A Cold Light in the Damp Dark Night.

It is the dark time. October is almost over and Halloween Night is not far off. The nights are noticeably colder, and the night air is damp and windy. When it isn’t raining you can hear the leaves winding across the land. When it is raining you can hear the far off distant sound of thunder and the wind gusting through the trees. It’s usually a good night for some hot tea and a warm hoodie. It feels dark and gloomy all day. Sometimes we have a break and there is some sun pushing through the clouds, but usually not enough to dry out the wet soggy ground. So begins the muddy season here in the swamp. With a good pair of muck boots and a rain-resistant jacket, you can easily handle the transition between warm dry summer weather and freezing cold snow. This is the in-between, sort of the wind up to the real harsh weather that forces so many to hunker down and ride out the dead of winter. This Halloween is even stranger than any I can remember. The Pandemic and the soon to follow presidential election day has heightened the tension in the air. It’s the perfect season for doom and gloom. Who needs a costume for Halloween night when we all are forced to wear masks while out in public? We are all characters in a real-life horror movie.

So far we have seen remote work from home technology move to center stage in many of our daily lives. Many have learned to work long hours breathing through a cloth or paper mask. Fresh air when you walk out of a public place and can finally remove your mask never felt so good. Teams Meetings or Zoom Calls are now basic job requirements to keep in touch with fellow workers or manage team members. This is the new work social interaction process for many.

The real scary possibility is where is this leading us? If so many can do their job remotely then will this become a long-term situation, and will this eventually lead to faster replacement of remote workers with cloud-based AI? Soon that worker you’re interacting with remotely might actually be an Avatar or an enhanced artificial algorithm-based program on the other end of the call. Maybe that’s who you’ll end up reporting to or who will subsequently replace you. people are already interacting with bots, and some bots are interacting with other bots. If all your work is computer-based and tethered to a remote application server, then why couldn’t a well constructed “Humanized” program do the same function around the clock and much faster? The pandemic has accelerated the rate in which we were moving deeper into AI and leveraging the Internet of Things. Right now humans are the “remote workforce”, but that is evolving quickly. The AI programs used to monitor a workforce are already in play to increase productivity and weed out the less productive workers.

It’s not just the AI programs we are competing with. If you thought your competition was localized or limited by location you are now seeing that you can have competition for a position from someone half a world away now that we’re all one big happy remote workforce. What you’re finding is that you really need a good Internet connection and a small little area to sit with your laptop. This certainly cuts down on the cost of office space. Cloud computing and remote application hosting services also cut down on companies that need to have a server room full of equipment with all associated power and backup requirements. Your IT department headcounts will probably dwindle as complicated oversight for support is reduced to a few well-designed dashboards accessible via a web browser.

The last year has highlighted the need for acceleration of such solutions in order to keep up with competition. Business practices and budgets will and are changing around this new work model – which is still evolving.

We all suspected the robot revolution would start displacing some parts of the workforce. We were all aware that Artificial Intelligence and advances in software and hardware would bring change to our daily lives, but the Pandemic has increased the urgency with which some industries are rolling out newer and sometimes better solutions. What’s the point in dealing with changes to minimum wage, employee health needs, and safety regulations or environmental working conditions if there is no human workforce needed at all? Employee parking spots – gone. Look at your local hardware or other big box store’s self-checkout lanes. You’re seeing more and more customers choose these to speed up their purchases – if in fact they still actually go out to a physical store.

The pandemic is changing the way we interact with others, educate, learn, work, play, and to some extent view and vote for our governments. It is changing the way we think about ourselves and others. In some ways, it is making everything a little bit colder while turning up the heat on other parts of our lives. Where we may have suspected that robots and Artificial Intelligence would evolve to be more human, we may actually be transforming into something a little more robotic and possibly less human.

The Pandemic isn’t the monster. Guess who the monsters are now.

Things may get even scarier as millions of workers are no longer needed for certain jobs. You could have a lot of unhappy people out of work with too much time on their hands who may not feel satisfied with a small government provided allowance or free services. Who would pay for all these needs anyways if too many people are out of work? Would the system be overloaded and start to breakdown? Would crime become the new plague? Would things get way out of hand, or would the machines become our saviors if not our eventual overlords?

What an interestingly dark thought to ponder on Halloween night. This could never actually come true……….or could it?

Happy Halloween!

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