I’ll Never Be Goldilocks
I have reconciled myself to the fact that I’ll never be Goldilocks. That perfect positioning where you aren’t too hot, aren’t too cold, but are in fact, just right. To take just one example. I can spray paint moderately badly. After quite a lot of practice I am good enough that from far enough away and without the benefit of your glasses or bright sunlight, a car panel I have painted looks just like one from the factory. If you look closely though, my efforts are remarkably similar to the results from my welding (at which I am truly terrible, though I am very good at grinding). My results are as far from mirror perfect as one of those bendy mirrors at the funfair. The ones that make you look really skinny and remind me what I used to look like before I found pudding.
I can spend hours on You Tube watching amazing people doing amazing things. I am endlessly left slack jawed by just what the human body and mind are capable of. We truly are the most brilliant machine. I can watch Cirque du Soleil for hours – which is really just a freakshowesque love for studying those who have spent their entire lives learning to be brilliant at something largely useless.
If there was a Cirque for car painting, I wouldn’t even make it through the first audition. There are just too many things against me. Whilst I can be pretty consistent in getting the mix of paint, thinner, hardener and accelerant right, I am almost always damned by temperature. Or humidity. Or wind. If all of those are miraculously perfect, then living with 20 animals, not including my children, is guaranteed to result in an otherwise perfect job ruined by a rogue dog hair. The biggest problem though, is me. Factory perfect paint is most often done by a robot. One that pulls the trigger at exactly the right time, that maintains a perfect distance from the surface, that follows all the angles and knows exactly how much to overlap. I am led to believe that robots rarely, if ever, fall over their own air hoses.
I understand it takes nearly 10,000 hours to master something. I have probably spent less than 50 hours with a spray gun in my hand. That’s about an hour for every year of my life. Unless I plan to either live very much longer or paint a great deal more, I am never going to be good at it. But that’s OK. Instead of being great at painting I am not very good at a great many other things.
There are people who are great at painting. Or juggling. Or balancing on top of precariously stacked chairs. There are people who are better at things than machines are ever likely to be. That said, for tasks that require repetitive actions that can be easily scripted, machines are just better. It is for this reason that I don’t fear Artificial Intelligence or Robotic Process Automation. These technologies will ultimately change the world as much as, if not more than the industrial revolution. They will allow the delivery of services of greater consistency and quality. They will let humans spend 10,000 hours becoming a master at something that brings them joy, not simply that pays their bills.
Giles Letheren – Chief Executive Officer