When you type the words, 'what is automation?' and search online, the results include worlds apart meanings, such as -"the use or introduction of automatic equipment in a manufacturing or other process or facility" and "unemployment due to the spread of automation." An engineer might prefer the former answer, while a sculptor might favor the latter!
Let's ponder a bit...
What is automation to an engineer could be completely different from, what is automation to a sculptor! Although the answers might turn out to be exact opposites, may be there is a need to refine our question from 'what is automation?' to 'What is automation with respect to basic necessities of life?'
That brings us to the need of addressing what is automation as per the context? And when we do so, the engineer can happily work in an e-commerce startup, without worrying about how to create a buddha's face on a faceless rock. But at the end of a stressful day, he cannot thank the sculptor enough for the peace giving buddha's face, that sits in his living room, while he relaxes himself with a cuppa in front of that statue. Simultaneously, the sculptor can enjoy carving many such masterpieces, including that of Buddha, just for the sheer love of bringing life to a rock in her hands. That becomes possible when she doesn't have to worry about how to create an online market, which makes sure her sustenance and the art's longevity - both are well taken care of.
Whether we agree with the concept of automation, we definitely need people with different skill sets and rely on them to assist us on leading a hassle-free lifestyle.
When automation is meant to help us!I was a kind of person who used to think that automation kills creativity, uniqueness and the wonder of human hands. To an extent the answer could be an astounding yes, but technology provides the platform to automate the mundane things, increasing the scope for the human mind to focus on better alternatives. As we can observe, the potential to explore and create is ideally limitless and we should leverage technology to help us rather than to change us.
Few examples of tech being useful to mankind are - ticketing systems, discussion forums, e-commerce, stock market trading, bank transactions, e-learning/online tutoring, so on and so forth. Though the potential to create quality handmade products is better than automation, there is always the question of limitation on its quantity/size. While we cherish the rare pieces of handmade creations, it is almost not possible to cater to the needs of current population if a time tested regular product is not yet automated.
What is automation? - boon or bane?Imagine the need to make your own toothbrush everyday when you wake up. Imagine the need to create an oven if a person develops a passion for baking. When a product evolves over age and becomes a very big part and parcel of majority's lifestyle, does not it fall under the category of mass production and there by automation? Do we or can we keep creating it only with our hands?
In fact there are work places where people are expected to repeat the same routine day in and day out without having the need to think about implementation. For example, my house-help's daughters work in a garment factory where in they need to do the same stitch for the same measurements to make the same garment at the end of each and every day. Now if we automate this process, the output will be more in lesser time. However, for sure it will lead to unemployment of factory workers, affecting their livelihood. If not for poverty, I really wonder if we should be worried about people losing their jobs or look at it as an opportunity for them, to be able to think at least in their next jobs. Clearly, automation sometimes looks better than humans turning into machines!
How much is too much?
While automation could lead to some unemployment, there needs to be whole new path evolved for us to start afresh, like how we create market for a new product. Much like how seed balls help us improve the density of greener patches, there needs to be a market to cater to the training of the unemployed. Such individuals should be channeled to explore a new skill in areas of demand/interest, rather than the areas of excess supply. End of the day, we need creativity to automate and we need automation to catch up with the demand. Ultimately, we do need technology forums like these to discuss and find solutions on how we can coexist and find new meanings to 'what is automation?'