Today’s post may go in a strange direction. To me, what I’m about to say is almost so obvious that it doesn’t need to be said. We’ll see.
This week I received a new piece of medical technology. It was ordered nearly a month ago by doctors who I had to wait for nearly two months to see. It was supposed to be delivered last week but the company “forgot” then labelled the equipment as patient pick-up even though it had to be installed in my home.
By time I actually received the device, I was beginning to wonder just how important it was to actually have it, a somewhat negative view I admit.
The delivery guy came out with the component and wheeled it in but did not know particularly how to attach it to the other piece of equipment that I had already received as he hadn’t been trained on the new model I had. I asked him several questions about what the purpose of the machine was and how it performed its task. The driver wasn’t terribly sure and couldn’t call back to the office for help because their communication equipment wasn’t working (you don’t have a phone?). He made some claims about the equipment which I was able to disprove while he watched and it was clear he was reading from a memorized script and didn’t know how the machine worked at all. I shoo’d him out and connected the machine myself after signing the waivers that if I died I wouldn’t sue the company or the delivery driver.
This whole fiasco reminded me of the washing machine debacle from around Thanksgiving. I had found a screaming deal on a new washer/dryer that could be stacked in my basement. I wasn’t going to be home for a few days so I had them deliver them a week later. They forgot even though I took time off to be available. They sent the machines out the next day with a driver who was not authorized to install them because they were gas. I argued with the delivery driver who decided that company policy is to just bring the machines back to the shop if there’s any problem. A week later and several calls, the same kid brought the machines back but still did not know how to install them or that they were even stackable. The guys working in my basement helped the kids figure out how to install the machines but in the meantime the kids had accidentally broken off a component of the drainage system for the washer.
So here we go with my questions which are relevant to this article.
1) If you don’t know what your job is, eventually a robot is going to replace you doing it. A robot cannot make decisions on its own so it’s going to need failover decisions to choose when things go wrong. The robot would have reasonably taken the washer and dryer back to the shop when confronted with a gas fixture or irate home owner. A human should be able to figure these things out.
2) Conversely, our society seems to be “dumbing things down” to the point where we can off-shore tasks that are technical in nature by defining scripts that people can read to their customers, even if they don’t understand the content. If we have to do that, again a robot can take over the task.
3) With the building back-lash against off-shored tech-support and banking and who knows what all, the robots are going to have to make major strides forward to be able to handle what we now seem to consider easily scriptable processes.
Maybe the robots aren’t going to come quite as quickly as we have been thinking!
I see I have a “futuring” course in the next year at school. I’m curious to see where that class thinks we may end up… and what part I have to play in the innovation.