Friday, May 10, 2013

Automation Engineer's Take on Wall-E

I was talking with a buddy from my Cornell ChemE days (who now works in social media) about the odd trajectory of his career. Having had a successful career in biopharma and hospital administration, he's now a social entrepreneur. And it puzzled me that he is fulfilled "not using his degree" in social media.

From his side, he was puzzled that I liked running an automation business helping people get and interpret machine data so their factories operate more efficiently.

As an MBA, he explained, "Business is about people and relationships. I want operate in a world where people matter, and that's what 'social' is."

I have no disagreements with that statement. I did add:
Business is about making money...creating wealth. A world where everyone is wealthy is one where no one has to work; in that world, we have machines at our beck and call. Automation is the means to that world.

Screenshot from Disney Pixar's WALL-E where we find humans have fled Earth in a galactic cruise ship where no one has to work because their life is 100% automated.

Pixar's writers pose the question: What does the world look like when no one has to work?

Don't let Pixar's distinctly American interpretation (out-of-shape, chair-loungers watching TV while robots get us our beverage) distract from the world where everyone gets to enjoy leisure and no one has to work.

Some will jump in and say, "See, employment and working is good for man, else we'll end up all fat and lazy." It's true that some will choose this path, but the vast majority of others would do something else with all that time.

No truer words were spoken when man first uttered the phrase, "Time is Money."

Having vast wealth is synonymous with having vast amounts of time to do what you want; this time to do whatever we choose is called, "leisure." And the purpose of an economy is to lift as many of us from the bonds of employment as efficiently as possible.

As an aside, it's rather hilarious that our politicians run around trying to decrease unemployment. The world where everyone has the luxury of 100% leisure is a world where unemployment is 100%.

And all this leisure can only be possible because we created the machines to automate the tasks that would otherwise be manual.

But back to my buddy: he's also right. Ultimately, business is handled with strong personal relationships. And even after we've automated ourselves into a world where no one has to work, we'd probably spend all that leisure time socializing anyway.

More general commentary:

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