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Required Reading for CAD Managers: Automation Makes Us Dumb

14 Jan, 2015 By: Robert Green

WSJ article explains that tools only improve efficiency; they can't replace involved, thoughtful users.


Over the Thanksgiving holiday break in the U.S., an article by Nicholas Carr in the Wall Street Journal caught my attention. I noticed the title — "Automation Makes Us Dumb" — and thought, "Wait a minute, I recommend automating tasks all the time, and I don't think it has made me or my clients dumb! What is he talking about?" As a result, I was compelled to read the article.

I'd never heard of Carr before, but I was impressed. I’ve already ordered his new book, The Glass Cage: Automation and Us, from which the WSJ article is derived. The way Carr articulates the difference between machines performing tasks autonomously and the partial automation that is used by humans — what the author calls human-centered automation — perfectly summarizes what many CAD managers have thought for years.

The human-centered automation concept makes the point that tools merely make workers more efficient. They shouldn't eliminate worker involvement; nor should they change how humans think. To put it in CAD parlance, building information modeling (BIM) doesn't design buildings, smart architects using BIM tools design buildings. When you read the last part of the article, note how Carr describes the manner in which humans and tools should interact in an ideal design environment to maximize creativity and reduce tedium. Isn't that what we should all be aiming for as CAD managers?

I hope you find Carr's article as thought-provoking as I did. I also hope you'll forward this to others in your organization who might benefit from it so you can keep the conversation about automation in your design environment going. And finally, I promise to report back on Carr's book once I've read it.


About the Author: Robert Green

Robert Green

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