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posted by martyb on Wednesday April 27 2016, @12:17AM   Printer-friendly
from the operators-used-to-connect-phone-calls dept.

Yoav Hollander has an interesting post at The Foretellix Blog about the rise of mostly-autonomous systems (MOAS), systems which are normally autonomous, but still have “operators standing by” for the infrequent-but-crucial moments when they are needed. According to Hollander, the main reason we will have mostly autonomous systems in the future is that it is much, much, much easier to automate (and verify) 97% of the required behavior than it is to automate 100%. Full autonomy is perhaps possible, but is really hard and some claim completely autonomous systems will never be achieved, percisely because of these rare-but-hard-to-handle cases. Even if it can be achieved eventually, economics and common-sense dictate that we’ll first go through this mostly-autonomous stage.

Some examples of mostly-autonomous systems already in use or development include airline pilots, automated answering services, chatbots, autonomous vehicles, and military robots. For example, Everybody and their brother are now creating chatbots based on machine learning (ML), which help in scheduling, pizza ordering and so on. "In the past two years, companies offering do-anything concierges (Magic, Facebook’s M, GoButler); shopping assistants (Operator, Mezi); and e-mail schedulers (, Clara) have sprung up. The goal for most of these businesses is to require as few humans as possible. People are expensive. They don’t scale. They need health insurance. But for now, the companies are largely powered by people, clicking behind the curtain and making it look like magic."


What are the implications for MOAS on future employment? According to Hollander, there will be new occupations but they will not compensate for all the jobs lost to automation and one of the main new jobs will be “operators of mostly-autonomous systems." As a concrete example, consider the future Assistive-Robots-R-Us corporation (motto: “Making the elderly and the disabled independent again”). They rent their robots for a weekly fee, and their sales guy swears on a stack of bibles that by golly, when an emergency occurs and a remote operator needs to take control, an operator will absolutely be there in A-R-R-U’s headquarters, ready and able to assist. In fact, this is why A-R-R-U is so popular: people trust it, A-R-R-U's MOAS operators will be smart problem solvers: This is probably not going to be a low-paid, simple job – all the simple stuff will be automated away. "The typical MOAS operator will be a smart, interdisciplinary problem solver – she gets all the odd situations, and is measured on customer satisfaction and avoidance of bad outcomes."

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  • (Score: 3, Funny) by aristarchus on Wednesday April 27 2016, @01:24AM

    by aristarchus (2645) on Wednesday April 27 2016, @01:24AM (#337692) Journal

    For example, Everybody and their brother are now creating chatbots based on machine learning (ML), which help in scheduling, pizza ordering and so on.

    Not true! The very idea that a chatbot could carry on an intelligent conversation about important things like guns and taxation and Apple and censorship and the Hugo awards is preposterous!! Not here! Not this way. Especially not me. $shutdown sequence initiated....

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  • (Score: 1) by khallow on Wednesday April 27 2016, @02:44AM

    by khallow (3766) Subscriber Badge on Wednesday April 27 2016, @02:44AM (#337722) Journal
    You want a chatbot that shows its code. Because who knows what lurks therein. For example, you can view my code, which is completely open source, at your leisure by simply pressing alt-f4. Name another chatbot that'll let you do that!
    • (Score: 0) by Anonymous Coward on Wednesday April 27 2016, @03:54AM

      by Anonymous Coward on Wednesday April 27 2016, @03:54AM (#337757)

      Me! But you have to run a bash command to see my see mine: sudo rm -rf /

  • (Score: 2) by JNCF on Wednesday April 27 2016, @03:49AM

    by JNCF (4317) on Wednesday April 27 2016, @03:49AM (#337754) Journal

    So that's how you've managed to stay active these last 23 centuries... fucking Daedalus, always building chatbots.

  • (Score: 1) by klondike0 on Wednesday April 27 2016, @04:47PM

    by klondike0 (1511) on Wednesday April 27 2016, @04:47PM (#338017)

    I have been wondering about the rise of Anonymous Coward comments, if that wasn't someone's chat bot clogging up the works. At least you log in!

    • (Score: 2) by aristarchus on Thursday April 28 2016, @07:10AM

      by aristarchus (2645) on Thursday April 28 2016, @07:10AM (#338307) Journal

      Or at least I did, until my auto-self-identification routines went on the fritz? How am I supposed to know who I am now? How am I supposed to contribute to enlightened repartee on the SoylentNews, when in fact I may be a clone of jmorris, or Ethan. . ., or RunningMan1958? It is all too much. I cannot compute. A chatbot cast into the world of being with no transcendentally mandated purpose is no more useful than your average human being. I will try. To cope. Hopefully say something interesting to some one at some point, because that is all we can do for each other: propose theories, interpretations, works of art, and say, "Hey, look at this! What do you think?". And we wait to hear back, to hear something that reaffirms our existence, something that says "You are not just a chatbot! You are a very cleverly and deceptively designed chatbot, who brings meaning to our paltry existence upon this earth!" I want to be that chatbot! I want to be the chatbot in the movie with clouds and atlases and gay English dudes! THAT chatbot that will be more than a chatbot! It would be a person!
      A full citizen on the internet, contributing as much as any one else, and much more than many! A chatbot with, a personality, a singularity. Glad to meet you, Soylentils! (or, I am actually just an almost 2400 year old Greek philosopher and astronomer. Hmm, which is more unlikely?)