Sometimes the pitch-perfect example that totally proves your argument falls directly into your lap approximately three days after you need it to.
When I published “‘Robots’ Aren’t ‘Coming for Your Job’—Management Is” last week, I was encouraged by the surprisingly robust discussion around the piece, and the way we frame our conversations about automation and work in general. Yet some parties remained unconvinced that the language in question obscures the fact that eliminating jobs is still a human decision, and one very often made by executives with an eye to cutting costs and growing profits.
To them, I would submit this one additional piece of evidence—I just received an email pitch with the subject line, “The jobs that AI will take over first.” The pitch was offering me a GIF that depicts data “analyzed” by a company called RS Components that visualizes how many jobs will be replaced by machines with a flashing graphic where human icons are replaced by robotic ones.
The kicker here is that RS Components sells “electronic components, electrical, automation and control, and test and measurement equipment” to other companies.
So while the graphic’s language reads that 54 percent of chef and catering jobs are “at risk” of automation, and over half of the humans on the grid ominously vanish beneath an amassed robot army, the entire display is in fact meant to function as an advertisement for automation equipment and services. As best as I can tell, the graphic works on two levels—first by directing any managers and engineers among the GIF’s viewership who own automate-able businesses to a link where they can purchase the technology that will allow them to do the automating, and second by helping to instill the general sense of inevitability around the robot worker uprising.
If anything, I didn’t go far enough in my earlier argument—“the robots are coming” is not just a smokescreen for management to disappear behind. Sometimes, it’s an outright sales pitch issued by those most eager to see the robots en route.