Human—Machine Interface in the Age of Digitalization: Can the Machine be Trusted and When Should the Human Intervene?
On March 10, 2019 the second Boeing 737 Max 8 (in approximately 5 months) crashed in Ethiopia. This incident has led to extensive investigations and as of this writing that model aircraft is grounded.
This pundit cannot and will not hazard a guess as to ‘why’ this aviation incident happened and what its ramifications will be—not our area of expertise. However, this raises another issue that seems to be buried in the headlines.
Recently, the President of the United States is purported to have said, “Airplanes are becoming far too complex to fly. Pilots are no longer needed, but rather computer scientists from MIT. I see it all the time in many products.”[i]
In our era of Digitalization, this question/belief is one that many Boards and senior executives may be asking/holding. It is our understanding that pilots can override the sophisticated autopilot (whose sensor may have been sending erroneous data). This begs the question, what is the protocol for the Human taking over from the Machine?
What level of training do pilots receive? What are the ramifications to their career if they make the wrong decision? These and other questions are being asked continuously.
In this blog series as well as in numerous other articles/speeches, we have commented on this issue. Interested readers should review several other Critical Mass Blog writings et.al. so that information will not be repeated herein.
The question posed in the title, ‘Can the Machine be Trusted and When Should the Human Intervene?’ can be answered and has been many times. A combination of training and experience will give the human the confidence to make difficult decisions in times of stress.
Recent examples include the landing of US Airways Flight 1549 on the Hudson in 2009, elite military successes, sports teams, and other feats where a small group took charge at difficult moments and as the saying goes, “saved the day.”
Scaling Training and Especially Experience
So how does an organization ‘broadly’ train its large global workforce as well as its ecosystem? Moreover, how does the same workforce gain ‘experience?’
The saying goes something like, “You can have 30 years of experience in your career or you have one year of experience 30 times.” Unfortunately, many organizations consist of the latter—employees/contractors and this includes senior executives as well!
Some organizations see training as a cost. Many have tuition reimbursements programs and send employees to a myriad of conferences and workshops. However, other than high level platitudes, what is the value of any of this to the employee and/or the organization?
There is also plenty of evidence that traditional training programs do not provide long term knowledge and do not address the experience issue at all.
Immersive training is one form of experience. The individuals live the situation and realistic options she or he is faced with.
Moreover, on-demand information feeding remote individuals addressing major field problems is important too. These information feeds can (and probably should) include Subject Matter Expertise from those who came before the contemporary workforce.
In other words, taking the knowledge of those with 30 years of experience and making it available to those with only a few at the task step level is essentially having that senior individual in the cockpit with the more inexperienced person.
Sounds good on this ‘paper’ blog but is this model realistic? It absolutely is and at a price point that makes the value proposition compelling.
No longer a week-long instructor led workshop where the information is quickly forgotten but knowledge on-demand in a matter that the user can absorb during a critical moment. One report about the recent airliner crashes was that the pilots were ‘looking up’ procedures in the event of …
Who has time for that in life and death situations? No one! The answer must be in front of you in a ‘heads up display’ manner on demand.
Enabling technology is available at reasonable price points. Blowing stuff up and killing people because employees/contractors are ill equipped to do their job is unacceptable.
Could Your Organization Withstand a Max 8 Incident? If Not, What is Being Done to Mitigate this Risk?
For more information on Risk Mitigation check out our Operational Excellence Platform.
Command and Control: Is this the Way to Run the modern Railroad?
Critical Mass: Value from the RBC Framework
Nuclear physicists define the term, “critical mass” as the amount of fissile material whereby a nuclear reaction is self-sustaining. From that original definition, the construct is further developed along societal and political terms as a function of the environment and number of adopters and their interdependencies that create enough of a consensus for individual actions that sustains an undertaking.
In 1996, the author published the first of several case studies on a societal interaction model based on the Relationships, Behavior and Conditions (RBC) construct among economic actors. Previously the model was only in the domain of academia.
This blog addresses contemporary issues from the RBC perspective and whether in the present state they are sustainable or not. Many readers may be familiar with the “Innovation Adoption Curve.” RBC seeks to enlighten the causality of behaviors that cause movement towards the critical mass that generates movement along this diffusion curve.
Other Blogs Dr. Shemwell Authors
Dr. Shemwell is an author for the following 3rd party blogs.
Governing Energy Blog
BTOES Insights is the content portal for Business Transformation & Operational Excellence opinions, reports & news. Dr. Shemwell is a contributor.
Consult 2050 connects organizations with a wide range of consultants all around the world. The firm operates an online marketplace for consultancy services.
About the Author
Dr. Scott M. Shemwell has over 30 years technical and executive management experience primarily in the energy sector. He is the author of six books and has written extensively about the field of operations. Shemwell is the Managing Director of The Rapid Response Institute, a firm that focuses on providing its customers with solutions enabling Operational Excellence and regulatory compliance management. He has studied cultural interactions for more than 30 years—his dissertation; Cross Cultural Negotiations Between Japanese and American Businessmen: A Systems Analysis (Exploratory Study) is an early peer reviewed manuscript addressing the systemic structure of societal relationships.