There has been much discussion about the effects of rampant automation on the economy and on the labor market in particular. There has been much less attention paid to its effects on human talent and motivation. But what decades of human-factors research tell us is that when computers and other machines take challenging tasks away from us, we turn into observers rather than actors. Distanced from our work, we lose our focus and become even more susceptible to distraction. And that ends up dulling our existing skills and hampering our ability to learn new ones.