Improved Technologies Have Unintended Consequences

driverless cars

I recently came across an interesting article on about the unintended consequences of driverless cars. This article was written by someone whose a family member received a donated lung from a car accident victim. Their family member had been saved by this donation, as had another four individuals who benefited from the harvested organs from this accident victim. Driverless cars are supposed to reduce highway deaths by over 30,000. This is a noble intended consequence, but what will happen to the people waiting to receive donated organs? Their mortality rate will rise as a result of fewer organs being available from car wreck victims. This is a negative and unintended consequence. This got me to thinking about what other possible unintended consequences we might see from changes in technology.

Improved Technologies Have Unintended Consequences

Staying With Driverless Cars

Beyond the reduction of organ donors that are available, what are some of the other unintended consequences of driverless cars? There are several jobs that could be negatively affected by driverless cars reducing accidents. These include:

  • Emergency room nurses and doctors
  • Ambulance drivers
  • Insurance agents
  • Lawyers

Beyond the reduction in accidents, just the need for fewer drivers will affect many jobs as well, though that is an intended consequence. What about something closer to HR?

Unintended HR Consequences

One of the advancing technologies that many companies may take advantage of is the Internet of Things, which makes it possible to track employees’ whereabouts during the day. This has both positive intended consequences and possible unintended negative consequences. The positive would be increased productivity by being able to provide the best routes for employees, both internally and externally. Less time would be wasted. The unintended consequences might be workers’ displeasure with intrusive surveillance leading to worker unrest because they feel their privacy is being invaded.

Job Loss

Obviously one of the intended consequences of technology is job loss. Replacing workers who perform rote tasks makes perfect sense in today’s world. We use technology to improve speed and performance over what humans can do, such as on an assembly line. Sometimes, however, we don’t think beyond that immediate job reduction. This is called the “imperious immediacy of interest,” but if we were to think beyond the immediate fewer factory workers, we might also see that it may mean fewer office workers, fewer supervisors, fewer managers, fewer HR people, and fewer executives. These jobs may not themselves deal with rote and repetitious work, but with fewer line employees all those staff jobs are also not needed.

Vetting Technology

To get past the problem of Merton’s imperious immediacy of interest, it might be helpful to have someone else look at your technology plans and see if they can determine what unintended consequences might be. Jim Taylor, writing in Psychology Today, says that software companies get by this through “leaking” their software to unallied developers to see if these people can poke holes or find bugs that can then be fixed. Getting others involved in the process of introducing some major technological change may help prevent major mistakes and unintended consequences of your actions.

Take that thought into consideration before you move ahead in technology changes. It doesn’t mean you will stop what you are doing, but anticipating unintended consequences may save a great deal of heartache for all the parties involved.

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Mike Haberman

Michael (Mike) D. Haberman, SPHR is a consultant, speaker, writer of HR Observations, and co-founder of Omega HR Solutions, Inc. After over 30 years in HR he got tired of the past and focuses here on the Future of HR. Connect with Mike.

Reader Interactions


  1. Naveen Kumar says

    Emergency room nurses and doctors is very surprised and I am very excited to see this cars In our country because we have facing many accidents in these days well the Technology is ungraded this day and no doubts it will helps human for many purposes … Thank you for gaining my knowledge surely I will share this page on my Facebook account with my friends:))


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