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Reality Check: Weirdly's Dale Clareburt

As part of Idealog's Technology Month, we've picked the brains of some of the movers and shakers in the industry to find out their favourite tech-related things, their biggest fears for the future and what other companies and individuals inspire their work. Here's Weirdly's Dale Clareburt.

What’s your favourite…

Technology you can’t live without?

Facebook – I use it the most out of everything. My iPhone. If I leave home without it I feel incomplete, like something might go wrong.

Underrated or old technology?

Actually using your phone to speak to people. It’s a dying form of communication but I miss it.

New Zealand tech company or individual in that space that’s doing seriously cool things?

Rocket Labs – How cool is it that NZ was the 11th Country in the world to launch a rocket into space.

Global tech company or individual in that space that’s doing seriously cool things?

Elon Musk – I love how he has the power to effect massive shifts for the good of humans. Solar energy, electric cars and also that he is questions big stuff like the impact of AI on humanity. He’s got a lot of clout and is using it.

Tech project or product you’ve had a hand in?

Our very own Weirdly! Creating a product from scratch that people will pay money to use is extraordinarily satisfying.

What first drew you to this industry?

I saw a problem/opportunity to bring tech to an industry that needs it. And we targeted a particular area that is still using people's “gut instinct” and have started automating this.

What do you enjoy the most about working in tech?

The ridiculous pace of it. Things move so fast that you’re always on your toes. You never get bored.

How would you describe New Zealand’s tech culture?

It’s growing and evolving. But we still have a long way to go until we’ve reached our full potential. I think New Zealand is primed to be a tech industry world leader. We’ve got all the right ingredients but we’re really bad at sharing our stories so we can learn fast from each other.

Where does inspiration come from for you?

I love waking up in the middle of night buzzing with ideas on how technology has the ability to solve global problems. I am fuelled by the frustration that it’s taking us too long.

Reality check

How has tech impacted on your work? How will it impact on it in the future?

I can work smarter, faster, better, more. I’m finding pieces of tech that are taking some of the pain out of my day enabling to get on doing the cool shiz I enjoy. I’m looking forward to tech automating more and more of what I do so that I can spend my time thinking about what the future of society can be.

What’s been the most concerning change that technology has made to human behaviour, in your experience?

Reduction in face to face and verbal interaction. I think it inhibits our ability to effectively communicate therefore effects the outcomes of conversations, collaboration etc.  We’re taking away some of the best tools that humans have. Emojis have come a long way but they don’t fully replace the speed at which we change our facial expressions or tone of voice. And the warmth of physical contact too. It will be interesting to see what normal human interaction will be in the future.

How would you describe your relationship with technology? Do you think you’re addicted to any form of it?

Unfortunately yes. I am addicted to looking at my phone. I realised this more when I purposely gave myself a few two hour breaks during the day when I was on holiday. I felt so free. It felt really strange. I kind of liked it. But I still reverted back to my old habits as soon as I was back to work.

Do you think social media is a blessing or a curse?

I know it’s a cop out but probably both. I think it’s a blessing. It’s made such a different with connectivity with each other all over the world. For family, friends and work this is great. But I also think its turning into a curse. Our uptake is now so huge that it’s taken over face to face and verbal interaction as a primary way to communicate. This really freaks me out. I love meeting and speaking with people. I miss it already in day to day business. I used to get calls on my birthday, not I get Facebook messages.

What needs to be done to tackle the diversity issue in tech?

It depends on what you mean by diversity. If you mean gender and ethnicity then I believe that the remote working and gig economy is starting to balance this out. I think that there needs to be “diversity debt” consultants going into tech companies to teach them how to create diversity in everything that they do – the recruitment process, the management and collaboration techniques that they use. We need to change everything. The business structures we have are built to suit an environment that does not create diversity. We need to find a way to change the way we recruit. We need start assessing people on their attributes, characteristics, values, purpose, potential, outcomes, achievements. This sounds pretty aspirational based on what we know today but it’s happening.

What worries you the most about technology?

That there’s going to be one piece of tech to rule them all. At present we are going through a period of fearing the leaders of certain governments and what they’re going to go. The ultimate power is shifting to global tech. What kind of decisions will they be making for us in the future? How we behave, our choices etc.

What’s your scariest prediction for the future? Will the robots kill us all?

Haha. I hope they don’t kill us all. But I think that after we’ve got through our current diversity issues that they will transfer to diversity of humans vs. AI in the workplace. What will the best ratios be in the future? I’m not sure I think that this is a scary proposition, but it’s certainly going to start happening pretty fast.