Much of the talk about automation is that people find every little reason to complain about the introduction of robots, while failing to understand much of the benefits they have. On the flip side, they tend to overstate the “upside” of humans while downplaying the negatives that dealing with a human brings … I guess that is “human” nature.
This blog was spun out of an interesting article in the Washington Post (click here), where the columnist goes into detail about how many customers fail to understand the concept of various check-out methods. He further goes on to talk about how robots would streamline the operations … it is an interesting read.
However, I think it goes much further than that. I think we need to compare the performance of humans to robots on a more even playing field, and when we do, we will find that in most situations, a robot would easily outperform a human.
Let the criticism begin …
Robots are unbiased, humans (generally) are not
Robots do not let any preconceived bias affect their decision-making … unless, that bias was installed by a human in the first place. They treat all people the same, regardless of their race, sex or age. For situations where we are looking for equality (such as in the courts or at the hospital), isn’t that better?
Robots always get a good night’s sleep and never yell at their kids in the car
This one has mostly to do with driving, but it does factor into other possible areas of automation. On the weekend, I was driving my kids back from a weekend away, one where I stayed in a noisy hotel that was housing many sports teams … so, I didn’t get a ton of great sleep. I noticed that I seemed to lose focus (briefly) on this long, boring drive and I did have to spend a lot of time “talking loudly” to the kids. Now, did I crash? No, I did not, but I definitely was not at my best, but a robot would not have had any such issues and would be driving at maximum alertness at all times.
People seem to lose IQ points when they are not at work
Think of a nurse, a waitress or anyone else who can have a fast-paced job … they tend to be very alert, attentive and can manage multiple things at once. Put that same person in a mall parking lot on the weekend and it seems that they are not nearly as sharp. Something about not being at work seems to drop someone’s IQ and decision-making ability. Not so with a robot.
Are there things that robots can’t do as well? Sure there are, but more and more, I am being convinced that we way overrate the abilities of humans and way underestimate the abilities of technology … we just aren’t as bright as we think we are.