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Friday, December 3, 2010

Automation is a Good Idea

There is a lot of debate about automation in society.
In fact I posted earlier about how it is training us to be helpless.
I believe this is true, but at the same time I find that there is still a HUGE volume of good to be done by automating dangerous things.

We've increased productivity and decreased costs by automating assembly lines and, while we've done that, we've decreased the volume of harm done to people through accidents caused by human error.

I work on trying to automate a great deal of things in my job because of the limited financial resources for person-power to do routine tasks.

If there is anything that computers (and thus robots) are REALLY good at it is repetitive and predictable tasks. They perform their tasks WITHOUT error. Robots and computers don't make mistakes; people do. The mistakes that appear to be made by robots and/or computers are actually mistakes made by people FAR upstream from the robot / computer. The programmers made the mistake. The people assembling the robot made the mistake. The operator of the robot made the mistake. A computer or robot is ONLY capable of doing what it is programmed to do BY A PERSON.

As we refine our programming we are also making systems that are FAR more capable. They are more capable of analyzing input and providing an appropriate output. They are more capable of handling error correction (e.g. conflicting input and/or part failure and/or programming errors in one section of their instructions) to provide the best output.

You might ask what prompts this post and I can quickly and surely answer that it is Google's automobile project. I mean "automobile" in the truest sense of the word: an automated mobile. That's right, Google has automated cars. They've run them on public roads without any accidents (except one, where someone else rear-ended the automated car) and with user intervention only a handful of times (like when cyclists and/or pedestrians walked out in front of the car against the light).

I have faith in the technology to be less dangerous than humans. I believe that computers could drive at faster speeds, in closer range to each other and for longer durations than people with fewer collisions. I believe that the automated cars are a good thing.

I especially believe that they would make my commute a heck of a lot more pleasant (nap, anyone?).

On the flip-side: I like driving. I imagine that once the majority of the cars on the road are automated I would have to go to a driving resort to be able to drive my own vehicle.


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