Submitted by Micah Smith on Mon, 01/15/2018 - 13:11
Trust in the Digital Age.
Trust in the Digital Age.

Many Americans, over 70%, are mistrustful of automation. The advent of driverless cars, robot-carers and the streamlining of basically any industry by cyber automation have not yet proven to be incredibly popular amongst the masses.

Rightly or wrongly, people feel that the creeping automation that is taking place in so many spheres is a danger. This danger extends from job security to lack of reliability, in some way always trumping the ability of humans, even in the face of clear failure against machines.

Regrettably, because a great deal of mistrust in machines is based in fear and a misunderstanding of how automation actually may better our lives, we place ourselves in a dark spot where we blindly ignore the benefits of progress as opposed to stagnation. We use automated systems in a less than secure way and are leaving ourselves wide open to real threats in the digital world.

Take for example, a standard control room with numerous telecommunication systems – telephones, e-mail, emergency telephones and P.A. systems which can be simply and swiftly integrated into a single touch-screen, or a secondary example of an office where all necessary files and details are streamlined across computer systems and stored in separate locations with separate security codes and entrances. If we are unable to give credit and responsibility over to automation and continually hard-copy everything, apart from the labor time and cost in terms of project management etc, there are both spatial and disorder problems from the get go. These ergonomic issues can lead to a stunted response when an emergency system does actually unfold.

Is it really because of 'The Terminator' that we still don't trust robots? Even the most high -tech industries although using automated systems to guard against human error, such as the space shuttle, will have a human check – to avoid a machine mistake. Or is it actually because machine technology just isn't as reliable as we need it to be?  Trust, that wonderful feeling where we can put our confidence and our reliance in something else, is not easily won and we are hard-pressed to give that over to anything, even when we really should be.

The answer of how to begin to believe in automation, it seems, may lie in a reciprocal give and take, initiated, by the machines. From healthcare to aviation, advanced discussions and dissected implementation of automation have been ongoing, trying to weigh up the potential benefits and challenges as we battle against diseases and medical conditions where we currently benefit immensely from automation.

For successful and safe, automated systems it seems, the machines will have to work with a human partner.  Especially when your life depends on it, such as in the health care sector with regular touch points for the human and machine to check up on each other. Within the health care sector, an artificial pancreas use feedback from sensors to guide the actions of a machine or device, without human intervention. It uses continuous feedback from the glucose monitor to record daily habits to guide the timing and dosage of insulin.

This reciprocal relationship between the end -user and the automation shows a machine allowing for predictability to dictate consequence. It also demonstrates a basic level of trust and inter-dependence.  

We have to work on becoming healthily dependent on machines. Building effective mutual relationships between machine and man is becoming a more and more critical factor in making automated systems safe and efficient.

Trusting that an automated system can handle the monotonous yet crucial parts of tasks frees up the humans to use more human skills such as improvisation and originality, which is the work that most of us enjoy a lot more anyway.