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    « 2011 Rewind - My Most Shared Post of the Year | Main | Christmas Past: Smokes, Guns, Chicken, and Beer »
    Tuesday
    Dec272011

    2011 Rewind - My Favorite Robot Post of the Year

    Note: This week I am taking a look back on some of the 2011 posts that were either popular, interesting, (at least to me), or that might warrant a re-visit for some reason before the year is officially in the books. And also after about 200 or so posts this year, I am more or less tapped out of original ideas and want to recharge a bit. So that said, I hope you enjoy this little look back at 2011 here on my tiny corner of the internets.

    I wrote several pieces about how increasing industrial automation and rapid advancements in robot technology continue to impact the workplace, and ask several important questions about what the future of work will look like, and how companies and individuals can best prepare for this digital future. This post, titled 'In Which I Admit to my Robot Obesession'  from September, was my favorite of the group.

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    Just a quick one today, and yes just like yesterday's post the subject is robots, and their slow, steady, inexorable march to world domination. And quite frankly I don't have a problem with all the robot posts, since my favorite source of inspiration and content, the National Basketball Association, seems intent on remaining in a labor impasse for who knows how long, and I have to write about something.How are you feeling? That will be a $50 co-pay.

    So for a busy Friday, the day before getaway day to Las Vegas and HRevolution (tickets still available), and the HR Technology Conference, another dispatch from the Robots vs. Humans front lines, this time from Slate.com:

    Will Robots Steal Your Job? - Why the highest-paid doctors are the most vulnerable to automation

    Yep, another take on the upcoming, heck already started process of further automation and supplementation of traditional careers and functions by complex and dedicated robot technology. But like yesterday's post where I featured robot technology beginning to make inroads into farming, the piece from Slate shows us even highly specialized, highly paid, and highly complex tasks like the evaluation of medical samples for signs of cancer can and are beginning to be encroached by robot labor.

    I don't keep reading and posting about these 'robot stories' here because I find them to be surprising, or that most readers might not be aware that automation in all facets of industry, from low-tech to high-tech is an unstoppable boulder rolling down hill. It can't and won't be stopped.

    But why I like to read these pieces, and think about them, is more about our reaction and response to these developments.  And on that note, I'd like to end this post with the most compelling point from the Slate.com piece:

    By definition, specialists focus on narrow slices of medicine. They spend their days worrying over a single region of the body, and the most specialized doctors will dedicate themselves to just one or two types of procedures. Robots, too, are great specialists. They excel at doing one thing repeatedly, and when they focus, they can achieve near perfection. At some point—and probably faster than we expect—they won't need any human supervision at all.

    There's a message here for people far beyond medicine: If you do a single thing—and especially if there's a lot of money in that single thing—you should put a Welcome, Robots!doormat outside your office. They're coming for you.

    Boom. Specialization, even high-touch, highly complex, valuable specialization that requires spending years training, developing, and perfecting, still that is no guarantee or security against a robot that van do it better, cheaper, and faster. Even if those skills are ones that society needs and highly values, that's no protection in the long term.

    The message? Invent something new, stay one step ahead of the robot masters? You'd better be prepared to keep inventing.

    Or possibly the message is to continuously explore, challenge, and differentiate yourself as being more than a highly trained, highly skilled one-trick pony. Because if all you are only bringing one thing to the table, no matter how wonderful and complex that one thing is, chances are, eventually, someone else, maybe ever a robot, can do it better.

    I promise no more posts about robots for a while, unless the NBA season gets canceled!

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