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Man vs. Machine: Will Humans Become Obsolete?

Dug up from the archives of PBS (okay, it’s only about a year old), we stumbled upon a video that helps continue the conversation about the place for humans in an increasingly automated world.

The video is called “Man vs. Machine: Will Humans Become Obsolete?” and it’s really worth a watch. To start, take a look at the video itself, seen below:

[youtube=http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=wb2cI_gJUok&w=500 &h=320]

Especially for those of us in the manufacturing industry, where technology like 3D printing and CNC machining is becoming more and more popular every day, this question is one that’s often on our minds. Where do humans fit into automated industries? How will human jobs change as technology becomes more and more prevalent?

In the video, you’ll find a mix of people worried about this kind of change–thinking that in man vs. machine, machine always wins–and people who embrace it, believing instead that automation just changes the nature of the jobs that humans work.

One of the main points that we really like from the video is that this has happened before. Dating all the way back to thousands of years ago, to the industrial revolution, to the place we’re at now, people have always been concerned about humankind’s place in an automated world.

To start our discussion of the man vs. machine issue, we thought we’d share a part of a comment that was linked on the page where the video was first shared:

But the reason this is sustainable is that the substitutes for today’s goods and services are so much cheaper. You don’t have expensive robot mailmen lugging envelopes from door to door, you replace that with email. You don’t have robot maids pushing vacuum cleaners around, you have vacuum cleaners that drive themselves. You don’t have Robocop running around capturing bad guys, you have millions of cameras everywhere. And on and on, the vast majority of economic activity won’t be replacing human work with robots that do similar work, it will be making whole types of work obsolete and replacing them with totally different goods and services that fill the same needs in radically different ways.

As the nature of the world we live in changes, sure, we’ll see jobs lost. But chances are, those jobs will be replaced with different types of jobs, jobs that require specific training and skills–just like manufacturing does today.

And some day, those jobs will probably change, too. But until then, we thought we’d ask: what do you think? How is automation changing the way manufacturing works, and the way that the world works in general?

Let us know your thoughts in the comments or on Twitter–we’d love to turn this into a great conversation about the nature of man vs. machine!

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