Updated: Dec 3, 2020
Technology has incredible power to make our jobs easier, provide instantaneous insight which would have previously required days or weeks of computation, improve results beyond anything thought possible, and propel us knee deep into the glitz and glamour of Industry 4.0. I'm continually amazed at the progress possible utilizing digital tools including advanced measurement systems, predictive analytics, and all the other fancy tools and promises of the data revolution. I'm also frequently impressed at the deception and false roads taken when we blindly put our trust in data. It's as if we believe it must be true if a computer says it's so. And that's where the Duality of Technology becomes apparent.
Data = Insight
Inaccurate data = Disaster
More information = Greater ability to solve problems
False correlations = Incorrect decision making and creation of additional problems
Analytics = Truth
Analytics built on pre-scrubbed data = A rabbit hole of dead ends
If you don't have accurate and trustworthy data or if the predictive models you built are poor, not only will you waste time and effort, but you're likely to leave chaos in your wake. Unfortunately, it's often too late when these errors are discovered. It's almost as if it has to hit the fan before it becomes clear something went wrong in the upfront work required to implement advanced technology. This part is painful.
The other Duality of Technology I find hilarious is how worthless technology can be when it doesn't work well. When a measurement system fails, you have an expensive system of less use than a $5 tape measure. When a sensor dies, darkness falls over the signals in your system. The more advanced the technology, the more ineffective it is when it fails. At least when a digital alarm clock fails, it becomes a paperweight. When a cell phone loses signal, it can play your downloaded music and allow you to finish your game of candy crush. But when SAAS fails, all you get is an ominous Something Went Wrong message from Google Chrome.
My favorite quote related to the Hilarity of Technology is:
An escalator can never break: it can only become stairs. You should never see an Escalator Temporarily Out of Order sign, just Escalator Temporarily Stairs. Sorry for the convenience.
- Mitch Hedberg
As we push for more advancements in support of Industry 4.0, we must keep in mind we're losing our ability to put up signs that say Escalator Temporarily Stairs. Embrace these incredible tools, but do so with a healthy dose of rigor in implementation and skepticism in application. Do so and you'll appreciate all Industry 4.0 has to offer.