A young business person that I know recently contacted me about an article in the Wall Street Journal (WSJ) that emphasized–for her–the relevance of my book, Dragonfly Thinking, as a tonic for living in an increasingly automated culture, which (unsurprisingly) stifles our problem-solving abilities, since she thought I might be interested.
After thanking her for sending the link, for this marvelous WSJ article: **“Automation Makes Us Dumb” by Nicholas Carr, which I hadn’t seen before, I thought about one aspect that bothered me.
Carr believes that computers should enable people who use them to maintain their skills, e.g. by having autopilots in airplanes engage the pilots more frequently so they can maintain their flying skill set. The issue here is safety, if a pilot with diminished skill has to take control in an emergency.
Unfortunately, the companies that incorporate automation and artificial intelligence into their businesses are trying to lower labor costs and improve productivity. There is little incentive to cater to humans who previously performed the work that intelligent machines will soon be doing. In the case of an autopilot, which is intended to allow the pilot to take a break, over-reliance on the autopilot could result in pilots with diminished skill; however there is no reason why artificial intelligence and robotics could not provide a faster responding more attentive system than a human pilot, with multiple autonomous back-up systems to boot – thereby eliminating the pilot completely. I believe we will see this first in ground vehicles, but eventually in commercial airplanes.
The last few chapters in Dragonfly Thinking deal with the basic issue of problem solving and the future and where this is all leading. In my view, more and more previously human skills will be taken over by intelligent machines and many jobs will be lost or downgraded. Problem solvers will, however, always have work and will create new businesses and new jobs for people as well as dealing with the increasing number of problems that we are faced with on this planet.
I would not be surprised, for example, if the current revolution in the urban transportation field led by companies such as Uber.com to connect you with a driver in minutes will soon be replaced by entirely autonomous robotic vehicles with artificial intelligence devised by entrepreneurial problem solvers. Such vehicles could be owned by a new kind of company or perhaps actually be owned by individuals who service and maintain the vehicles. Just wait and see how problem solvers will innovate and reduce labor costs, eliminating drivers, lowering vehicle weight, and providing superlative service. Learn how to identify and solve problems in your work and in your life.