There is an inherent tension between the human spirit and technological advancement.

These kind of stories go back centuries. One of my favorite stories growing up was of Paul Bunyan, his big blue ox Babe, and the competition with a chain-saw salesperson. Walt Disney first released this cartoon in 1958. You can watch it here. The conflict is familiar. Humans have worked hard – toned their bodies, perfected the fundamentals, and learned what it takes to be successful at a task. In this case, the task is harvesting lumber. Yet, predictably, technology comes along and figures out how to perform the same tasks more efficiently. Poor Paul!

If history has taught us anything, it’s that technology advancement is inevitable. Kevin Kelly talks about this in his book What Technology Wants. He says:

“If you watch the curve of science and everything we know, it shoots up like a rocket. We’re on this rocket and we’re going perfectly vertical into the stars. But the emotional intelligence of humankind is equally if not more important than our intellectual intelligence. We’re just as emotionally illiterate as we were 5,000 years ago; so emotionally our line is completely horizontal. The problem is the horizontal and the vertical are getting farther and farther apart. And as these things grow apart, there’s going to be some kind of consequence of that.

Technology advancement being inevitable is generally a good thing. I, for one, am glad to drive a car to Florida in a weekend rather than ride a horse for weeks on end. Technology advancement often makes life better, easier, and more convenient. It allows us to focus on other things – often things that are more important or valuable to us.

But that isn’t to say advancement comes without a cost. Often individuals have tied their identities to their work, like our friend Paul Bunyan. Their sense of accomplishment stems from the pride they feel when they complete the tasks laid in front of them, and taking those tasks away threatens their identity.

In my experience, this is what is fueling the controversy around the “Robot vs. Human” conversation. It isn’t that we don’t want things to be easier for all involved, it’s that we don’t want to take away someone’s identity. We don’t want to take away somebody’s meaning, because that feels cruel. Who can’t identify with Paul as he walks away dejected after losing the competition?

Yet, I find that is also the very soul of the issue. What one generation finds meaning in, the next generation considers mundane, monotonous work. Technology advances at the rate of individual meaning.

In culture today, we continue to hear about the concepts of “Quiet Quitting” and “The Great Resignation.” The early 2020s will forever be marked by the masses saying they want to do more meaningful work. They have an internal need for their jobs to be impactful, and they are not finding the current work they are doing to fulfill that need.

That’s why this is the EXACT time to embrace technological advancements. Our very culture is begging for the chance to retool skills and focus on more meaningful, impactful work.

There’s no stopping technology. It will continue advancing as it always has. The challenge comes in aligning technology with people’s motivations . Retooling, reskilling, and retraining – these are the ways forward as a society, as organizations, and as individuals.

Meet the Author

Jason BeutlerJason Beutler is the CEO and founder of RoboSource. He loves talking about the future of meaningful work and society. Engagement in the conversation by reaching out to