Reshma Saujani, founder of Girls Who Code remarked, “I think as automation gets even more and more prevalent, we’re going to need to learn how to code. Everybody does.” We couldn’t agree more. So what exactly are automation, open or close loop systems and routinization? And what does the future of jobs hold for our children and us? More importantly, are we all future proof? This three-part series offers a glimpse of what’s coming next.

The Dawn Of Change

Human History is often bookmarked by the great shift in paradigms, from people changing from a nomadic hunter gathering society in the Stone Age to a community agrarian based society in the Bronze Age.  We observed this as well in the shift from the farming and agriculture-based society of the middle ages to high power factories of the industrial era and, more recently, to the fast-paced information technology era.

Each of these shifts comes with a change in the status quo in terms of the most sought-after jobs from hunters to farmers and then to factory workers, and in more recent times – office professionals. However, that era is about to change. With more and more complicated tasks becoming automated, a new shift in paradigm is upon us and what we do to prepare ourselves for it will ultimately decide where we lie at the precipice of change.

What is Automation?

Automation is a technical term used by engineers to mean a system that has been improved to autonomously carry out a specific task to the required specification across any external stimuli. No clue of what that means?

Take a look at your air conditioning in the room. Notice that when you turn it on, its motors are really loud due to it working hard in cooling down your room. However, once it reaches the predefined temperature, the motor slows down its pace. This by itself is a simple example of an automation. Unlike a fan that spins at setting 3 or 5 as long as the switch is toggled, an air conditioner can autonomously regulate itself to work harder and chill depending on external conditions.

Sensing the temperature around and adjusting the motor speed accordingly is arguably a simple task – getting a reading from the thermometer and translating it into motor speed. Some might argue that it might not be the same for, let’s say, giving law advice or even cooking a dish. But isn’t it?

A keynote to remember about automation is that, as long as the rules of the task can be clearly defined, then it can be automated. It’s just a matter of whether the stimuli can be sensed and interpreted, and whether the actuators can do what it needs to do. With advancements in technology today, I dare say that it has reached a point where the ability to perceive and the ability to manipulate are both already at a level where robots can be programmed to do virtually anything.

In this case, the only true limiting factor would be whether or not the task at hand is an open or close loop system, which determines the complexity of the automation as well as whether the task can be routinised.

Join us next to learn about open loop, closed loop and routinization as well as where jobs today lie in the larger picture of automatability.

Quah.