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.


Don’t Be Mad at the Comp…etition

I just got an e-mail from one of my numerous photography newsletters. The headline said “Social Media is Ruining Photography.”

Let’s face it: We have a love-hate relationship with technology. We enjoy the ease with which we can maneuver through the day but we abhor the fact that simple jobs can now be done without us, meaning we have to work harder to make ourselves valuable. I even catch myself hating on Siri and her smart-sounding self (I set mine to have a posh British accent). She has never touched an encyclopedia, yet she knows almost everything. And she’ll tell you a joke if you ask her to. It’s almost like we don’t need humans anymore for 87% of life’s functions.

But we do need humans. We need humans to be better. This morning, I pulled up on a deadly train accident and wanted to photograph all of the yellow tape and flashing lights that surrounded the intersection. Issue is, because it was raining heavily today, I had resolved to leave my camera at home. Big mistake. I refuse to take a photo I have an intentional vision for with my iPhone. Sure, it’s fast and the image will be decent but it will always leave me wondering what my own human ingenuity could’ve created without the automatic lighting adjustments iOS makes.

No one really feels like lighting candles every night. And I’m not trying to light a fire to cook my dinner. Technology makes life easier. But the touch we place on life makes it engaging. So, don’t blame social media or technology for ruining art or taking your jobs. Art is a derivative of emotion. Creativity and problem solving comes with human empathy. Without an emotional experience, those things are as good as a forgery.


Make being better than technology a priority.

Manipulate the System

I’ll kick it off by saying that being a young professional in today’s society is a double-edged sword that most Baby Boomers do not understand. I talk with my mom and grandma often and, when I am looking for a new job, they think it should be easy for someone with my skills and experience to find employment. And it would be very easy were it 1980 or before. Shoot, before 2000, you could walk into a company, shake someone’s hand, and make an excellent first impression when you handed a crafted résumé and cover letter to a receptionist or, if you were lucky, hiring manager.
That was then. Now we have to navigate through automated systems that often fail horribly at selecting the right person for the job. There are so many qualified candidates that human beings don’t put their eyes on applications until they’re sifted through by A.I. That’s the system, that’s the way it is, maybe we will be able to go back one day but, today, that’s reality.
Boom. I’ve covered myself. So what do we do now? We manipulate the unfair system to our advantage. We use the tools that do help us develop as young professionals to make ourselves stand out. We take the time to throw industry jargon into our LinkedIn profiles. We add key words from the job description to our résumé and cover letters to make sure our applications are selected by the A.I. systems. We go to the networking events so we can get in the rooms that the decision makers are in and, when in those rooms, we have something to say.
Technology makes things easier but it makes truly connecting more difficult. No one understands that more than those of us who learned with both a pencil at the first half of our childhood and a keyboard during our adolescence. We went to college, got out weighed down by debt, and the jobs weren’t there. Many of us are within 3 years of 30 on either side and we wonder why we haven’t made it to where The Wonder Years and The Cosby Show said we should be by now. Well, it’s because of tech. No one was ready for it. But, unless The Walking Dead is a premonition, it’s here to stay. So let’s hedge our bets and learn this new system. Take full advantage of apps like LinkedIn, Glassdoor and Monster. Invest in your professional development and personal branding. It’s the only way we’ll advance.
Oh… and don’t let Boomers or anyone else shame you for not “having it together” yet. You’ll get where you’re supposed to be when you’re supposed to be there.
Make trusting the process a priority.

Don’t Be Smart. Be A.I.-Proof.

Today, as I was driving to work, I saw a machine shredding tree branches down to twigs and I said to Desirée, “25 years ago, that job would’ve been done by 5 to 10 men. I feel bad for these guys who are losing manual labor jobs to machines just so the rich can get richer.”

Then, this morning as I was cleaning out my inbox, I saw an article about jobs that aren’t manual labor being taken by Artificial Intelligence and I realized that, if we don’t set ourselves apart, Siri could take anyone’s job. Technology is powerful. Honestly, I don’t need to ask my department’s administrative assistant for any basic things that leadership used to ask for. I’m not asking for her to get me someone’s number because Siri can do that. I’m not asking her to run copies for me because, in the time it would take me to either walk them to her or for her to come get them from me, I could tell my phone to print 25 copies without skipping a beat.

So how do you tech-proof your job? You don’t. You add insurance to your job by developing a skill that a computer system cannot do as well as you. Being replaced by a human doesn’t change the cost incurred by a company. But it’s always beneficial to replace a human with a machine if the output is of the same caliber or higher because, at that point, you don’t have the issues that come with humans.

Tech-proof yourself because the Matrix is not that far off.


Make professional development a priority.

The 12 best new features coming to the iPhone.

A new version of Apple’s smartphone and tablet operating system is coming out and Business Insider touches on what you should be looking for on iOS 9.  Some of the artificial intelligence is a bit more than you may be comfortable with (everything from reading your email while the phone is ringing to reminding you what to do based on the location you’re in) but then again, so was Siri to begin with and now she’s one of my favorite “people” to talk to when none of my “real” friends will pick up the phone.  Personally, I believe that with technology continuing to take such strides forward, we will need to work even harder to maintain our independence so as not to be too reliant on it but it is nice to have the option of using it (for example, the other day, I went and picked up a map just so I would still be able to use it if my phone ever dies when I need directions).  Anyway, check out this video from Business Insider and let me know what you think of the new features down in the comments section.

iOS 9 Proactive  - image credit Apple

Source: Business Insider

Image Source: Forbes

Facebook Hires “Deep Learning” Expert To Lead Artificial Intelligence Research Lab

So, we’ve all seen films like A.I. or The Matrix.  Most of us know someone who has a phone that can hear what its owner is saying and act accordingly.  But how far is artificial intelligence going to go?  And more importantly, how far do we want it to go?  Facebook may be making that decision for us as it embarks on a path to push the envelope.  This FastCompany article by Jenna Kagel delves into the topic at hand.

Brain Functino


In September, Facebook announced its plans for a lab devoted to making advances in artificial intelligence. Today, it was announced that NYU Professor Yann LeCun has been appointed the lab’s director.

LeCun is currently the director of Data Science at NYU, where his research focuses on “deep learning–a branch of machine learning in which researchers aim to emulate humans’ auditory and visual systems.” Together, Facebook and NYU will conduct studies in the areas of data science, machine learning, and AI. LeCun’s team, which is still hiring additional staff, will be based out of three locations: Menlo Park, California (Facebook’s headquarters), New York City, and London.

Artificial intelligence has huge potential for giants like Facebook, and it’s a field being eyed by Google, as well. Last year Google hired Ray Kurzeweil to focus on machine-learning and language-processing. It’s possible Facebook could utilize artificial intelligence and deep learning to better harness the power of the massive amounts of data it collects, serve up better content to users, and of course, improve their advertisements.

Source: FastCo