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Blog 2: Humanizing Automation

"Ultimately we are creating autonomy for humans, not for the robots. Everything we design is for that human goal – we are not done when the robot is fully autonomous." - USTWO

I'm staying on the same tangent on my last blog post and am going to add some more thoughts on how we can best prepare for and make autonomy more humane.

1. Listen to Humans. The first step is to include human factors experts. It may sound obvious, but it is important to recognize that engineers should not have full control over creating autonomous systems. Even if the human was taken out of a process, our trusty human factors expert now has the task of reevaluating how this new system fits into the human goal. The purpose of automation, from a human factors standpoint, is to make humans more autonomous and free. Assuming this product team cares about more than a bottom line of efficiency, the system should be strictly analyzed for how a potential user or stakeholder is affected emotionally.

2. Listen to their emotions. On the note of task analysis, designers should look at the emotional processes within existing conventions and systems before automating them. If an experience is negative then there is room to make people happier! If the process is something that people enjoy or feel positive about, efforts should be made to preserve the feeling the users get when interacting with the system at all costs.

3. Leave it to humans. Things like ethics and efficiency are better left to robots to standardize, but we may have to let things be sometimes for sensitive situations. We don't want a robot delivering diagnoses to cancer patients or hospice-bound people, empathy and human touch is needed in these situations. When there are interactions that require empathy, intrinsic judgment, and the unpredictability that a human can provide to life, it's better to let it be. No matter what, we won't be able to relate to a machine on a human level, so machines will not be much help in those moments when someone is on a metaphorical or physical ledge.

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You raise a good point! When I was thinking of ethics, I was considering the legal-facing side of things. I think in situations where there has to be fair and impartial judgement or following a prescribed code of ethics, autonomous systems will work better than us. Not all will be covered by my statement, and there is always the risk of bias being added to a system by the data or creator.


Hi George! Like Audrey, I really like the structure of your blog blog. However, I find myself wanting to push back on your content a bit and ask you to think about how new technologies encode old forms of discrimination. Where do you think that fits into the scheme of things/automation? You say "things like ethics and efficiency are better left to robots to standardize", but how do you envision this playing out?



I really like the structure of your blog post! The highlighted quote at the start was attention-grabbing, and I liked the structure of a numbered list. I agree that it is important to understand and consider the emotional value of a task for a human, rather than just the efficiency. You thoughts in the "Leave it to the humans" section make me wonder what your thoughts are about the work being done nowadays to try and make robots more "likable"?

~Audrey Balaska

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