Perhaps one of the oldest debates in modern history, there is still no consensus
to the debate 'are machines replacing men?' Since the Luddites protested
against the use of automated weaving looms back in the 1800's, people have
always been afraid that one day mankind will be replaced, even overthrown, by
the machines they create. In the last three decades, with advances in electronic
manufacturing and computer technology, the argument has taken on a whole new tone.
Reflected best in cinematic tales such as the Matrix and Battlestar Galactica,
it is evident now more than ever that we fear that mankind will someday be outgrown
by his own creation. But how do we discern truth from fiction? Is man truly being
replaced by machines?
To find the answers, we have to go back to the beginning of mechanical history.
Since man climbed down from the trees, he has used his mind to survive. Clearly,
the greatest result of his mind's work has been the tool. Over the centuries,
we've gone from bone chisels to iron shovels to horse drawn plows, and
we have grown and prospered because of it. But as we grew, our priorities changed.
Since the days of gold bullion, prices have been a chief concern of those using
tools, so when automation began to show its merits a few hundred years ago,
the tools we created began to take on lives of their own. Factory owners began
to see the savings that automation provided, and mankind has relied more and
more on machinery ever since. But have we come too far? Is there still a place
for the working man in an automated world?
Though there may be merit to this paranoia, it should also be clear that there
are things in this modern world that none of us would particularly love to do,
no matter how big the paycheck. Whether you're handling organic baby skincare
lotion or waste biosolids, application of automated machinery to handle the
dirtiest of jobs can save us all a world of torture. In addition, much of the
machinery put into place for jobs like these still requires human supervision
to prevent any breakdown in the system. So while machines do the dirty work,
they are still at base tools used to further not so much our survival as our
well being. With the onset of information technology, man and machine have moved on to form a much more symbiotic relationship. Let's face it - who among
us could live without machinery? Why, the very computer you use to read this
article has become an integral, almost irreplaceable part of modern society.
This begs the question, what is man without his machines?
As much as we fear that one day machines will replace us all, perhaps even
commercial mortgage brokers, the truth remains that for every machine that we
create, there is a man behind it, using it to benefit his own kind. The machine
and the man may change, but that simple fact will always remain.