Human-Technology Relationships


Imagine a path through the woods, a path that demonstrates the possibilities for human relationships with technology. Up ahead there are two branches:

  • Machines make life easier for human beings.
  • Machines take away the jobs of human beings.

The first branch was certainly the most traveled before the first Industrial Revolution. An atlatl or throwing stick was such a big improvement over trying to kill your dinner with a rock. A bow was a step up from an atlatl. A shovel was good, but a plow was better. Technology generally made work easier, but those early machines couldn’t do anything by themselves.

In the 1800s, it looked as though factory automation would take away people’s jobs. There were lots of protests. Some kinds of workers lost their jobs, but new jobs in factories working with those automated machines came into being, and more people had jobs. The advent of the computer brought concern that people would lose their jobs, too, but most workers use computers as a tool and still have work to do.

New machines have continued to make life easier, till now we work shorter days and can produce a lot more goods with less effort, thanks largely to technology. But we may still be tempted by the branch of that path that says machines will take away the jobs people now do.

Following that path, we can see that there is a straight path suggesting that the human relationship with machinery will stay about where it has been, with machinery providing greater productivity and at least a wash when it comes to safety. There is the branch suggesting that people will have greater leisure and will spend it on improving the world.

The problem with that path is that leisure doesn’t come with a paycheck. Also, people with more leisure are more likely to play Destiny or Assassin’s Creed than to do good deeds.

So we may have to take the third path. That’s the one that says that the human relationship with machines could be a collaborative one. If automation clearly requires less trouble and less expense than hiring humans, we could end up with fewer human workers, even if they’re collaborating with robots.

Most factories aren’t stepping up, though. We read about the exciting new technologies, but we actually see people using legacy machinery and making small changes rather than big investments in new tech. Fortunately, we specialize in legacy Rexroth electric motion control systems. We can help keep your running.

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