AI, automation and the merry-go-round of the mind

Is there such a thing as too much automation?

At a family wedding the other weekend, I fell into conversation with a relative who has several decades of experience in the aerospace industry. He bemoaned a growing problem among the younger engineers who work for him. It seems that some of these highly-paid professionals have not developed the ability to look at a finished piece of work and say – “That doesn’t seem right” – because they rely on their advanced computer systems to do the validation. When the computer makes a mistake, they do not have the breadth of experience to realize it.

This point resonated with me for the simple reason that I experience it every day. I’m a professional automator – I automate software processes for a living – and I spend a lot of time inside the Amazon Web Services cloud. AWS handles the compute, storage and networking details for me so I can focus on higher-level tasks, which is both nice and worrisome. Nice because I can get more done in less time, worrisome because I don’t get the opportunity to grapple with the implementation details of server and network virtualization. I understand those things on a theoretical level, but I don’t get to play with them much, and this sometimes hampers my grasp of what’s really going on beneath all the automation.

Continue reading “AI, automation and the merry-go-round of the mind”

AI, automation and the merry-go-round of the mind

What if you managed your workday like an OS scheduler?

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The longer you work in a knowledge-related job, the more responsibilities you have in a given day and the less likely you are to get any of them done. There are the five tasks you’ve been working on for two weeks that are due today, the ten things that were really due last week, the hot-button item that your boss invented unexpectedly this morning, and the ever-present backlog of stuff that you have to do sometime if you ever get the chance. Plus there are constant meetings, hallway conversations, instant messages, and emails. So…many…emails.

The worst part of this phenomenon is a nagging terror that of all the things you could be working on, you have chosen exactly the wrong one, and you will never get on top of anything ever again. (As you sit worrying about this, eleven urgent emails roll in.)

Priority

All this existential workplace angst boils down to a question of priority: what is the one best thing you should be doing right now?

Continue reading “What if you managed your workday like an OS scheduler?”

What if you managed your workday like an OS scheduler?

Loving The Cubicle, Part II

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So I’ve had some interesting feedback since posting about how I learned to love my cubicle.  While the majority of readers seemed to agree with the majority of the points in that article, I also heard from some vocal work-from-home proponents. The readers tended to fall into three categories:

Category 1. People who work remotely for an external company (the “classic” work-from-home situation)
Category 2. People who work remotely for themselves, as consultants or other business owners
Category 3. People who may or may not work from home themselves, but work with and/or employ those who do.

These people all offered interesting opinions about how working from home has impacted their professional effectiveness. Some of their ideas were ones I hadn’t considered. So here are a few of the new thoughts I’ve been chewing on – let’s keep the conversation going!

Continue reading “Loving The Cubicle, Part II”

Loving The Cubicle, Part II

How I Learned To Stop Worrying And Love The Cubicle

cityscape

HN Submission/Discussion

My name is Forrest Brazeal, and I work in a cubicle.

Sometimes it feels like I’m in the minority, especially among my tech-sector colleagues. Modern collaboration tools like Google Hangouts, Slack and Atlassian’s HipChat make working from home easier than ever; text, audio and video integrate to form a (seemingly) flawless illusion of constant connection. With software like this, who needs reality? Especially if reality is a numbered cubicle in a sweaty high-rise?

I’ll admit that working in a cube farm can feel a little soul-crushing at times. The daily commute eats into my free time and the break room keeps running out of hot chocolate packets. But every time I have to work remotely for one reason or another, it’s not long before I get the itch to go back to the office. Why would I prefer my cubicle over the carefree, location-independent lifestyle, you ask? Let’s look at three common gripes about cubicle work and see how they compare to the supposed advantages of working from home.

Continue reading “How I Learned To Stop Worrying And Love The Cubicle”

How I Learned To Stop Worrying And Love The Cubicle