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December 10, 2010

The Future of Automated Businesses

TECHNOLOGY - Large corporations waste a lot of money quite literally "moving money around". If you have ever worked for a pension company, a bank or anything remotely similar you know this to be true. Its just a whole lot of paperwork.

But let us stop for a moment and imagine if businesses could become much more automated. ie. Lets pretend there was a bank with no tellers. People deposited their money from their pay cheques via direct deposit, and they got their funds using a debit card. They could manage their account online without ever speaking to a bank teller, a manager or whatever. They applied online or via snailmail, the mail was delivered to a machine which scanned in their vital info to a database, and everything is stored in a series of databases.

The only time money actually moves is when supervisors and security manage the transfers of actual cash. And the only staff are a few managers, some supervisors, security, database management and an anti-hacker team.

People could also apply for a mortgage or loan online and get back an affirmative or denial IMMEDIATELY. And because there is very little overhead costs the bank could offer better deals, and at the same time better profits for stockholders.

What you would end up with is a bank that is super efficient and every stockholder would want to invest in it.

Which brings me to the topic of ERP software. Its basically software which allows people to manage a lot more things and automate some of tasks normally done by people.

"An Enterprise Resource Planning (ERP) system is an integrated computer-based application used to manage internal and external resources, including tangible assets, financial resources, materials, and human resources. Its purpose is to facilitate the flow of information between all business functions inside the boundaries of the organization and manage the connections to outside stakeholders. Built on a centralized database and normally utilizing a common computing platform, ERP systems consolidate all business operations into a uniform and enterprise-wide system environment.

An ERP system can either reside on a centralized server or be distributed across modular hardware and software units that provide "services" and communicate on a local area network. The distributed design allows a business to assemble modules from different vendors without the need for the placement of multiple copies of complex and expensive computer systems in areas which will not use their full capacity."


ERP software is essentially for communications and managing money or resources, but it could be adapted to do a lot more for businesses. ie. Lets say you owned a designer swimwear company and you take online payments. But what if you could automate the payment process entirely and the only thing remaining was the guy or gal who prints out the label, sticks it on the package and ships the swimwear to whomever ordered it. Sounds really easy right? Indeed.

Or lets say you were running a private school or college. Something small like a beauty school. You could also accept enrollments online, payments, fill up courses and so forth, and the student does not even talk to a person until they show up for their first day of classes. The idea could eventually be adapted to larger things like universities which are much more complex and offer way more course options, but universities are usually picky about marks and want to interview people before they accept them for enrollment.

In the future all of these paper pushing tasks should become automated. The only things remaining for PEOPLE to actually do is create the items to be sold (or build a robotic mechanism to do that for them), advertise the product (which is likewise becoming more automated with internet advertising) and of course buy them.

Of course we also need teachers along the way, because while the idea of robotic teachers have been around since Astro Boy and The Jetsons, there has not been any major improvements in either artificial intelligence or robotics.



Which begs the question... what happens to all the menial labour people once the machines do really reach a point where we have robotic maids? And what happens to the economy when all those people become jobless or have to be retrained to something else that a robot cannot do?

After all if the robots take away all the easy jobs, regular people will need to learn how to make more complex things by hand, become scientists or engineers, or do something really creative.

ie. Even farming could be automated, the same way robotic vacuum cleaners work on a radio guidance system.

What it means is that we are heading towards a future wherein human existence will be more made up of scientists and engineers (for maintenance) and also lots of people who are artists or craftsmen (because many people will still value man-made products). Much of our society would become dependent on socialism and communism by default, a Star Trek-esque society wherein everyone automatically can find work doing something they enjoy because food, energy and a home is all cheaply made.

If our whole society becomes either scientists or artists there will be nothing left to do but explore the galaxy beyond our own star system. It would become like Star Trek, but in a very real way.

I found the image below and thought it was amusing. In a Darwinian way.

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