3 Examples of Automation Paradox

The automation paradox is where systems have been automated for efficiency, and the human role has been reduced to monitoring and intervening. Although reduced, the human role can become highly critical when the automated system fails. Below are three examples of automation paradoxes.

Tesla’s Autopilot 

Recently, Tesla initiated a recall on nearly 2 million cars to limit the use of its Autopilot feature. The system can give drivers a false sense of security. Drivers become disengaged from the driving activity and stop paying attention to the road. They are not prepared to intervene. Lack of intervention is leading to accidents.

Tesla is looking to update its software to warn drivers when they are not paying attention. Hopefully, this will allow drivers to be better prepared to intervene when needed.

Three-Mile Island Accident

The Three-Mile Island accident was a nuclear accident that occurred in 1979. A reactor partially melted down. In this accident, a mechanical or electrical failure prevented the main feedwater pumps from sending water to the steam generators that remove heat from the reactor core and caused a valve to stick open.

Instruments in the control room indicated to the workers that the valve was closed. The workers were unaware that water was pouring out of the valve despite numerous alarms and warning lights. The system was giving contradictory information. The workers did not realize that the plant was experiencing a loss-of-coolant accident. Eventually, the core overheated.

It was determined that a combination of worker error, component failures, and design deficiencies caused the accident. Part of the post-accident changes included identifying the critical role of human performance in plant safety along with improved controls and instrumentation.

Automation in Manufacturing

The automation paradox exists in manufacturing as well. The job outlook for machinists is muted over the next ten years. However, the job outlook for industrial machinery mechanics is bright. More CNC machines and robots will need to be maintained and repaired.

Workers will still need to be trained in understanding these automated systems and be prepared to monitor and intervene when necessary.

Related: Can AI Invent Products?

In the future, who will be left to know when computer programs, AI, and robots have it wrong? After all, these automated systems were designed by mere humans.

Designers of automated systems should consider the attributes, characteristics, and performance of the humans that will be called upon to monitor and intervene.

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This blog was researched and written by a human being.