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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, Interesting) by mhajicek on Wednesday April 27 2016, @03:08AM

    by mhajicek (51) on Wednesday April 27 2016, @03:08AM (#337741)

    What I worry about is that the people standing by won't be in practice or gaining experience, so when something comes up that the ai can't handle, they won't be able to handle it either. There will also be a dearth of people able to advance technologies if they've been too dependant on them themselves.

    The spacelike surfaces of time foliations can have a cusp at the surface of discontinuity. - P. Hajicek
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  • (Score: 0) by Anonymous Coward on Wednesday April 27 2016, @03:24AM

    by Anonymous Coward on Wednesday April 27 2016, @03:24AM (#337748)

    Yup. That's going to be a problem with driving a car, flying a plane, surgery, writing code, all sorts of stuff. Humans need practice on a daily basis to maintain high levels of skill. Machines don't.

  • (Score: 2) by TheLink on Wednesday April 27 2016, @04:16AM

    by TheLink (332) on Wednesday April 27 2016, @04:16AM (#337767) Journal
    The other problem is when there's an event/disaster and you don't have enough people to deal with enough of the exceptions or fix all those automated systems in time.

    In the old days it was common for warships to be highly overmanned. So in event half of the sailors were killed the warship as a whole had a good chance of doing its mission (or at least running away to fight again).

    But imagine if you had lots of automated warships with just a few engineers to fix and program/control the robots that fix the warships. Stuff is fine during peace time, everything is super efficient. But when stuff happens, you might not be able to get enough warships back up and running in time. Or even command/control them to deal with the "incidents".

    Oh but replace those engineers and commanders with Skynet you say, let Skynet control the factories, robots, programming and exception handling directly... Erm no thanks ;).
    • (Score: 0) by Anonymous Coward on Wednesday April 27 2016, @05:25AM

      by Anonymous Coward on Wednesday April 27 2016, @05:25AM (#337792)

      That's what consultants are for...

      • (Score: 1) by anubi on Wednesday April 27 2016, @07:35AM

        by anubi (2828) on Wednesday April 27 2016, @07:35AM (#337828) Journal

        Consultants are just there to take the blame.

        Executive toilet paper.

        "Prove all things; hold fast that which is good." [KJV: I Thessalonians 5:21]
    • (Score: 3, Interesting) by Hairyfeet on Wednesday April 27 2016, @06:01AM

      by Hairyfeet (75) <> on Wednesday April 27 2016, @06:01AM (#337809) Journal

      You have to look at it from the MIC perspective, if it breaks? Then they get to sell super duper money suckage version 3.0 with Bing!

      The problem with your line of thinking is you assume functional weapon systems are the goal when we have the past half a century that shows the DoD are more concerned with passing out big checks and making sure they have a cushy job when they leave the military. You should really check out Blacktail Defense and his "disaster!" series showing failed tanks and planes, you'd be amazed how many they knew had zero chance in hell of ever working before the first unit was even completed, what was the response of the military? Why give them piles more money of course!

      From the Sgt York and Delta Dart to the F35 and Littoral Combat Ship we have a long illustrious history of buying techno turkeys that are never gonna be combat effective, but hey it made the defense contractors an assload of money so....mission accomplished. And if there is some sort of disaster? Declare losses three times what you actually incurred and then grease some palms to have yourself declared "too big to fail"....hey worked for the auto industry and the banks didn't it?

      ACs are never seen so don't bother. Always ready to show SJWs for the racists they are.
      • (Score: 2) by TheLink on Wednesday April 27 2016, @08:37AM

        by TheLink (332) on Wednesday April 27 2016, @08:37AM (#337843) Journal

        The problem with your line of thinking is you assume functional weapon systems are the goal

        What problem? Where did I assume that? Functional systems were indeed the goal in the past AND are useful for explaining my point on the _story's _topic_.

        As for the US military nowadays, from what I see, in the old days it was common for those in power to use their armies to take wealth from other places and gain more power. However what do you do when your country is one of the richest and most powerful countries in the world and you can't really make that much wealth from attacking other rich countries? After all those in power would probably lose more wealth and opportunities by attacking Switzerland or similar ;). So that's why you get what you got. The thing is many US citizens believe all this "support our military" patriotic bullshit, same with many soldiers (at least the young new ones). When all they are are pawns and obedient weapons.

  • (Score: 2) by deimtee on Wednesday April 27 2016, @04:24AM

    by deimtee (3272) on Wednesday April 27 2016, @04:24AM (#337773) Journal

    They won't get out of practice and they won't be standing by. They will be reduced until the few that are left are flat out and overworked with just the small % that can't be automated.

    No problem is insoluble, but at Ksp = 2.943×10−25 Mercury Sulphide comes close.
  • (Score: 2) by fritsd on Wednesday April 27 2016, @11:35AM

    by fritsd (4586) on Wednesday April 27 2016, @11:35AM (#337881) Journal

    I've sometimes wondered if Douglas Adams wasn't onto something with his Golgafrincham telephone sanitizers.

    As long as the system works, there's no point in studying the web of interdependencies to see if it is robust.