Mechanization, automation, and eventually digitalization have improved the labor experience of humans for millennia.

The first voices raising an alarm about the future was work was the rebellion against centralizing production–moving it from the craftsman’s shed or seamstress’s room to production lines governed by piecework and forced labor. That was in the mid-1800s.

Research I started in grad school before I got a “real” job began with an essay by the early Karl Marx complaining about the alienation of humans and the product of their labor. This was written around 1848.

People began to notice the dehumanizing capability of the Industrial Age. Check out Charlie Chaplin movies or even the famous Lucille Ball skit wrapping candy on a production line.

Today’s critics rail about automation and robots.

Those people are missing the changes that have occurred during the past 20 years with the aid of machines, robotics, and automation.

Imagine the bodies saved from chronic back problems through the use of robotics picking and placing heavy loads continuously for shift after shift.

Or, removing humans from hazardous locations–say welding lines or spray paint booths–once again through the use of robotics and automation.

Visit a modern manufacturing facility (as I have many times) and see collaborative teamwork as people use their brains as well as their hands to solve safety and production problems.

The last several years have featured advances on ways for automation to supplement humans. Collaborative robots. Exoskeleton robots. Better information and advice for troubleshooting and fixing processes before they break.

As professionals in this industry, we need to call Foul on all the misinformation masquerading as news in places like The New York Times.

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