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May 18, 2022

The invention and wide application of computers to human endeavours have always generated controversies between a pro-group that sees it as a blessing and another that sees it as a threat to individuality. Computers have delivered on increased speed and accuracy, broad-based connectivity, accurate forecasting, easy educational models, increase and ease of entrepreneurial start-ups and remote working.

The list is endless as many economies navigate towards the use of robotics and Artificial intelligence (AI) for industrial work.

Will humans be redundant soon?
But, on the flip side, where does this progress leave humans? Some have predicted the birth of an age where humans would only be redundant to do any work and ultimately be at the behest of robots and artificial intelligence. And there’s almost no reason to doubt this given that (Mcrae, 2017) the use of industrial robots is predicted to increase by 5 times in the USA in 2025.

Not to mention that the USA only ranks next to countries like Japan, South Korea, Indonesia, Thailand, Morrocco, Russia, Columbia, etc in the use of robotics and AI for industrial work in a study conducted by Manyikka and Miremadi in 2017.

Perhaps the idea of not doing any work sounds pleasant, but how about it leading to not being paid and consequently starving, becoming despondent and depressed, or worst-case scenario, going extinct?

Although many still contend that computerization in the area of work, as it stands now, still requires human assistantship to function, and in fact, enhances remote employment opportunities for stay-at-home workers with an added efficiency to boot.

Gone are the days of rooms full of files
For John Palmer on CHRON.com: “Gone also are the days of having to dig out a dictionary to check the spelling of a word, hire an accountant to check the math on balance sheets or employ a librarian to maintain a room full of files.

Then too, the number of problems from human error is significantly reduced through the advantages of computer systems… and schooling is no longer only available to those who can be physically present.”

But will machines be able to replicate the unique nature of humans and organisations?
Despite this being a reality at the moment, many remain cynical. For example, Phothong Saithbvongsa and Jae Eon Yu postulates in an extensive study in 2018 that machines are gradually displacing traditional workplace structures and replacing human workers in routine jobs such as accounting, desk official functions, court clerk functions, as well as diminishing previously cherished human skills, like interpersonal skills, critical-thinking skills, self-dependence, decision-making and business negotiation skills, and placing formal workplace interactions at the mercy of “programming-controlled functions”.

Their position is that, in the long run, organisational identity would most likely be dismissed and HR workers would be out of jobs because the above-mentioned skills border on emotions, organisational morality, behaviour and ideology which are within the purview of HR management to encourage so as to enable workplace engagement and commitment.

There’s also the talk of planning strategies, the idea of teamwork, managerial skills and reward and motivation systems for exceptional and ingenious performances enshrined in traditional business structures being revamped over time.

Additionally, “the expression of emotions, understanding, moral etiquette, empathy, close relationship, and conscientiousness, are considered as main driving forces contributing to organisational productivity and performance. (Mcclellan 2017; Rahid Asad, Ashraf 2011) as quoted in  Phothong Saithbvongsa.

But the computers do not require leaves and can run 24-hours non-stop
In this long-drawn battle, and given business owners’ and CEOs’ demand for efficiency, speed and accuracy in a highly-competitive and constantly-evolving industrial economy, computers and AI seem to be taking the lead, especially as AI does not need maternal leave, sick leaves and holidays. What better instrument of work for business owners who want to maximise profit as much as they want to minimize cost? 

And according to Josh Fredman on CHRONE.com: “Since the advent of personal computing and the Internet, people often go home from work, only to turn on their home computers and get right back to work. Some employers expect no less. This imbalance of professional and personal life can cause stress and illness.”

The tacit point here is that the concept of Workday orientation is gradually being eroded. Hence, if the negative health outcome of a marathon work-life mentioned by Josh Fredman is true, since, at the moment, human technological skills and human intelligence are required for computers to properly function, the next question is, can employers keep up with frequent burnout excuses and sick leaves from employees?