The Organization Machine – The Real Terminator

Peter Weddle

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The following post is adapted from Circa 2118, What Humans Will Do When Machines Take Over

As super-intelligent, super-strong, super empathetic machines (a genus best described as super-capable or super-C machines) enter the career fields and occupations of their human predecessors, they will radically reshape the way work is done. They will be able to do things humans cannot do, and do the things that humans can do, but do them better, faster and more cheaply.

They will access, reduce and analyze huge quantities of data in close to real time, introducing unpreceded levels of process improvement, output maximization and service reliability. And they will be an always-willing, always-on resource, unfailingly providing all of those benefits 24 hours a day, 7 days a week, 365 days a year.

In effect, they will become the quintessential organization machine – the 22nd century analog of the 1950’s organization man – as well as their professional and creative counterpart.

The Automated Enterprise

The widespread installation of super-C machines will likely occur first and most extensively in the business sector. These “byte-collar” workers will displace human workers throughout the private sector, in both for-profit and not-for-profit organizations. They won’t destructure big transnational corporations and smaller local companies; they won’t eliminate all jobs, but will instead push all humans out of all of the jobs that do exist.

Super-C machines will designate humans as persona non grata in the enterprise. The visionary corporate leader and bright up-and-comer … gone. The savvy professional and dependable contributor … gone. The loyal employee and helpful coworker … gone. The team player, innovative thinker and colorful colleague … all gone.

Ironically, in most companies, the responsibility for implementing this shift will be assigned to the Human Resource Department. For years, HR professionals have been lobbying for “a seat at the table” where key corporate decisions are made and strategies are formulated. They will finally get that opportunity over the next one hundred years as only they will know how to manage the machine juggernaut. Only they will have the expertise to formulate a corporate strategy for terminating human workers, and only they will have the dedication to implement it in accordance with all legal requirements and with as much compassion as possible.

A new term will join the business lexicon of “downsizing” and “rightsizing” as HR professionals perform “finalsizing” to replace humans with machines. They will execute the first layoffs and the subsequent ones, as well, until finally, they give notice to the last of the human workers who remain on-the-job. Then, they will pack up the pictures on their own desks and turn out the lights as they too leave the workplace for the final time. The byte-collar workers that replace them will happily work in the dark.

While these displacements will be disruptive and often hurtful, others will actually be welcome, at least while there are still humans employed in the workplace. In addition to taking jobs away from an organization’s key contributors, super-C machines will also push out the less conscientious and capable in the organization, and these people will likely be among the first eliminated. Gone, for example, will be the Rip Van Winkles, Luddites, slackers and watercooler gossips. So too will be the perennially late and disruptive, the hyper-critical and mean-spirited, the insensitive and loud-mouthed.

Indeed, these reductions-in-(human) force will seem like a long overdue housecleaning in corporate America. Though the sanitizing will be uneven and sometimes misdirected, machines will dispatch the sexual harassers and bullies as well as the bigots, haters and trolls. They will displace the cheats and thieves as well as those who are abusive and potentially violent. And in some organizations, at least, they’ll also slam the door on the CEOs who line their own pockets at the expense of their employees and the managers who make decisions that pollute the planet and devastate communities.

The end state will be something best described as the automated enterprise. Byte-collar workers will fill every job from mail room clerk to chief executive officer. They will do the work once performed by research scientists and lab technicians, product designers and engineers, and project managers of every stripe; they will displace sales people and marketing professionals, labor relations managers and recruiters, information technologists and data analysts, accounts payable clerks and procurement specialists, inhouse corporate counsel and company ombudsmen.

Machines will still be “minded” by humans – “managed” being too strong a word – but these minders will be few in number and serve in more of a fail-safe than a functional role, performing tasks similar to what humans do now in a driverless car. They may also serve for awhile as the customer interface for companies, at least until the chatbots, humanoids and other support machines become fully mature and are made widely available. Once that occurs, however, companies large and small, domestic and global will become almost entirely automated and largely autonomous. They will close their office suites and cubicle farms and move most of their operations to disk space on a server farm.

When is all this likely to happen? Probably within the careers of most GenXers, Millennials and GenZs and certainly within the careers of their kids and grandkids. Which begs the question: What are we doing to get ready?

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