Technology - replacing humans or augmenting humans?


There's a lot of discussion at the moment about technology replacing people in jobs. But many jobs don't consist only of repeatable, easily automated tasks - there are many more 'human' elements that don't get specifically mentioned in job descriptions. 

Where do you think people will be completely replaced by automation, and where do you think it's more likely that technology augments humans, who will then spend more time on more interesting but more demanding work?

Digital Strategy
Future of work
Alan A
55 months ago

2 answers


I believe there are 4 stages on AI on its way to replace humans. Although we are entering phase 3, it is not as bad as it looks:

  • Phase 1 - AI is used to find patterns from Big Data to help workers to make better decisions;
  • Phase 2 - AI is used to learn a specific task and to make decisions on it (repetitive tasks that were mostly performed by Humans), with the supervision of a Human;
  • Phase 3 - AI can create new information based on previous worked developed by Humans (music, painting, code...);
  • Phase 4 - AI can create contextual information and make decisions on it, teaching new skills to Humans.

It is certain that an AI will replace Humans on repetitive and creative tasks, because of its fast and reliable computing capabilities compared to the Human brain. However, take into considerations that the technology does not evolve at the same pace all over the World. In developed countries, phase 4 may happen in 10 years, but in undeveloped countries, phase 1 may never occur.

We are social animals, there were always be need for Human services and interaction, even if it is against productivity.

Ricardo Santos
55 months ago
Thanks Ricardo. Useful framework. I've been hearing people in AI tell me about 3 and 4 for quite a while - be interesting to see how it evolves. There are lots of things we humans do which is not purely information processing, or at least we process it in ways even scientists don't understand yet. - Alan 55 months ago

1984 is relevant for futurists, especially if they paint a darker picture of the future. Not only because of George Orwell’s famous novel and the introduction of “Big Brother” into pop culture, but it was also the year where William Gibson wrote “Neuromancer”, the book which defined “cyberpunk”. A dystopian vision, where skilled hackers work in virtual realities. The society is highly automated, but without a general base salary. Humans do not benefit from the automation. The value of human skills diminished. To compete on the labor-market, most individuals augmented their-selves with implemented chips and software.

Industry 4.0 and Artificial Intelligence mostly gets presented as a positive vision of the future, leading to job enlargement and functions with a higher grade of human dignity. Technology as no soul, by its design it is not good or bad. Human can use it to create a better world or at least work-space, but this is no automatic development. Technology has to be planned and implemented with knowledge, ethics and integrity!

Most AI experts predict that AI is most effective, if it acts together with a human. The type of symbiosis determines the human value. If the individual dominates inside the relation, the salary is high. If the AI is the strong part in the relation, the salary is low.

Pulitzer-price winner and author Tom Friedman defined: “We used to work with our hands for many centuries; then we worked with our heads, and now we’re going to have to work with our hearts, because there’s one thing machines cannot, do not, and never will have, and that’s a heart. I think we’re going from hands to heads to hearts.”

Job profiles which empathy are not only a protection against getting substituted by a machine, it also required for planning positions. Technology is designed to support, but can be used for the sinister. If humans are required in the process, it is imperative to treat them as such!

Patrick Henz
55 months ago
Thanks Patrick - love the Friedman quote. Interesting that a side effect of more technology is business is the need to also be more human. Most of my work these days is heading in that direction - teaching people decision making beyond just crunching numbers. - Alan 55 months ago
Thanks Alan! Technology can support the flow of information and reduce bureaucracy. This is to include moments of disruption, which the individuals need to take decisions based on their based knowledge, including their values and attitudes. Especially attitudes require deeper knowledge, as consequences of decisions have to be understood. - Patrick 55 months ago

Have some input?