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Automation With Humans in Mind: Making Complex Systems Predictable, Reliable and Humane

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Automation With Humans in Mind: Making Complex Systems Predictable, Reliable and Humane

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I believe that our current approach to designing software systems is driving society in a bad direction. In particular, I believe we are creating a society predicated on automation which is oriented to be serviced by humans or, requiring no service, is simply in control of humans. Ignoring the dystopian overtones of this, I argue that this is a technically flawed approach, that such automation is less reliable, less flexible and less robust through time than a system designed with humans as the controlling party in mind. I will argue--with a mix of personal experience, reference to academic literature and historical examples--that complex systems designed with human control in mind are more lasting through time, more technically excellent and just generally more useful. I will further argue that a re-orientation toward human supremacy in computer systems is especially important as we begin to tightly couple western civilization's technology to the internet, being the Internet of Things. I'll talk a bit about the political and social implications, as well, after I've made a purely technical argument.

I believe that our current approach to designing software systems is driving society in a bad direction. In particular, I believe we are creating a society predicated on automation which is oriented to be serviced by humans or, requiring no service, is simply in control of humans. Ignoring the dystopian overtones of this, I argue that this is a technically flawed approach, that such automation is less reliable, less flexible and less robust through time than a system designed with humans as the controlling party in mind. I will argue--with a mix of personal experience, reference to academic literature and historical examples--that complex systems designed with human control in mind are more lasting through time, more technically excellent and just generally more useful. I will further argue that a re-orientation toward human supremacy in computer systems is especially important as we begin to tightly couple western civilization's technology to the internet, being the Internet of Things. I'll talk a bit about the political and social implications, as well, after I've made a purely technical argument.

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Automation With Humans in Mind: Making Complex Systems Predictable, Reliable and Humane

  1. 1. Automation, with Humans in Mind Making Complex Systems Predictable, Reliable and Humane
  2. 2. Hi, folks.
  3. 3. I do things to/with computers.
  4. 4. I build real-time systems.
  5. 5. I build fault-tolerant systems.
  6. 6. The whole survives.
  7. 7. I build critical systems.
  8. 8. Failure is catastrophic.
  9. 9. Complex Systems
  10. 10. Complex Systems • Non-linear feedback
  11. 11. Complex Systems • Non-linear feedback • Coupled to external systems
  12. 12. Complex Systems • Non-linear feedback • Coupled to external systems • Difficult to model, understand
  13. 13. AdRoll
  14. 14. Let’s talk about the future.
  15. 15. Let’s talk automation.
  16. 16. Let’s talk human cooperating with machine.
  17. 17. Apollo 13
  18. 18. A complex craft.
  19. 19. It wasn’t clear how to orient the system.
  20. 20. Rocket with a tin can and some humans on top?
  21. 21. More elaborate rocket plane?
  22. 22. A matter of significant debate.
  23. 23. A balance was struck.
  24. 24. Saturn V was a big, completely automatic rocket.
  25. 25. With a space plane on top.
  26. 26. A wee problem with the Service Module.
  27. 27. No fuel, no O2 and a dead boat.
  28. 28. What to do?
  29. 29. Improvise.
  30. 30. Mission Control puzzled out new budgets.
  31. 31. Used the Lunar Module rocket for main propulsion.
  32. 32. Bridged incompatible systems with available materials.
  33. 33. Tools aid experts to overcome catastrophic failure.
  34. 34. Automation, done right, relieves tedium.
  35. 35. Automation, done right, reduces errors.
  36. 36. Automation, done right, liberates.
  37. 37. Let’s talk human versus machine.
  38. 38. Chernobyl
  39. 39. Graphite-moderated boiled water reactor.
  40. 40. Requires active cooling.
  41. 41. Worse, unstable at low power levels.
  42. 42. Even worse, very high positive void coefficient.
  43. 43. Worst of all, Soviet political dynamics.
  44. 44. During a test of a backup system, the reactor was driven into a failure-prone state.
  45. 45. Warning signs were ignored.
  46. 46. Boom
  47. 47. In the immediate aftermath vital equipment is not available.
  48. 48. It’s all locked in a safe.
  49. 49. The sole man with a key is dead, crushed under rubble.
  50. 50. There’s nothing to be done.
  51. 51. The reactor fails according to its nature.
  52. 52. Much is irradiated.
  53. 53. Many die. An entire region of Ukraine is abandoned.
  54. 54. Automation, done wrong, mechanizes humans.
  55. 55. Automation, done wrong, misdirects.
  56. 56. Automation, done wrong, entraps.
  57. 57. Every system carries the potential for its own destruction.
  58. 58. “Normal Accidents”
  59. 59. Failure is inevitable.
  60. 60. The design of any system must include failure as a first class concern.
  61. 61. Otherwise, system failure happens in completely arbitrary ways.
  62. 62. How do you design for failure?
  63. 63. Cyborg it up a little.
  64. 64. Don’t do it alone.
  65. 65. Have resources you’re willing to sacrifice.
  66. 66. Accept failure. Learn from it.
  67. 67. Study the accidents of others.
  68. 68. Some things aren’t worth building.
  69. 69. Understand what you build.
  70. 70. Thanks! <3 @bltroutwine

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