The Future of Automation: How far should we go?

Automation seems to be all around us, from the everyday ATMs, to the evolving self-driving cars, but the question remains: just because we can automate, should we?


We all would love to find that extra hour in our days—whether it be at work or at home, the allure of finding a way to make a repetitive task automatic is definitely attractive. Automating tasks essential to healthy living—brushing teeth, taking medication, homework (though that would take some doing) would be a big step toward a healthy, happy, productive life. We do not think about most of these tasks, we just get up and do them, but trying to mechanically automate such personal experiences does not seem practical. So how do we start automating a design process that engages everyone at an individual level?


The design process starts with the program, or the idea of a space is where design begins. In this phase, we, as designers, evaluate, analyze, anticipate every ounce of data we can gather to try and predict the needs that will arise tomorrow, ten, fifteen, even 20 years in the future. With sensors being an evolving product, the ability to automate the gathering of space usage information could be the next exciting starting point for automation.


After programming phase is complete, this is where automation could continue to benefit the design team. Computational design has given us the ability to twist, turn, push or pull so many variations, before running analysis on each to determine the most desired option. Where is the architect’s influence? Have we taken the pen out of their hands?


Now the design has been determined and documentation must take place, or does it? The idea of “modeling more and documenting less” was a point that stuck with me as I left the 2017 DTS conference, and now a year later, still sticks with me.  Modeling becomes the new documenting and by adding the data into the spaces, we could start to allow technology to produce model components based on desired specifications.


Can we automate the process of producing documents for compliance in the different jurisdictions? 


Can we automate the process to go from design, straight to construction robotics?


We can automate and most of us agree we should, but how do we humanize automation and how does it integrate coherently with the designers?


Despite all those questions and their answers, automation was the beginning of an industrial revolution and could be the tool to transform the construction industry as we move towards a better delivery method as designers.

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