Humanity is moving towards machine life

Business today runs on borrowed wheels and legs. No one owns anything any more. Everything is outsourced, dividing the world into silos of specific competence.
Illustration: Soumyadip Sinha
Illustration: Soumyadip Sinha

I was at a traffic signal, halted endlessly in my car. I looked ahead and saw a sea of two-wheelers. There was a Swiggy delivery boy with a large backpack tied to his shoulders, sitting on a Yulu bike, waiting for the signal to clear as well. As I scanned around, literally everyone on a two-wheeler was on a delivery mission. It was either an e-commerce delivery, D2C, food or even flower supply. Our big city roads are clogged with delivery angels heading to homes. Dashing around on their outsourced wheels, all in a hurry to meet delivery deadlines.

I got to my office and went onto my terrace deck to take a breather with a hot cup of coffee. And here, I saw this eagle fly. It was making these endless rounds all on its own, picking fallen twigs off the ground and flying them deftly to a tall tree where it was making a home. This eagle was building its nest, all by itself. It was a seasonal thing and was not being outsourced. It must be an art and a science of its own. This eagle knew how to do it well. As all eagles do. No eagle outsources anything. Not to any man, woman or bird.

But we humans do. Everything around us is progressively being outsourced. Seldom do we do things on our own. Owning every process, every thought, every system and every move is an antediluvian business and life practice. Business today runs on borrowed wheels and legs. The Swiggy delivery boy does not own the Yulu bike. It is borrowed for a price. The cloud kitchen of the restaurant from where the Swiggy order is picked up is not owned as well. It is outsourced. The chefs in it are outsourced. The supply-in mechanism is outsourced. The supply-out mechanism is outsourced. The premises are outsourced. No one owns anything any more. If you do, you are frowned upon. It’s an old business practice that is so-so yesterday. So inefficient as well.

When I look at the size of the outsourcing business in the world. The global BPO market size stands at an estimated $245.91 billion. The estimate for 2028 stands at $435.89 billion, with a salivatingly robust CAGR of 8.5%. Literally in every realm of progressive business, be it banking, financial services, healthcare or manufacturing, everyone is on a spree to outsource. Outsourcing brings with it the joy of improved efficiency, reduction of operational costs of every kind and is a useful way to provide support to customer services of every kind. This is a clever and cultivated process as opposed to the old practice of monopolistic business ownership of every link in the chain that believed in in-sourcing everything.

The business practice that has lost its relevance today seems to be the one that propagated ownership and generalisation. Today is the day and age of specialisation. Everyone seems to work best in a vertical of competence that is about fine-focus and finely defined. There is someone who is good at procurement, and then there is another who is good at one specific manufacturing process. The powder-coating guy is a specialist, just as a tool-lathe guy is a specialist.

Specialisation and the yen to outsource have therefore divided the world into silos of specific competence. The more you do one thing, the more you excel in it. A nice thought and one that has driven our industrial world for decades.

But it is time to question this thought. Must one specialise? Must one outsource competencies of every human kind? Isn’t man meant to be a comprehensive bundle of it all? The complete man even? As man outsources literally every activity he did on his own before, to minions of every kind, is he becoming good for nothing at all? Is outsourcing making us less competent, less wholesome and less willing to do all the dirty and hard jobs we did in the old days?

Let’s think about our own lives. I don’t know how to sharpen a kitchen knife. I don’t know how to replace a tyre on a car, fix a broken pipe, cook up a nice rasam, or even for that matter write a love letter. Everything is outsourced today, every small chore. And everything is available online. The idea is a simple one again. Why do the small things that take up so much personal time and energy? Let it all be outsourced as we occupy our mind and body time doing higher-end chores of higher value. But are we vacating spaces of basic competence we are meant to own and enjoy?

Are we becoming less of the animal we are meant to be? How animalistic are we really to date? And is being that animal we were meant to be considered to be a negative in itself? As we ostensibly ‘rise above’ into that stratosphere of higher-end chores, are we becoming totally incompetent as the human animal we were meant to be? Are we today able to do less and less of what we were meant to do and be?

Are we losing instinct? Basic animal instincts that can really keep us ahead in understanding our fellow beings all around us, both human, animal and plant? Are we therefore relying just too much on the word, uttered and written? Are the ear and tongue dominating our sense of seeing and touching and most importantly feeling?

Is the yen to outsource robbing it all completely? Are we lesser human beings today than we were meant to be? And have we done this to ourselves?

As we approach a machine life ahead, where the instrument and more importantly the sensor will dominate every system and process that governs our life, has man lost it really? Are we then inferior to the eagle that can still build its nest, twig by twig?

The answer is really blowing in the wind. We just need to have the ability to catch it and catch it right. By ourselves. Without outsourcing even that.

Harish Bijoor

Brand Guru & Founder, Harish Bijoor Consults


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