Dale H. Emery posts at Conversations with Dale The Purpose of Automation
Sometimes our purpose in automating is to do the "impossible" - that is, to make a qualitative leap, a discontinuous improvement in the quality attributes of a process. The rest of the time, our purpose is a more modest improvement - measurable and noticeable, but not necessarily a qualitative leap.
In either case, the purpose of automation is, always and entirely, to improve the quality attributes of a process.
The emphasis of the post and ensuing discussion in the comments is whether Dale has it right. I like his summary above, and I took this another direction as I read it.
We use computers because they do things better and differently than we can do ourselves. Dale suggests this primarily with operations around information (copy, store, retrieve). But what about the other side of the question? Where does automation not work? Following Dale's discussion, it doesn't work when humans have a better capacity than does automation. And this goes far beyond copy, store, retrieve. We have amazing abilities to see threads and patterns where none are obvious.
This is where technology has helped so much. I don't want to deal with the mundane and repetitive - make that go away, so I can spend more time pondering the nature of humans.
Maybe automation gives us more opportunity to be uniquely human.
[Now if we could just convince Dale to provide a full web feed instead of the brief teasers.]