Marina's Monetary Musings: Where automation only half-replaces humans

Much has been written about how automation will replace humans in the workplace. But what about those who have only been half replaced?

Much has been written about how automation will replace humans in the workplace. But what about those who have only been half replaced? I met some of them recently.

I was walking through the electronic passport control gates at Frankfurt airport. I pressed my passport onto the glass screen and the gates swung open to reveal two people sitting behind a high counter.

I showed them my passport. The man laughed, saying: ‘You’ve already gone through passport control.’ Ignoring the usual advice to not make any jokes or say anything suspicious to airport staff, I said: ‘Then why are you still sitting here?’ He replied candidly: ‘I ask myself that too sometimes.’

It seems that while this man has been replaced by a machine, he is still required to sit and watch an automated system do his job for him.

Arguably, airline pilots have been in that position for a while, but it seems they still do the taking off and landing.

Some 10 million UK workers could be replaced with robots within 15 years, according to a report by PwC. Will they have to sit and supervise these robots?

In the health sector, operations are already being done by robots; and in the transport sector, self-driving cars are coming. Even journalism may be affected; an algorithm can now generate a short news article when an earthquake occurs.

But do not fear, this column continues to be written by a human writer. This year we’ve renamed ‘Marina’s Imaginary Millions’ as ‘Marina’s Monetary Musings’. Maybe one day, when my imaginary millions have become real, I will hire an algorithm to do a bit of musing for me, but only when I’m on holiday.

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