Why machines are better than humans at work is a sensitive topic. But an important topic that all humans need to understand.
I’m clearly only speaking about work productivity here.
As a business owner, it’s a no-brainer why you’d choose machines over humans. Machines are appealing in many ways.
I’d go as far as to say you’d be stupid not to go with machines when given the choice.
You can see this move towards machines in the below McKinsey report. It shows the automation potential of 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%|
I’m going to go over the 7 reasons why machines are better than humans at work. But also, there are a lot of things humans can learn from all this as well. I’ll discuss that too.
#1 Machines not rattled by aggression towards them
Go yell at a machine all you want. Tell a machine “to fuck off” as you kick it.
The machine won’t care. It’ll still do what it’s programmed to do. It won’t miss a beat.
A machine can take on any abuse. But with a human, it’s a different story.
One bad email from someone can anger and depress you. Or even a negative comment on your Twitter account can ruin your entire mood.
As a result, your productivity will drop from 100% to 0% instantly. Talk about a mood swing.
Yes, I’m generalizing. But most people can’t properly channel negativity to fuel their productivity.
#2 Machines are always on time
You don’t need to worry about a machine being late to work. Late because of various reasons, such as:
- A hangover from the other night
- Family problems
- Appointments for health, and home repairs
You get the point. Humans aren’t reliable all the time.
But a machine you can count on. That’s why you love your smartphone so much.
I bet you’d hate your phone if it worked only 50% of the time. I know I’d hate it.
Even more, if it only worked 95% of the time you’d still be angry.
We expect our phones to work 100% of the time. And work perfectly each and every time we slide open our screen.
Reliability is very important. And we as humans expect reliability. But as a whole, we aren’t always reliable ourselves.
#3 Machine work is always consistent
Doesn’t matter if there’s a nuclear war going on outside. A machine will still do what it’s programmed to do.
As long as the machine’s hardware and software aren’t damaged, it’ll do work. And the produced work is always consistent.
A machine that makes apple pies, will always make the perfect apple pie. From the time the machine starts working at 5 AM until 6 PM when it’s shut down.
The crust will be perfectly designed down to the last millimeter. And the taste will always be mouthwatering good.
But the productivity of humans falls off fast over the length of a day. That’s why these sugary highly caffeinated drinks are so popular.
Yes, those energy drinks that you see stacked across every cashier aisle in the grocery store.
Marketing tells us to slam an energy drink mid-day, and we can increase our productivity. Otherwise, we’ll have 100 different looking apple pies by the end of the day. Half will be missing their apples too.
Machines don’t need midday spikes of energy. This is another advantage of machines over humans.
#4 Machines don’t need external motivation
Machines don’t need Tony Robbins motivating them. They don’t need motivational Youtube videos to get them going to start their day.
Once you turn on a machine, it’s “go time”.
Even more, you don’t need all this bloated management when it comes to machines. Think of managers who constantly need to motivate their employees.
They give small pep talks on quarterly goals. And make promises to instill fear and pride.
Forget all that. Machines will do what they’re programmed to do from day 1. They don’t need an ounce of extra motivation.
And as we learned, they’ll do their work whether in hot sunny Santa Barbara. Or in the middle of Siberia in the middle of a nuclear war.
#5 Age is just a number when it comes to machines
This saying truly applies to machines. A 1-hour old machine versus a 20-year-old machine will have the same productivity.
They’ll both work the same as long as they have the same specs.
From the start, we program everything into a machine to do what it needs to do.
Thus, there’s no learning curve. Unlike a human who needs years of experience to become skilled in doing a certain task.
The beauty is, once a machine is properly tweaked you’ll have a golden goose:
- Hardware perfectly designed to do a certain task
- Coded software to properly execute a certain task
You can then multiply the machine. In other words, make 100,000 copies of the same machine. And they’ll all be just as amazing.
Imagine when a company finds and trains a superstar employee. And then they want to hire more employees just like the superstar.
Look at what a company needs to do to make this happen:
- Find employees with identical personalities, lifestyles, and education
- Train the employee for 5 plus years
- Keep the employee happy, making sure they don’t jump ship to another company
- Expect the employee will not have any surprises in life to derail their journey
In short, it’s very difficult. That’s why most companies only have several superstar employees.
#6 Machines are neutral in every way possible
Today, your beliefs can cause problems in your workplace. A machine doesn’t hold any beliefs though.
Also, employees can easily sue their employers. In many instances, silly lawsuits made against employers to make a quick buck.
But in the case of a machine, it’s a different story. Even when the employer is at fault a machine will remain silent.
All because a machine can’t get hurt. So, burn a machine? Who cares!
A human gets burned, then it’s a lawsuit. And it’s justifiable. I get it.
So by default, this makes an employee a liability as accidents always happen. Can’t escape this fact. It’s the reality of the workplace these days.
A machine though can never sue you though. Plus, it doesn’t need you to pay for its health and retirement plans. Especially given how expensive these plans have become for employers these days.
#7 No limits on hardware
Humans have set limits because of their main biological senses:
Our senses all have limitations. Thus, we can’t do work as precise as a machine. Also, we become fatigued quickly too.
For example, let’s look at the visible light spectrum. It’s part of the electromagnetic spectrum that humans can see.
In other words, human eyes can detect wavelengths only from 400 to 700 nanometers. To illustrate how small a range this, let’s look at the electromagnetic spectrum.
|Electromagnetic spectrum category||Range of wavelengths (nanometers)|
|Visible light by humans||400-700|
|Infrared||700 - 100,000|
|Microwave||100,000 - 100,000,000|
There’s so much we can’t see. An entire other world exists out there that we’re blind to.
As a result, we can’t inspect something precisely since we don’t have the tools as humans.
A machine doesn’t have any biological limits though. A machine can have our senses magnified to superhero levels.
It’s like trying to compare Superman to an average person. You can’t.
All in all, this makes machines much more precise in their work when compared to us. Even the best humans can’t compete.
People who disagree why machines are better than humans
Many people would disagree with me. And that’s fine.
Ironically, the people who disagree have smartphones glued to their hands. Then they drive their favorite 2-ton machine on roads.
And they buy perfectly packaged foods at their local store on demand. You get the point.
Each of the things I mentioned once employed countless people. But, then machines replaced them.
Simply because machines work better.
I don’t know anyone who’d give up their phone, car, and grocery store access. There’s a reason why libraries are slowly dying. And you don’t see horses and carriages on the streets.
We rely on machines because they’re better than what any humans could do. Plus, they’re not unreliable like humans.
How to learn from machines to increase your productivity
In the fields where we have machines, the machines are vastly superior to humans. It’s not even close.
In the future, machines will become better and smarter. The gap between machines and humans will even further increase.
But, it’s not all doom and gloom.
Go over the things I’ve discussed in this article that make machines superior. See what you can do to work more like a machine.
Keep in mind, if you do creative work, you have a leg up on machines. For now at least.
So by working like a machine in your field, you’ll increase your productivity. Combine this with your creativity, and you’ll be able to level yourself up.
That said, I’ve also written about how you can work more like a machine.
Machines are fast replacing humans. And it’s not a matter of if machines will replace more jobs, but a matter of when.
And machines will become more advanced with the help of artificial intelligence. So, humans will become more and more inferior at work.
Thus, don’t dismiss machines. Other humans aren’t your only competition.
Machines will soon be your biggest competition. So you need to understand their strengths.
To use an NBA analogy, Lebron James compares himself to Michael Jordan.
Because Jordan is the GOAT. He doesn’t compare himself to the local star at a YMCA.
So figure out your inefficiencies in work. Then try to work more like a machine. I’m not only talking about corporate work.
But applying what you learn from machines to any work you do. Even personal things. Working more like a machine will give you more time to be human.
Do you think machines are better than humans at work? What challenges do you see humans will have against machines in the workplace?
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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 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, our history and future, sports, and fitness.