The Rise of the “Retro Human” Business

If you like this article, check out another by Robbie: 
The AI Entrepreneur’s Moral Dilemma

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A phenomenon that we’ll see in the coming decades as more jobs are automated are businesses that refuse to give in to technological advancement despite lower costs and better overall solutions being available in the form of software, virtualization, or robots. This isn’t a new thing, but it will happen at an increasing rate over the next 20 years. (If you’re interested, you can read why I’m so bullish on artificial intelligence’s potential for innovation.)

Especially for the current generations that are accustom to humans doing certain jobs (e.g. wait staff and dentists), it may not be socially accepted to have software (or robots) do them. Eventually, that will change as newer generations are born without preconceived notions of what jobs should be done by humans versus other means. Right now, it is a badge of honor to claim a movie was made without any CGI. In twenty years, it will seem counter intuitive to make a movie without significant CGI.

We, humans, have nostalgic tendencies. Did you hear vinyl is making a comeback? We romanticize the past. In this case, the past will be when people performed tasks that become completely automated. Some restaurants may still employ humans to serve your food despite it being less efficient, just as today certain companies still run their point-of-sale off ancient MS-DOS-based systems — there won’t be enough incentive for some small businesses to make the jump to automation, even if in the long-run it would improve their profitability. Many small businesses optimize around what’s comfortable for them, not eking out every dime to maximize their profits.

I can envision a cottage industry of retro-human businesses that sell against computerization with claims of providing a more “personal” touch or bucking the trend of robots/software/computers dominating our lives. The imperfections humans are known for, which azeem wrote about, may become a selling point against the “perfect” experience. But at that point, what’s to stop us from modeling imperfections into the system to give us that human-vibe? Then the retro-human businesses may have to compete against the automated retro-human businesses!

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