Writing Prompts: Automation

This prompt is inspired by a trip into town the other day. My wife, daughter and I happened upon this:

Automation is already a huge part of our lives. Sometimes, we don’t appreciate the extent to which machines do the work. For example, the job of painting cars often falls to machines. The job of bottling a variety of substances is done via automated conveyors and machines, with humans largely removed from the process (aside from a supervisory role).

The pros and cons to this are obvious. From a business perspective, automated production lines are more efficient, more precise, and after a time, more profitable. From a human perspective, the mundane task of bottling say, salad cream, is taken off the table, and in theory freeing up opportunities elsewhere.

In theory.

The obvious con is that a machine or machines now do tasks that might have employed a great many people at one time or another. Suddenly, people are rendered unemployed by automation. The development of machinery that can do repetitive and/or difficult jobs is most definitely a double-edged sword.

Another example is on offer. Several train operating companies are moving away from traditional ticket booths, and towards automated machines. That means still more people replaced by machines, and there is no consideration for disabled people with all of this. Can a blind person be expected to rely upon machines to book a ticket?

There’s another dimension to all of this. The human dimension adds a certain impression of quality, even if it’s nothing more than a feeling. Can a machine make candyfloss? Yup. Can it perform with the panache and flair of a human being? No, and isn’t the spectacle as important as the result with stuff like this? I imagine at lot of us have been to fairgrounds; watching someone having a bit of fun to make up some candyfloss is but a small example of how fairgrounds are meant to be entertaining. Is a machine going to make the experience as memorable? I don’t think so.

It’s a bit like going to a restaurant, and being confronted by robotic waiters. Quite a few restaurants exist around the world, including this one in Manchester. In China, there are quite a few places using robot waiters, and at least one restaurant even has robot cooks! Can a machine match human judgement for cooking time, seasoning, and flavour? I’d rather know there’s a human being in the kitchen, cooking up something creative, than rely upon a machine. Sorry my robot overlords, that’s where I’m at!

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