During his first day on the job at a small 3D-modelling company, Griffith noticed that his new colleagues' workstations were hopelessly out of date. So he took the initiative to suggest some automation upgrades to the higher-ups, who concurred. Two years later, 20 employees—some of them good friends—were out of work.
"I feel bad because I knew these people well," says Griffith, which is not his real name. He says feels responsible because he kicked off the project, and after it was underway, he quickly realized they'd lose their jobs. "But I was powerless to stop it."
Automation is too often presented as a faceless, monolithic phenomenon—but it's a human finger that ultimately pulls the trigger. Someone has to initiate the process that automates a task or mechanizes a production line. To write or procure the program that makes a department or a job redundant. And that's not always an executive, or upper-, or even middle management. Sometimes it's a junior employee, or a developer, even an intern.
Inside many companies, automation can stem from random efficiency experiments or pilot programs initiated by employees who don't always intend for their ideas to cascade into large-scale job loss.
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