07. January 2015 · Comments Off on Moving to “Human Centered Automation” · Categories: Uncategorized

Last fall there was a lot of discussion concerning automation in WSJ. It is worth revisiting this again as the topic will continue to be very relevant.

On October 28, WSJ’s Rachel King wrote about the introduction of bilingual robots that can provide customer service at Lowe’s.

About a month later Nicholas Carr wrote a piece for the WSJ entitled, “Automation Makes Us Dumb.”

A couple of points from Carr’s article,

  1. An over-reliance on automation creates an environment where skills can atrophy as workers become comfortable on technology to handle a growing number of tasks.
  2. The downside of this is that the chance of mistakes increases greatly. As an example, Carr mentions airline pilots. British aviation researcher Matthew Ebbatson noted that, “Flying skills decay quite rapidly towards the fringes of tolerable performance without relatively frequent practice.”
    1. The articles noted that automation related pilot errors played a role in the 2009 crashes of Continental Flight 3407 in Buffalo and Air France Flight 447 in the Atlantic Ocean, and the botched landing of Asiana Flight 214 in San Francisco in 2013.
  3. In regards to doctors the reliance on automation creates distance between doctors and patients. Without interacting enough with a patient “important diagnostic signals” can be overlooked. Readers will want to take a look at the findings Carr includes from SUNY Albany professor Timothy Hoff, Harvard Medical School professor Beth Lown (and her student Dayron Rodriguez), and Hardeep Singh from       the journal Diagnosis.
  4. For architects the creative process can be hindered by the automation process. If computer aided design is brought in too early in the design process it can “deaden the aesthetic sensitivity and conceptual insight that come from sketching and model-building.” It is actually better to work by hand at least in the early stage of the design. Readers will want to take a look at the quotes from Nigel Cross (a design professor at the U.K.’s Open University), Finnish architect Juhani Pallasmaa, and University of Miami architecture professor Jacob Brillhart.
  5. The solution to all this is to move from “technology centered automation” to “human centered automation”. With “human centered automation” Carr notes that the technology becomes a partner for the worker and not a replacement. In addition the talents of the worker take precedence.

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