Business Unusual

The Automation Paradox - automation will make us safer then unsafe

Ask a professional photographer what has harmed good photography and they will likely say automatic camera phones. Not because they can't capture great pictures, but because the quality of the shot hides lack of composition. Smart cameras often have not so smart photographers using it.

If those automatic phone camera settings were to fail, you would probably only take terrible pictures.

Here is another example: lifts once required human operators to manually stop the lift at the designated floor. Now that it is automated, you simply select the floor. If that failed you would not be able to stop the lift on any floor because, not only do we not know how, the controls needed to do so have been removed.

In the two scenarios above, you simply get the camera fixed or press the emergency button and wait for someone to help you. But as automation extends further into our everyday lives the possibility of a system failing increases the odds of putting us in harms way, even though that is exactly what it was designed to avoid.

This is known as the automation paradox.

The plane that could fly itself, crashes.

The worst case scenario for this is Air France Flight 447, an Airbus A330 that crashed killing all on board in 2009. A major contributing factor being the assumption about what the plane automation would control versus the pilots.

The assumption about how the plane would respond in a manual mode led the pilots to respond incorrectly making a dangerous situation a fatal one.

A pilot with no automation assistance would not have made this error.

The extent of the issues have been growing as more functions become suitable for automation, for the most part increasing efficiency and safety, but not completely addressing the impact on the operators that will be be needed to step in should something go wrong.

99% Invisible has a comprehensive two-part podcast on Flight 447 and the the automation concerns for autonomous vehicles.

Lights out Manufacturing

The opposite is also true. Some situations can be so well-controlled that machines are able to do everything. Even the factory lights can be switched off, hence the name. The best known of these are part of the global Fanuc brand, not surprising that a leader in this type of manufacturing make robots for lights out manufacturing. One of their factories can operate without human oversight for as long as a month, operating around the clock.

You might think it is a new innovation but they have been around since the 50s and have slowly been improving their products to the current levels. As of 2015 they have built 400 000 robots and as as many three million machine control units.

Their machines are, right now, building products all round the world including here in South Africa.

Automated manufacturing reduces the need for human labour, but there are significant implications for choosing an automated route.

Robots are not cheap and require significant planning before production can begin. They would also take longer to reconfigure if the product line changed. But robots are better at doing jobs humans are not good at or don’t like doing. The newest versions called collaborative robots are designed to work with human operators performing the heavy lifting or tasks that are very repetitive.

There are significant upsides to automation. We just need to remain aware that it is not a magic fix.


Recommended

by NEWSROOM AI
Read More
Doomsday weapons, a deterrent or a real threat?

Doomsday weapons, a deterrent or a real threat?

The World is both safer and more dangerous than it has ever been and these weapons could end human life on the planet.

It's called the web. Is it any surprise we got caught in it?

It's called the web. Is it any surprise we got caught in it?

The World Wide Web is 25 years old. What was supposed to connect us has become more like a trap and we all helped it happen.

Humanity 2.0: Tech is driving our evolution

Humanity 2.0: Tech is driving our evolution

Technology is becoming the driver of human evolution. It took another step forward this month.

Space weather: sunny with a chance of destruction

Space weather: sunny with a chance of destruction

Solar activity could result in a rare and improbable event which could send civilisation back to the dark ages.

Peak disruption - is the internet revolution almost over?

Peak disruption - is the internet revolution almost over?

The likelihood of seeing a new Alphabet or Alibaba in the next decade is declining.

The world may soon have only one time zone (and a new calender)

The world may soon have only one time zone (and a new calender)

You may think that the time and date is unchanging, but it does change, and it might do so again.

Popular articles
Land Claims Court ruling: 'Jubilation when judgment was handed down'

Land Claims Court ruling: 'Jubilation when judgment was handed down'

Association of Rural Advancement director Laurel Oettle praises ruling by ConCourt to uphold move to appoint a special master.

'He said the patient is still inaccessible and there is a lion on the loose

'He said the patient is still inaccessible and there is a lion on the loose

Best Care Paramedics spokesperson Xander Loubser recounts the incident where a 70-year-old man was killed by a lion in Pretoria.

[WATCH] Ndlovu Youth Choir shine once again with latest AGT performance

[WATCH] Ndlovu Youth Choir shine once again with latest AGT performance

The inspiring South African choirU2's Beautiful Day at America's Got Talent quarter-finals.

SA’s richest woman opens up about being a refugee and becoming a billionaire

SA’s richest woman opens up about being a refugee and becoming a billionaire

Magda Wierzycka – Sygnia’s renegade CEO – on her attitude toward money (hopes and fears, successes and failures, etc.).

Mystery solved: Why smelly, blue sewage has been leaking into Cape Town forest

Mystery solved: Why smelly, blue sewage has been leaking into Cape Town forest

The reason for the leakage has been revealed, explains Table Mountain Aerial Cableway MD Wahida Parker.

W Cape traffic chief: Stay close to other motorists on N2 to stay safe

W Cape traffic chief: Stay close to other motorists on N2 to stay safe

W Cape Traffic Chief Kenny Africa says private security working with the department is helping curb the stonings on the highway.

Were missing SA men victims of Vietnamese organ harvesting syndicate?

Were missing SA men victims of Vietnamese organ harvesting syndicate?

Gift of the Givers fears two South African men who went missing in Vietnam may have fallen prey to an organ harvesting syndicate.

'We want the land on the other side of the railway line, we want to go home'

'We want the land on the other side of the railway line, we want to go home'

Fadiel Adams from the Gatvol Capetonian movement about the planned shutdown on Thursday.