I’ve always worked the Unglamorous jobs; retail clerk, general laborer, warehouse schlep. My ongoing joke, good for one use per work crew attended, I comment on how, when scientists advance humanoid robots sufficiently, our jobs are toast.
This is not far wrong, as manual, repetitive tasks are ripe for future robotic drones. But today I realized I was missing a crucial corporate function that already has been refined to non-human algorithms: Human Resources.
I easily envision a near-future candidate (call him Bob) nervously tugging on his Windsor knot and checking for lint on his shoulders in a sterile waiting room, when his name is called by a pinkish Bakelite construct in a neutral pant suit. He rises and extends his hand. The Robot (call her Jane) fails the nonverbal cue and says “Pleased to meet you. Follow me.” In Jane’s tiny cubicle, Bob squeezes into a uncomfortable wire framed chair close enough to her desk to bump his knee. She pauses, then begins her programmed litany delivered in an impersonal, emotionless state expected of a walking computer…
Just like the woman I met the other day. Reading from a memorized script, asking situational questions about hypothetical performance issues that assumes I had run into them before: “Explain a time when a coworker took his lunch before his scheduled break. What did you do?” You know the drill.
Before I got to talk to an arguably real person, I had to endure the hour-long process of creating a user profile on the company’s careers web site, type in my work history, education, references, and THEN upload my resume - upon which all the above information already resides. Then comes the 125 question “Personality Test,” designed to screen out 9 out of 10 applicants. Since all this is already online, expect future HR drones to come equipped standard issue.
Back to Bob and Jane. As she politely but firmly leads him out of her space, uttering platitudes timed with her steps to end precisely as they reach the door, Bob again moved to shake her hand, stopping awkwardly midway. He glances are her vacant eyes, her rubbery smile, her total lack of interest. And he thinks, “A human could do this job.”