Business Process Automation

Office 2021: Why robots won't end drudgery or steal our jobs

When it comes to robots and automation, there are two core extremes of view. The first does a gleeful happy-dance about how all our beautiful mechanical friends will liberate us from the grinding tedium of repetitive drudgery. The second warns bleakly that machines will enslave humanity and lead to mass unending unemployment. And possibly a slow and painful death.

Yet even this divisive two-part picture is skewed. As Jonathan Wilkins, marketing director of European Automation points out: “History has shown that when economic times are good, machines are celebrated as wonders of progress that will improve our lives. But when times are tough, they become objects of fear.”

So, is there any kind of sensible middle way? Well, a new book, Service Automation: Robots and the Future of Work 2016, by two academics – LSE Professor Leslie Willcocks and Dr. Mary C. Lacity of University of Missouri-St. Louis – strives to provide some balance. This contains new research, a number of case studies along with insight into managing the automation process.  

Through this Willcocks and Lacity suggest that a lot of jobs may change their structure rather than being lost altogether. The next five years will be a time of transition, rather than depletion. And many companies will look to redeploy workers rather than lay them off. They also point out that the process of automation itself will require a lot of human management. 

Overall they take the personal view that although there will, of course, be significant redundancies because of automation there will also be parallel new developments.

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