The unavoidable rise of automation

Automation has a nice ring to it, but should you totally trust that technology? would stake your life on it? No matter how sophisticated a system is, no machine can yet do without human supervision.

Automation is now ubiquitous in transportation industries, and cars, trains, and planes can practically operate on their own.
You hear every day about people dozing in their cars while traveling at 80 miles per hour on the freeway. They seem to totally trust their machines, but should they?

Cars can now run and park themselves, and big jets can also land on their own; but would you feel entirely comfortable if the pilot was playing solitaire while automation was handling the touchdown?

Automation is undoubtedly convenient, but it lacks true intelligence or intuition. A routine job is OK but sometimes a machine has to use judgement, and it can’t.

The same goes for check spelling for example. It is a very smart and very helpful application, but before you submit your final copy to your boss, review your assistant’s work. And Son of a Gun, you will discover that in its zeal to please, it took some unacceptable liberties with your text… and it overlooked some obvious mistakes.

What about automated translation? Yes, it does a good job, but it still is not smart enough to do a perfect job.

It will blindly translate every word it sees, without being able to fully understand what it does. If you don’t understand a foreign language, Google Translate can induce you in error, and it can also be easily tripped by colloquialisms or plays on words.

This blog of mine sports such a feature and it can translate the English text into French, German, Spanish and Russian. It does an I’mpressive job, but if you are familiar with any of these languages, you will immediately spot the errors.

The Italians have a saying “Traduttore, traditore” (translator, traitor) and I agree with that. You cannot completely trust automation unless you are fluent in the language you are translating.

“Automation does not need to be our enemy. I think machines can make life easier for men, if men do not let the machines dominate them.” ~John F. Kennedy.

 This means, as a Russian proverb says “trust, but verify.

Trust new technologies, but do not become absolutely subservient to them.

And always keep a piece of dark chocolate handy in case things don’t turn out as expected.

Alain

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