The human impact of automation is of a twofold nature. It affects the physiological and psychological functioning of the individual, thus influencing social structures; it also induces a number of social and cultural changes which have repercussions on the individual. Wherever automation is introduced it leads to an important transformation of human existence in the biological, psychological and social spheres. The computer-type of automation in particular considerably affects human beings, who are more or less psychologically unprepared for changes of this kind. It may, in fact, be less harmful mentally for manual workers to have to accept new forms of mechanization which are only an extension of what they already know, than for office personnel to encounter a development which to some extent seems to menace their status by bringing it nearer to that of the machine operator. For both management and workers, serious problems arise. There is no assurance that the gains from new technology will be equitably distributed. Hardships accrue to individuals – and sometimes to large groups of workers in certain plants, industries, occupations or communities – who are displaced by technological change. The nature of the new work may be such as to create increased tension and loneliness. Management must also face problems of reorganization and adjustment of managerial personnel.
Automation is not leading towards a homogeneous society, but towards two incompatible societies. For every job that can be automated will be automated. The only non-automated jobs left will be leadership jobs. This dilemma will be one of the key problems facing humanity at the start of the next century.
Technological change often confers substantial benefits such as rising standards of living, greater leisure, reduction in the arduousness of work and more pleasant working conditions.