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Opinion: Is technology making us bad at our jobs?

By Shannon Williams
Fri 6 May 2016
FYI, this story is more than a year old

The idea that robots will soon replace people in the workplace is nothing new. Every few months there’s a new report with some new statistics telling us who is at the most risk of being out of a job and which of our professions will no longer exist.

And while that is certainly a daunting prospect, we can't deny how much technology has immensely improved our lives and made a lot of tasks in many professionals easier.

Technology is evolving so rapidly that certain tasks once performed by people are automatically done without us even noticing. What that’s going to look like in five years none of us really know.

It got me thinking about how much stuff we take for granted - presuming that they’ll just get done, without a thought or care in the world.

This week a simple typo saw me send out a racial slur in the subject line of an email that was sent out to 5000 people. How did this happen? The simple answer is I didn’t proof read my email properly.

The long answer? We recently went back to manually entering our subject lines for these kinds of emails, when for the last year our system did it for us.

Have I become so used to technology covering my ass that I’ve become lazy?

How did I get here?

The writing biz is changing. Everyone knows that. In our newsroom we don't have sub editors and copy editors and proofreaders and all those other jobs companies used to use before the written word went to print. But our company doesn’t print anymore. It's no longer the case that once something is published it’s there forever. You can change things and edit things and correct things as much as you like because a web developer made some software to fix everything for you.

We no longer spend weeks or months on a story - we pump out news like it's going out fashion because the internet vacuums it up. If you don’t report it everyone else will, or already has.

It's a scary thought that in my mind that I’m no longer a newbie in my profession, yet someone straight out of school could probably do my job. Yeah I’ve been at it for a while and I know things and think things other people don’t. Unfortunately, education and years of experience – in life and in the professional sense - isn't necessarily the answer anymore. You could probably get the same result with a 20-year-old graduate armed with Microsoft Office and Google.

But have we become so reliant on technology and software we forget about things we used to do before we needed the software to do it? Yes. You become so use to the technology fixing your mistakes you start forget that you ever make any. Cue racist slur.

One other thing though - as much as technology can improve our lives and save time and do amazing things, it doesn’t go both ways. When it goes wrong you still need a name, a face, a person, to blame. You can’t blame invisible software for a typo.

Like I said in the opening of this piece, this concept is nothing new. But my cock up this week was actually refreshing – it was a wake up call, a not-so-humorous slap in the face to remind myself that technology isn't always the answer.

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