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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: 2) by TheLink on Wednesday April 27 2016, @04:06AM

    by TheLink (332) on Wednesday April 27 2016, @04:06AM (#337762) Journal
    Yeah. Imagine if McD spends all that money to have nearly fully automated McD outlets - food making robots, self-service/online ordering, lots of identical self-cleaning toilets/dining areas, janitor bots in McDonalds with just one or two human cashiers/managers for human-human stuff, and a handful of engineers on shift to support dozens of outlets in an area. With robot trucks delivering the food directly to special receptacles (all very sanitary and untouched by human hands).

    Only to find they now have near nonexistent customers since the richer people rarely eat at McDonalds and the poor people no longer have jobs that pay them well enough or have enough spare time to buy food from McDonalds even though it is now cheaper with all the savings.

    In short if you remove humans from the picture what's the point in having a system that serves humans (unless it's for free)?

    That's why many people think that a system with Basic Income might be a better "upgrade path" for society despite potential concerns and issues. And I agree that's the better path if your country can afford it (can achieve the productivity per capita)

    The people in other (mostly poorer) countries that can't afford or can't implement the bots and basic income would be competing against the rich world's bots that get more and more efficient. Initially they would probably do OK and be competitive (which is partly why the workers in the rich country are losing jobs or getting worse jobs ) but later on...
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  • (Score: 2) by cafebabe on Saturday May 07 2016, @10:58PM

    by cafebabe (894) on Saturday May 07 2016, @10:58PM (#343036) Journal

    they now have near nonexistent customers since the richer people rarely eat at McDonalds and the poor people no longer have jobs that pay them well enough or have enough spare time to buy food from McDonalds even though it is now cheaper with all the savings.

    As I noted in a previous discussion spurred by McDonald's []:-

    You're either in the luxury market or the commodity market. If your employees cannot afford your products then you're in the luxury market.