The American workforce has an interesting love/hate relationship with automation.  Sometimes we haven’t known whether to fear or embrace technology’s benefits.  Would the robots soon be our best friends or our worst enemies?

On one side of the argument, we feared technology would rob us all of jobs, creating high unemployment.  On the other side, we relished the thought of robots accomplishing everything, leaving you and me to live lives of luxury.  Fortunately, the reality has not approached either extreme.  In fact, the reality has been much more interesting and challenging.

Fundamental to this topic is not so much the technology itself, but rather how we choose to adapt to it.  Some folks have screamed “bloody murder” in the face of technology’s advancements.  Others have joyfully embraced all technology has to offer.  I don’t think the issue is technological as much as it is human—How do you handle change?

As we have so often heard in our modern era, the only constant is change.  We’d better get used to it.  Rather than fight it, let’s train ourselves to embrace it, capitalize upon it, and allow it to enrich our lives.  Writing in Bloomberg Businessweek, Sam Grobart reports on Rodney Brooks’ perspective on robots and the associated technologies (“What Machines Can’t Do” 12/17/12–12/23/12, pp. 4–5):

“Rodney Brooks, a former MIT robotics professor, is an optimist.  To Brooks, who is also founder and chairman of robot maker Rethink Robotics, these machines are going to help workers, not compete with them.  He points out that personal computers didn’t get rid of office workers, they changed the jobs people did.” (p. 5)

Brooks identifies a major point about technology:  Technology does not invoke a zero-sum game.  Technology simply and powerfully gives us new opportunities, often in greater quantities too.  So again I come back to the more implicit challenge—How do you handle change?

The more effectively you handle change, the more effective you will be in our increasingly technical world.  Technology and robotics have created far more job opportunities than they have ever negated . . . for those who are ready.

Finally, I don’t think we would want technology and robotics to do everything for us.  Grobart says it well:

“History has never shown that a life of idle hedonism brings out the best in human beings.  We excel when we are creative and productive.” (p. 5)

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About James Meadows

Currently I serve as a training team manager for Johnson Controls at a customer-care center in Kansas City. Additionally, I am a business consultant, a freelance corporate writer, an Assembly of God ordained minister, a Civil Air Patrol chaplain, and a blogger. I believe we are living in the most fascinating times of human history. To maximize the opportunities these times present, I have a passionate interest in leadership development and organizational success, both of which I view as inextricably linked.

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