Automation is everywhere. We fear the robots, but it is in fact a more insidious kind of automation, driven by algorithms and presented in a playful way, that is slowly corroding the social fabric. This “soft automation”, the use of algorithms to eliminate semi-skilled white-collar jobs, is transforming services into self-services, and killing the middle class as a result of it.
There is a lot of concern over automation (Vallor, 2014). From the future of work in the face of disappearing jobs (Srnicek and Williams, 2015) to the fear of an AI planet (Bostrom, 2016), we are witnessing a revolution across labor: in the way it is organized, rewarded, and eliminated. We should be afraid of automation. Not only of the robots that will deprive factories from human jobs that require skill and expertise but not an academic education, but also of the quotidian, mundane forms of automation we are silently letting take hold of our daily life.