The Problem With Automation

Automation is amazing. I was just telling my pastor about the perks of the Twitter timer I use. I love being able to schedule my engagement. It decreases my screen time and still makes sure that I’m properly branded.

Ok, now that I’ve sang it’s praises, let’s look at the problem with it: human error. I suppose that’s not a problem with the technology but, because we fail to factor humanity into our great technological enhancements, we’re always going to fall short of perfection. One example is the time I set my coffee timer, put the coffee in the maker, added the water, and woke up the next morning to grainy brown water. Why? Oh yeah, I didn’t put the filter in before the coffee.

Or, an example from this morning is the e-mail I got from a non-profit that I’ve supported letting me know that today is the day to make my Giving Tuesday donation. Ummm… sir, as someone who spent half a decade in the field of development, I can guarantee you that Giving Tuesday is the Tuesday following Thanksgiving. And I’m sure the solicitor knows that too. What the automation system he used doesn’t know is that his hand slipped when he was setting the auto-timer and there was no failsafe to catch the mistake. That probably cost the nonprofit some money, caused some embarrassment and, if nothing else, in the hour and a half since I got the e-mail, I’m willing to bet he’s gotten at least 5 e-mails letting him know he’s wrong (I’m not one of them but I thought about it).

Automation is great but, as long as humans have their hands on it, things will still mess up. Sometimes it’s better to do things the old fashioned way. Or, another great option is to couple the two when you can. Write the e-mail, sit it in your draft folder and have Siri remind you when to hit sent. Just an idea.


Make managing human error a priority.