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Too much automation?

This year I started a subscription with GetAbstract which provides me with summaries of non-fiction books. Given there are approximately 129 million books that have been written (Google), it allows me to spend 10 – 15 minutes to read the key points of books versus spending a longer time reading it in its entirety. I read a GetAbstract summary every day which means I cover 365 a year along with reading 2 – 4 full books a month; still no way near close to 129 million.

I digress, well sort of. One of the summaries I read recently discusses the topic of automation. The book is called ‘The Glass Cage’ and is written by Nicholas Carr (GetAbstract summary). The interesting take away for me is the subject of too much automation. I have written on this topic previous using a simple example of escalators in that we forgo the use of our legs and just stand like zombies when we could use the exercise of walking up moving stairs. Carr cites examples such as the automatic pilot functionality dumbing pilots down when critical situations arise. Although flying is still one of the safest ways of traveling, there are still accidents and deaths; a lot to do with pilot error. The use of GPS is sucking out the brain power of navigation. I remember when I used to ride a motorcycle (before smartphone navigation) I would memorize all the street turns as I couldn’t pull out a map while riding. Now, like most people I rely on Google, Apple and Waze to take me from point A to point B.

I live and breath technology at work and understand the benefits of automation, however, there are tipping points in which the byproduct is negative. Carr refers to a couple of them; automation bias and automation complacency. My take away is to think about what are the things we should automate versus what we need to focus and not lose control over. I believe there can be too much automation and the future will prove this point.