There is not much in our lives that hasn’t been effected by the rise of automation. The clothes we wear, the tools we use, even much of the food we eat has been created for us by some automated process. Now, automation is reaching even farther, into the white-collar world where it now has a place in the jobs of people like pilots, architects, and even doctors. This might seem okay; in many ways, automation has allowed companies to put forth a superior product, one guaranteed to have less flaws than anything made by hand, however, the fact of the matter is that automation is making us dumb.
Automated processes first came about sometime after World War II, designed with the idea in mind to make work easier. However, in 1950, a professor from the Harvard Business School discovered that even in its earliest days, automation was making work increasingly tedious for the very people it had been intended to relieve. The problem, he discovered, was that the use of the machines was “de-skilling” the workers, rather than teaching them new and interesting skills, or “up-skilling” them.
The problem today is that the de-skilling process is continuing, but in higher level jobs where the lack of certain skills could be fatally dangerous. Since computers have changed the way we work, experts like those in the field of aviation warn about “skill fade,” the literal fading away of developed skills, such as those needed to fly a plane in stormy weather, for example. Indeed there is a growing link between plane crashes and the overuse of automation by pilots.