Automate everything!

The computer should be used as a force for liberation, allowing human flourishing.


Christoffer Vig

Today, most people use a computer at work. Some use it only to enter hours worked, others spend their full day typing. I’m afraid we still have a long way to go to use the computer at its full potential.

I have been working on automating our DevOps CI/CD pipeline for some time now. When a developer creates a new feature, it automatically becomes available for testing. Releasing to production was until recently a manual process. 

I had to open five web pages, clicking around a little, entering a version number, modifying some text, and clicking some more. It took approximately 3 minutes. 

I got fed up and decided to try to create a small script to help me out . I don’t know how long it took to automate. Maybe 3 hours? If I have to do this more than 60 times, I may have saved some time.

But automation is not just about saving time.

What is a human being? 

Is it ok for humans to do repetitive tasks? 

Aristotle talks about what is the best life for a human being in his book The Nicomachean Ethics. According to Aristotle, all things have a peculiar function, according to their  nature. The Greek word "Arete'' means to perform its function in an optimal way. In English the word "virtue" is a common translation. In Buddhism we find the related term "kusala". 

So what is man's most important function, it’s arete? Some animals also live in society, use tools and make buildings, but it may seem that our peculiar skill is our abilities for reasoning and communication. 

The Machine

The computer as we know it today got its theoretical design from Alan Turing in 1936. Alan wanted to see if the “Entscheidungsproblem” was actually solvable and to do that he needed to find some way to model all computable mathematical functions. He found the Entscheidungsproblem to be impossible to solve, but his ideas were used as the blueprint for the design of the computer that you most likely are reading this on. A computer can be used to calculate any mathematical function. Some key breakthroughs were the discovery that sound and images can be expressed mathematically. We can use the machines to read, write, make music and code, but the machines simply handle electrical signals. The "arete" of the computer is to perform calculations, quickly, accurately and efficiently.

Human rights

The Universal Declaration of Human Rights was declared by the United Nations General Assembly in Paris on 10 December 1948. 

Article 5 says 

No one shall be subjected to torture or to cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment or punishment.

What is meant by “inhuman or degrading treatment”?  According to Aristotle, the most human function is to perform reasoning tasks. On the other hand, repetitive, manual tasks require no reasoning and we can see that they will therefore not necessarily stimulate the most essential human characteristics. As we now have available technology that is perfectly suited for repetitive, manual tasks, we should strive to replace humans with robots wherever possible, freeing up human beings to be creative. 

Digitization can be a good thing, but not if digitization entails a greater degree of repetitive manual entry.  

Automation is not just about saving time. Automation is about letting people do what people do best, and letting machines take care of the rest.

The picture

shows coworker Ane who tries to make friends with a robot. 

Behov for hjelp med din digitale produktreise?
Vi tar gjerne en kaffeprat!