaced.

Only time will tell if automation is a net benefit or a net scourge for society. That is beside the point. The real issue here is how are you going to remain relevant in a world filled with robots? Both businesses and workers in general, must think deep down, critically, and strategically about the value proposition of employing a person versus a machine, and vice versa.

The truth is, we are not be able to get rid of automation, nor do we really want to. We have embraced all that it can do for us. Therefore, we must adapt by learning how to coexist side by side with automation. In the value chain of providing a product or a service, there are clearly areas where people are superior to machines.

There will always be a demand for a human touch. We by our very nature are social creatures. In fact, there is a social dimension to any service encounter. Why do people prefer to speak to a bank teller than use an ATM? Why do people prefer to order coffee from a barista at Starbucks than make it at home? And, why do people prefer speaking to a nurse as opposed to getting an answer from WebMD? People need humans because it offers us a sense of belonging and a feeling of security.

People like the feeling of being pampered, and there will always be a market for some who want to pay extra for that very service. Others want it quick and want it cheap. You have to figure out along those dimensions where you can effectively compete. Moreover, in a world where we are inundated by choice, we need a person, not a machine to interpret the data for us to determine what the right choice is for us. That’s why there will always be a role for a sales person as opposed to buying everything off of an app. We need the interaction and validation of another human being. The challenge for you is figuring out how you envision yourself providing more value than a machine.

Tell us what you think?

William E. Rogers, MBA, CFP, EAWatch
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