Ironies of Automation

“…the more we automate, and the more sophisticated we make that automation, the more we become dependent on a highly skilled human operator.”

-Adrian Colyer, “Ironies of automation.” the morning paper. January 8, 2020.

A robot surgeon might be a great idea, but it’s going to handle the routine, the easy surgeries. What’s left is what’s hard. That’ll be the new work for human surgeons.

And who fixes the surgeries that the robot got wrong? Who watches the robot surgeons and steps in when they can’t do they job?

This is true of automation in every area. The jobs it eliminates are the easy, routine jobs. With more automation, the level of difficulty simply goes up.

If the robot does the job better, then they get the job. But, someone who does the job better than robots will always have to evaluate their work and step in when the work is beyond them.

Where will we find such people, if we don’t become them?

Wearable Robots | Science

“…it is realistic to think that we will witness, in the next several years, the development of robust human-robot interfaces to command wearable robotics based on the decoding of a representative part of the neural code of movement in humans. The need for wearable technologies that minimally alter human biomechanics will result in a transition from rigid wearable robots to soft exosuits such as the one reported by Kim et al., and, eventually, to implantable neuroprostheses that can influence or
assist human movement. The need for preserving human neuromechanics while using assistive technology will likely lead to implantable and networked recording and stimulation neuroprostheses. Such devices would implement effective interfaces to decode the wearer’s movement intent and influence it when necessary to enhance human performance (7).”

—José L. Pons, et al, ” Witnessing a wearables transition.” Science. 16 Aug 2019: Vol. 365, Issue 6454, pp. 636-637.

Practical applications to efforts like Elon Musk’s Neurolink weren’t immediately apparent to me. Ok, a neuro-implant as a human artificial intelligence interface may make sense a few decades off. However, a neuronal interface for a soft exosuit seems like it something that could be used today.

Why the Future Doesn’t Need Us | WIRED

“Each of us has our precious things, and as we care for them we locate the essence of our humanity.”

—Bill Joy, “Why the Future Doesn’t Need Us.” Wired. April 2000.

Figured it was time to revisit this old classic and get a feel for how prescient it was almost 20 years on. Still feels right on, particularly around CRISPR. The problems of runaway nanotechnology still seems far off, but it’s visible on the horizon.

Open question: Can technology’s risk of causing human extinction be mitigated?

Jolly Roger Telephone Company

“Tired of telemarketers calling your landline or mobile?

Now there’s a way to fight back!

We provide friendly, patient robots that talk to these rude telemarketers for you. They love to chit-chat, and will often keep nasty callers engaged for several minutes.

By keeping the bad guys busy, you keep them from pestering other innocent people, and you hit them where it hurts most…their wallets…because no matter how hard they try, our robots won’t ever buy anything.