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Automation and Self Driving - Part 2 - Gift of Time

Previous blog post 'Where will the drivers go". This is a continuation of that.

At the end of the automation - in any form - is about the gift of time. I will take two examples from my own life.

Before the examples, lets look at what automation at its most basic definition means. Automation is anything that reduces the total time required to get some work done, usually through 'automating tasks' or by eliminating components required to get work done. For instance, the automatic water dispensing tap at the bathroom. The activity of opening and closing the tap is eliminated, and that would be the automation. Another example would be the smartphone automatically connecting to the office Wi-Fi once it knows that it is within range.

So, coming to my own work example. A few months ago, I upgraded from a basic Microsoft wireless keyboard to a Business/Advanced Microsoft wireless keyboard. The advanced keyboard cost me twice of what the basic keyboard did. The benefit is that, the basic keyboard worked off a dongle. The advanced keyboard has built in wifi. Thanks to this, one, I no longer need to carry a dongle, which reduces maintainance on my part which is 'the plugging' of the dongle. Also, carrying o the dongle. Increased usage because mobile devices usually dont have dongle support by default. Thanks to this 'automation', I am saving a lot of time, which translates into more 'time'.

A second example of automation would be commuting via taxi, specifically app services such as Uber. In any given month, I spend a fortune on Uber. Alternate commuting options would cost me perhaps 1/4th or even 1/8th of this fortune. However, these alternatives would mean that I am actively involved in the actual act of 'commuting'. By opting to spend this small fortune, I 'automate' the process of commuting. There by, giving myself, more 'time'.

Time, in the entire plane of existence, is perhaps the only commodity that is avaiable to each and every one of us. Rich and poor, and everybody else who is stuck in the middle. This time could be utilized efficiently or mundanely, which is dicate every aspect of our lives. Automation is the key to reducing the amount of time we spend everyday on our daily activities. For instance, I could spend 4 hours in grocery shopping by visiting the local store. Alternatively, I could spend 30 minutes on a grocery shopping app, and get the same work done, and allow myself '3 and half hours' which can be used to do something else.

That is where we come back to the automation that is happening in the world of technology. The thing about automation is, every time someone saves some time, someone else is losing a comparable money. When I decide to spend less time at the super market, collectively, it will lead to the loss of at least some employment. That is the truth about automation. When ATMs came, the bank tellers lost their job. When online retailers became popular, the store keepers lost theirs. Now that Netflix is popular and everywhere, it killed the entire rent DVDs industry. In each case, someone decided to automate something that was done by people and replaced it with machines. The internet killed the library and it continues to kill so many other things. Alas, that is why it is called 'march of technology'. It cannot be stopped. It could be stalled or post poned but cannot be stopped. Not without significant sacrifices with the cheif sacrifice being time itself. The one commodity that wont come back once it is gone.

When this automation reaches the auto industry, and it will, scores of people will lose employment. Anyone who was hoping for employment in the driving business will never even get to taste it. It would wither away except in a niche area, but niches are just that niches. They dont generate a whole lot of employment.

Automation in auto industry is just one thing. These things, they happen in collections. The automation is happening in software technology too. I keep saying that each day, technology becomes complicated with more being done with less. A few years ago, it would taken an army to manage a simple API service. Today, it will take perhaps 2 to 3 developers to build and maintain an API service which can be consumed by millions of devices. That's how awesome things have become. That is how incredible automation is, saving so many man hours that is almost criminal. In a sense, it is criminal because an army is no longer required to get a large amount of work done. If the size of the group is 100, now, thanks to automation, a small team of 3 individuals can do their work. Those 100 (who have no skills that is comparable to these 3) are now unemployed not knowing what to do next.

That right there is the price of automation, and the consequences to developers. As machines become complex (and designed to work small teams), the skill required to work them also increases. The relationship between automation and required skill, rather the ratio, rises exponentially. This is why, as I think about the effect of automation on cab drivers, I think about the effect of automation on developers. As a trainer, I get to meet and interact with hundreds of engineering students every year. Each of them carries with them the hopes and dreams of their mother and father and brother and sister and so many others. Sadly, many of these engineers are no better than what I was 10 years ago, in the old days when automation was less and technology much more simplified.

As the world moves towards automation, simplifying life for people but complicating things even more for developers, what happens to these hopes and dreams? By extension, what will happen to our cities, states, nations and perhaps, the impact on the world itself?

A dark world of unemployment and low pay is what i see :(

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