The Promise of Technology that It will likely Break

By Angelo Kaufmann

Promises are declaration of assurance that someone or something will satisfy a commitment. It oftentimes set expectations, that failure to fulfill triggers disappointment. However, just as much as we want to put the burden to who or what declares the promise, it should be a conscious effort as well, as a receiver, to educate our own expectations and gear ourselves with resilience.

According to a veteran newspaper reporter, Paul Milo, during the technology boom of the 1980s and 1990s, technology promised to revolutionize industries. These familiar promises include a flying car in transportation, knowledge pill in education and smokeable lettuce in the tobacco industry. The fulfillment of these promises is  yet to be accomplished as they are not entirely impossible, but the delay did not seem to disappoint anybody. Today, with the unprecedented pace of technological evolution and the foresight of Artificial Intelligence (AI), we are presented with a bigger promise that reflects a combination of human aspiration and fear: the transformation in the human workforce.

Orge Castellan, a journalist-sociologist, wrote that  from 1940 to 2010, an estimated eight million farmer workers and seven million factory workers went out of jobs because of automation. This data seemed to prompt that laborers will be displaced in the future. However, this is the promise of technology that it will likely break. Technology may turn hard labor and routine work to obsolescence, but it will develop work under new, different categories.

A case in point is FordFord Motor Co.’s assembly-line model was one the most significant advances in the manufacturing industry that best represents the transition of human labor to robotics. Jobs transformed with automation getting a lot of attention, as it should.

Another example is the way customer queries are answered 24/7. Telemarketing is in transition to replacing customer representatives with an instant messaging interface to proactive bots that can initiate and sustain conversations. Banks, fashion stores, grocery stores, and multibrand retail stores have added chatbots for customer service in their websites and apps. Real-time and personalized conversations with customers enable bots to open up new revenue opportunities.

People will operate and monitor these technologies. People will build these technologies, and a lot more of them. Once technology is in place, we, as laborers, can shift our focus on more important agenda – how we can improve our ways in doing things. Technology assists humans to increase productivity. However, humans are still in charge of conceptualizing, strategizing and leading.

It is also important to note that the use of technology means to simplify one’s work.  Several decades ago, when there was no spreadsheet such as Microsoft Excel or Google Spreadsheet, accountants were working weeks on end to do a single task. Soon when spreadsheets were invented, what took them weeks is now accomplished in hours. Not only did it improve work, it also led to an economic boom. There were more jobs available from stock brokers to accounting  professionals. Work became less intimidating than before.

Technology, in that case, promised no elimination of human participation but rather creation of a whole new industry where leadership, resilience and new skills will be required.


Angelo Kaufmann is a software engineer with 10 years of experience in security systems, software development, and strategic technical management. He is currently the Strategic Technical Manager of Satellite GPS Tracking and Asset Management System Corporation, the developer and owner of SafeSat and Findr.