A director of Airbus Industries once assured me that the public would never accept flying in an aircraft with less than one pilot. Even though planes can safely take off, cruise and land by remote control.
There is an analogy here with the headlong rush, accelerated by Internet technologies, to eliminate the human element in many systems. Smarter organisations are beginning to realise that the technology is pushing the pendulum too far from humans for comfort.
Web butlers were supposed to bring us exactly what we need. But they still bring us too much rubbish. Companies that recruit directly via the Internet to cut out the middleman find themselves awash with useless CVs. Remote homeworking, designed to slash desk space costs, risks creating detachment. And, as we know, voicemail without human help is a nightmare.
The pendulum is starting to swing back. Many organisations find the true benefits only come when a human presence is integrated into the system.
It's ironic that First Tuesday, one of the most successful matchmaking ventures between would-be dotcom start-ups and venture capitalists, relies on face-to-face monthly mass meetings.
That is a lesson for all of us. The hardware and software will only work effectively with judicious integration of warmware human interaction.
This was first published in February 2000