Summary of “To Automate Is Human”

According to the historian Yuval Noah Harari in Sapiens, it was only with the burgeoning of Enlightenment humanism that we established our metaphysical difference from and instrumental approach to animals, as well as enshrining the supposed superiority of the human mind.
While such technology represents a formidable upheaval to the world of labour and markets, the goal of these inventions is very old indeed: exporting a task to an autonomous system or independent set of tools that can finish the job without continued human input.
It follows that there are two kinds of automation: those that are energetically independent, requiring human guidance but not much human muscle power, and those that are also independent of human mental input.
None of these early automations are ‘smart’ – they all serve to export the business of human muscles rather than human brains, and without of a human controller, none of them could gather information about the trajectory, and change course accordingly.
We might even include carts and ploughs drawn by beasts of burden, which exported from human backs the weight of carried goods, and from human hands the blisters of the farmer’s hoe.
Cognitive automation – exporting the human guidance and mental involvement in a task – is newer, but still much older than vacuum tubes or silicon chips.
We didn’t suddenly invent a new concept of human behaviour – we merely combined two deep-seated human proclivities with origins stretching back to before recorded history.
Tasks such as photo-editing, gaming or browsing the web are more complex, but are ultimately layers of human instructions, committed to external memory being carried out by machines that can read it.

The orginal article.