I hate spending time on repetitive tasks. Why waste your time, when machines can handle them better than you?
This week, my colleague and I were figuring out how to prepare certificates for a group of volunteers. We had a template from previous years. But it was in Microsoft Word format. We wanted to convert it to Google Docs format to make it easier to work together on the same file (though you can use Docs to open Word files directly). Turns out, Google Slides was a better option because of its ability to layer images and text boxes.
There were 65 certificates to prepare. That’s not a big number, for sure. But copying and pasting names over and over again can be cumbersome. So, being lazy, I searched for a more efficient way. And I found that you could actually write a script to automate the entire process by pulling data from Google Sheets. That’s not a problem because our volunteer database was in Google Sheets.
The irony is that I could have earned more by preparing the certificates the slow and laborious way since I’m paid by the hour. Which reminds me of the endless debates on humans vs robots.
The fear is that technology will eventually replace most of our jobs. And those who prosper are going to be the elite few who own the machines. The rest of us will be left out.
But will that really happen?
We are human.
And that’s something we can be proud of. Yes, we are not the strongest species on this planet. Nor the fastest. Nor are we like robots, which can work 24/7 except during times of maintenance.
But we do have the ability to make judgement calls.
I could prepare certificates by pulling data from our volunteer database easily. But we had decisions to make. Do we give a certificate of appreciation for someone who stopped volunteering halfway through the year? Should their reasons for stopping be part of the consideration?
I’m not a computer scientist. And I’m not familiar with machine learning and artificial intelligence (AI). But I do believe that no matter how good AI can get – at least for the foreseeable future – they still cannot replace a person’s ability to make judgement calls. And they cannot consider moral and ethical issues.
That means you and I have nothing to fear about automation.
While certain jobs might be replaced, others will be created. We just have to keep an open mind to be able to take up new opportunities when previous ones are closed. If we lose our jobs in one area, we can pick up other skills to move to another area.
We can choose to rise above the threat of automation. To learn to master technology instead of letting it master us. Instead of remaining stagnant, we can keep learning and moving.
If we fall, we can wipe the dust off our knees and stand up again.
Don’t let anyone tell you that technology is taking away your livelihood and instil fear in you. Because you have the ability to adapt and to come through any difficult seasons.
But it also means we have a responsibility.
We have to choose to position and move towards roles that require us to make more judgement calls and assign value to decisions. We cannot choose to remain stuck in roles that only need us to show up to do the same things over and over again.
While we can start from a junior role that might involve following procedures and operate out of a manual, we cannot remain in those roles forever. We can’t be a cog in the machine and still demand our pay raise every year. And we can no longer expect to get paid while trying to do the bare minimum in our jobs.
If you are willing to embrace it, technology can be a great help. But it will also threaten your livelihood if you choose to remain stuck where you are.