Why machines are better than humans at work is a sensitive but crucial topic since, year after year, more machines are replacing human jobs.
Don’t get me wrong – I’m talking purely about work productivity here, not human value. I’m not suggesting we send a machine to broker peace deals or anything. But when it comes down to getting work done, machines are often the smarter pick. It’s kind of a no-brainer.
Need proof? Take a gander at this report by McKinsey below. It’s a real eye-opener about the automation potential in various industries.
|Type of work||Yearly labor productivity growth (2000 to 2016)||Automation potential|
|Hospitality & food services||-0.8%||73%|
|Transportation & warehousing||0.2%||58%|
|Mining, and oil & gas extraction||3.2%||51%|
|Finance & insurance||1.1%||42%|
In this discussion, I’ll walk you through 8 reasons why machines can outdo us humans on the job and what we can learn from them to amp up our own productivity.
#1 Machines aren’t fazed by aggression
You can scream bloody murder at a machine, even tell it to “fuck off” with a swift kick, and it wouldn’t bat an eyelid. It’s just going to keep on keeping on, doing its thing. Machines are like the ultimate Zen masters, completely impervious to whatever verbal barrage we humans throw at them.
Us humans? Not so much. We can get our feathers ruffled pretty easily. A snarky email or a trolling comment on social media can turn our day upside down and send our productivity nosediving. Granted, this might not be true for everyone, but let’s face it, most of us struggle to turn the other cheek.
#2 Machines never need a sick day
One thing about machines, they’re never going to roll in late to work because they partied too hard the night before or they’re dealing with a family crisis. No way, machines are the gold standard of reliability. They’re like your trusty smartphone, always on standby, ready to serve.
Imagine if your phone only worked 50% or even 95% of the time. You’d be furious! We’ve come to rely on our gadgets to work all the time. On the other hand, we humans can’t always make the same claim.
And here’s the icing on the cake: machines don’t need time to recharge their batteries, no weekends off or vacations. Just take a gander at this table from Statista, showing how many days off us humans take in different countries.
|Country||Annual paid time off|
#3 Machine are consistency kings
Regardless of what’s going on, a machine will keep on truckin’ as long as its parts are in working order and its software isn’t outdated. The name of the game is consistency.
Imagine a machine cranking out apple pies. You can bet your bottom dollar that it’ll make perfect pies every time, from the break of dawn until the sun sets. Crust, filling, taste – always spot on.
What about us humans? Our productivity can yo-yo as the day wears on. It’s why we’re surrounded by all sorts of caffeinated pick-me-ups promising a quick energy boost. If not, our work could be wildly inconsistent – like baking a hundred apple pies, each one looking like it’s from a different bakery, and some even forgetting the apple part!
Let’s face it, machines don’t need to guzzle coffee to keep their engines revving.
#4 Machines don’t need a pep talk
Machines don’t need a rousing speech from Tony Robbins or an inspirational YouTube video to kickstart their day. You just flick a switch, and they’re off to the races.
There’s also none of that managerial fuss with machines. No need for managers constantly trying to light a fire under their employees, spouting off about quarterly targets, or using scare tactics and competitive spirit to get the job done.
Nah, machines don’t have time for all that. They get down to business from the get-go, doing what they’re built to do. No extra push needed. They’ll keep on truckin’ whether they’re basking in the Californian sunshine or stuck in the middle of a nuclear winter in Siberia.
#5 Machines don’t sweat about their age
When it comes to machines, age really is just a number. A shiny new machine or one that’s been around the block a few times will crank out the same results, given they have the same specs.
Machines are prepped and ready from day one, doing what they’re designed to do without any learning curve. Unlike us humans, who can take years to master a skill or task.
Once a machine is tuned up just right, you’ve got yourself a golden goose:
- Hardware tailor-made for a specific job
- Software coded to perform that job like a boss
You can then clone this machine—make a cool 100,000 copies, and each one will be a carbon copy of the original, just as awesome.
Now, let’s say a company manages to find and train a 10x engineer and wants more of the same. To pull that off, they’d have to:
- Find folks with the same personality, lifestyle, and education
- Invest in training them for over half a decade
- Make sure they’re happy so they don’t skip town to a competitor
- Cross their fingers that life doesn’t throw them any curveballs that might throw a wrench in the works
And after all that, they’d still have to keep their fingers crossed that at least one of them turns out to be a 10x engineer.
In a nutshell, it’s a tall order to reproduce superstar employees. That’s why most companies only have a handful of superstars among their ranks.
#6 Machines are neutral in every way possible
In today’s climate, personal beliefs can cause a real stir in the workplace. But machines? They couldn’t care less about beliefs.
Employees can, and do, take their employers to court. Sometimes it’s for valid reasons, other times it’s just a quick cash grab. Machines, however, don’t play those games. Even when the employer screws up, machines don’t pipe up. Set a machine on fire? Not a problem! But if a human gets singed, you’re looking at a lawsuit, and often for good reason.
By their very nature, this makes employees a bit of a liability. Accidents happen, that’s just life. But a machine won’t take you to court, and it sure as heck won’t ask you to pay into a health or retirement plan, which is becoming a real financial burden for employers.
#7 Machines have no hardware limits
Our human senses—touch, sight, taste, smell, and hearing—put a cap on what we can do. We just can’t hit the same precision levels as a machine, and we tire out too soon.
Take the visible light spectrum as an example. Our human eyes can only pick up wavelengths between 400 to 700 nanometers. There’s a whole world beyond that range we’re blind to, which limits our inspection capabilities.
But machines? They can ramp up their senses to superhero heights, leaving us mere mortals in the dust.
#8 Machines have limitless memory
Compared to us, machines have pretty much unlimited memory. They can store and call upon massive amounts of data without breaking a sweat.
This data storage power comes in handy in fields like engineering. The more data you can collect, the more you can learn from your successes and failures, and the more you can innovate.
Plus, we can cram machines full of all sorts of algorithms, which lets them perform any work task, no matter how complex, with pinpoint accuracy.
This memory edge is a big reason why we’ve seen such incredible advances in tech today.
Those who disagree about machines being better than humans
Sure, there are folks who’d argue against my points, and that’s cool.
Funny thing is, a lot of these same folks are always tapping away on their smartphones, cruising around in their favorite set of wheels, and picking up their groceries from the local store. You see what I’m getting at?
Each of these products and industries once employed a ton of people, but machines have pretty much taken over.
I don’t know anyone who’d willingly give up their phone, car, or grocery store access. Libraries are becoming a thing of the past, and horse-drawn carriages are just a distant memory.
The reason we lean on machines so much is because they do certain tasks better and more reliably than we can.
How to learn from machines to boost your productivity
In areas where machines rule the roost, they blow us humans out of the water. And as machines continue to evolve, this gap is only going to get wider.
But don’t stress, it’s not all bad news.
Go through the points I’ve made about why machines are superior and see if you can incorporate some of their qualities into your work style. Remember, if your gig involves creativity, you’ve got a leg up on machines, at least for the time being.
By mixing a machine-like work style with your creative flair, you can take your productivity and performance to the next level.
Also, check out my piece on how you can work more like a machine.
“Why machines are better than humans” wrap up
Machines are increasingly muscling us out of jobs, and it’s not a matter of if they’ll continue to do so, but when.
As artificial intelligence gets more sophisticated, machines will keep getting the jump on us in the workplace. So don’t underestimate machines in the job market. I reckon they’ll soon be our biggest rivals, not other humans. That’s why it’s crucial to understand what makes them so good.
Look at it this way: LeBron James measures himself against Michael Jordan, not some guy shooting hoops at the local YMCA. Why? Because Jordan is the gold standard in basketball.
In the same way, identify your weak spots compared to machines in your line of work, and use what you learn to up your game in both your professional and personal life. I’ve found the more I work like a machine, the more time I have to embrace my human side.
Do you think machines are better than humans at work? What challenges do you think we’ll face against machines in the workplace in the future?
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Author Bio: Koosha started Engineer Calcs in 2019 to help people better understand the engineering and construction industry, and to discuss various science and engineering-related topics to make people think. He has been working in the engineering and tech industry in California for well over 15 years now and is a licensed professional electrical engineer, and also has various entrepreneurial pursuits.
Koosha has an extensive background in the design and specification of electrical systems with areas of expertise including power generation, transmission, distribution, instrumentation and controls, and water distribution and pumping as well as alternative energy (wind, solar, geothermal, and storage).
Koosha is most interested in engineering innovations, the cosmos, sports, fitness, and our history and future.