Friday, May 31, 2019

Manual work

It is a well-known and recognised fact: manual work makes you happy.  And the more you do of it - the better.  The benefits are wide and deep: from self-appreciation, confidence building, skill development, respect for money, to better mental and physical health - down to just being tired and enjoying your rest.

I don't believe that manual labour is for those who are just not 'bright enough' to succeed academically.  Yes, our society rewards academia (which, ironically, is the case in both capitalism and communism!) but here is a rather peculiar paradox: the more postgraduates and PhDs we create, the value of each freshly minted academic continues to diminish, with more competition resulting in lower-earning prospects. In comparison, the earning capacity of a plumber, machinist or a 'dying trade' watchmaker will only increase in years to come.

After watching a number of TED talks recently about Industry 4.0 and the diminishing role of humans in the next manufacturing revolution here are my findings:

- clearly, robots will continue to make things faster and better than humans but artificial intelligence is not a replacement for intelligence.

- empathy: robots have no feelings. Any manual job which also requires at least some level of empathy may prove to be too difficult for robots.

- arts, crafts and hand-made objects will be recognised and appreciated more. "Made by humans" will be significantly more valuable in years to come.  Conservation, repairs and the restoration of objects which have historical and sentimental value are simply too complex for non-humans.

You may be surprised but fully automated watch manufacturing and watch assembly plants already exist.  Indeed, most likely, the watch you wear today has been made with minimal input of a human - or possibly made without any human involvement at all.

I'll leave you with just one example.  Yesterday a Movado triple calendar wrist watch came in for repair.  It is a calibre 470 which I have not seen before.  Immediately I asked my apprentices to gather around the work bench so we can admire the beauty and uniqueness of the winding mechanism.  And the beauty was in a least expected detail - in two screws which can only be described as a work of art.  Further research of the calibre revealed that the C 470 was designed in 1927 by Frederic Piguet and was in production until 1954.   
Training young apprentices to recognise the beauty of a mechanical timepiece is easy but impossible for robots. 

And here is my question to you (just to make sure that the newsletter is not being read by robots but by humans):

Why are the screws on the two wheels of a different size, with a smaller diameter screw head being placed over the larger wheel and not the other way around?

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