The Human Element

There is something special about human interaction. It’s certainly much more pleasant to call customer service and hear a human voice on the other hand than the robotic din of an automated system; not to mention, the human (at least some of the time) will actually help you get what you need. Walking into a store, big or small, and reaping the benefits of the employee’s knowledge and experience can be much nicer than sifting through online reviews and trying to find an item in the back aisle. And, for whatever inexplicable reason, something becomes unique when we know that a human was in someway involved with it. In particular, following our discussion in class, I feel this pertains to the manufacturing industries.

For a long time, Rolls Royce has been considered the creme of the crop when it comes to automobiles. Not only are they notoriously comfortable, but truly their allure lies in the exquisite craftsmanship and attention to detail put into each vehicle that leaves the production line — I hesitate to even use that term, because of how much “soul,” for lack of a better term, is involved in the process. From a purely utilitarian standpoint, a car made by machines would probably more reliable, and definitely much cheaper than a Rolls. The handcrafted engine will probably breakdown, and will definitely be a pain to service. But, there continues to be a market for these and other similar luxury items. In a sense, people view these hand-made items almost as forms of art.

Humans are not always rational creatures. Humans are definitely not perfect. When a machine does something, as far as we are concerned, the outcome is more or less perfect. Sculpture is flawed. Yet, we admire without end the works of Bernini and Michaelangelo. We don’t show the same appreciation for 3D-printed models (unless of course, we design them ourselves). Character comes not from being perfect, but from the story, the passion, the thought behind the product. We humans appreciate the impractical, exactly because there is something special to be appreciated.

I don’t think robots are going to completely take over manufacturing. Sure, mass produced products like phones and t-shirts can be made by automated processes. Even then, though, there will always be humans at the inception. The design, the engineering, the testing — not everything can be done by a computer. As long as humans don’t themselves become robots, that is don’t completely lose personality, there will always be a place for a human somewhere along the line. Especially at the higher end of the market, I would be shocked to see a move away from hand-crafted, manually-intense, labor processes anytime soon.


One thought on “The Human Element

  1. Well said! I agree that people will continue to collect things that are rare, for lots of definitions of rare. I’d love to hear your opinion of what changes might occur as we move from manufacturing being a centralized, big-business thing to something that many of us could do in our own homes. That’s the change that 3D printing is bringing. I don’t need my 4 year old’s next toy manufactured in China and shipped across the world (even if it was designed in the US). I can pull the design off the Internet and have it “manufactured” in my study by my 3D printer.

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