Technology
Automating the future

Despite rapid technological advancements over the past 20 years, in some respects our standards have lowered along with our expectations, suggests Lachlan Heussler. But automation is about to change all that.

To quote what Peter Thiel once said about the future, “We wanted flying cars and hover boards, but instead we got 140 characters”. To say that technology has met all our expectations is an overstatement. 

Despite the world's continuously rapid development in technological advancements over the past 20 years, our standards have lowered along with our expectations, in some respects. But fear not, there is still some hope for humanity! 

The future of technology no longer lies in hovercrafts and neon lights, but in automation. The need for automation has come about due to an increasingly time-poor population - people who no longer have time to enjoy the simpler things in life. Instead, productivity has become an interest for young people who are wanting to squeeze all the juice out of the orange. 

Although various reports suggest that millennials have become too busy, the era of automation has allowed for a more productive style of living. We see more people wanting to squeeze in round the world trips, get married, and have a mid-life crisis all in the one week. Well, automation is helping people to do exactly that, faster than ever. 

At its simplest, automation is a way of doing a process, or series of processes, more efficiently. Automation can of course come in many forms, and has existed for many years. 

Automation isn’t something new; it is a technological movement that takes the most mundane tasks and makes them quicker, easier and cheaper. Even as early as the 19th century, we had automation prompting job fears, such as how textile workers thought sewing machines would threaten their livelihoods. 

A more modern example is the humble calculator, shaving minutes off everyday calculations; likewise, a crane would have made building the pyramids an easier task. 

Today, automation is reforming the services industry, in particular with new technology. Companies such as Uber and Google are even implementing driverless cars to reduce human error and labour costs associated with HR and driver wages.

Other salient examples include the way that financial technology has disrupted traditional banking services by offering alternative products that meet - as opposed to control - consumer demand. We see companies like Transferwise offer cheaper international cash transfers with a friendly UX, as opposed to the banks’ slow and manual service and hefty fees. 

Spotcap has followed suit with this trend, having disrupted the lending sector to offer lines of credit to Kiwi SMEs within a single working day. Given bank’s general reluctance to improve their technology and service, alternative lenders are an increasingly attractive option for small businesses. 

On a practical note, automation in alternative lending has allowed for enormous differences in both turnover and approval rates.

However, all is not well with automation. Many people fear it as it threatens their job or industry through doing something better or faster than a human can. We see this in the construction industry, with companies such as Fastbrick Robotics building houses in mere hours. 

Although it means fewer bodies, automation really does make businesses more efficient. It can make our work environments safer, more satisfying and more valuable. 

Yet, automation doesn’t mean total non-human interaction. Take automation in the agricultural sector for example: dairy farm workers were hesitant to bring in milking machines, when it in fact freed up time for the workers to increase the number of cows on the farm, as there were more hands to care for the livestock. 

Most improvements in our life convenience have come from advancements in technology. In fact, some people even consider technology to be our very own form of evolution.

Humans are one of the most adaptable and flexible creatures and should not be discredited. Automation will not decimate mankind, in fact, it will elevate it. If we can continue to innovate through automation, it allows for safer working environments, reduced manual handling and more efficient processes. 

As economies become more advanced, this becomes crucial and very much necessary to enhance a business's offerings and propel them onto the world stage. With consideration to how we apply automated processes, there’s everything to gain from a world where workers are more engaged, more skilled and more valuable than ever before.

One day, technology will be able to transport us to other worlds at the blink of an eye, but for now, we’ll have to settle for driverless cars and self-tying shoelaces (close enough!). 

Lachlan Heussler is managing director of Spotcap New Zealand.

 

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