The Paradox of Automation

The Paradox of Automation


The paradox of automation is that as things (like cars, airplanes, ships and nuclear reactors) get more automated, the operator’s skill degrades due to lack of practice.  The better the automatic systems, the more out-of-practice human operators will be, and the more extreme the situations they will have to face. Automation will routinely tidy up ordinary messes, but occasionally create an extraordinary mess. Manual control is a highly skilled activity, and skills need to be practiced continuously in order to maintain them. Yet an automatic control system that fails only rarely denies operators the opportunity for practicing these basic control skills … when manual takeover is necessary something has usually gone wrong; this means that operators need to be more rather than less skilled in order to cope with these atypical conditions. Learn more in this brilliant long form piece in The Guardian (18 minutes).