the machine gap

From the beginning of technology starting with the invention of tools, men filled the gap of incapability by machine. Men had to operate, to steer, to feed and to maintain for machine to have effect. This resulted in non-human and even dangerous tasks to be fulfilled. Men had to behave like machine, performing and competing in a non-human, often non-social environment. Machine influenced evolution, enabled unthinkable achievements but didn’t contribute to the art of living.

Looking at this gap in modern times, the role of humans might not be as dangerous and it’s less of a physical challenge, but still it’s machine. Machine like repetition, machine like discipline, availability and constant machine like awareness. Design can’t be about forcing humans in machine-like behavior. Men can’t be part of the direct loop, the direct interaction as part of clocked processes. Many people might see the nature of humans close to machine, but it’s far from being robots.

Robot is not about the art of living. Living is inventive, social and intelligent, capable to deal with the new, with so far unknown challenges. Living is linking with feelings and not with command languages. Living is not about operation. For men to operate and to link themselves directly with machine results to often in disaster, like in traffic and process control. Even in private transport people die, because they try to compete with machine and are overwhelmed by tasks at the edge of their capability.

From a different angle some systems seem out of control. Following the laws of gaming theory, systems in military and finance are closed because humans can’t go the speed and frequency of interactions. Operation by humans is out of sight. Here the challenge is to administer, to control these systems. Combined the challenge is to have systems operate itself and being administered by humans.

Automation is part of design. Systems are part of design. Design has, given feasibility, to automate systems up to a level suited for administrative interaction with humans. They should be designed for automated operations and not for operational support by humans. Design also need to include intelligent artificial minds in future to free humans. Designer need to build systems, led and administered, but not operated by men.

Autonomous drive comes to mind, industrial production and other tasks potentially operated by intelligent machines. Looking at these systems it becomes clear, that to close the gap is a long time project. There are many challenges ahead, specially in the area of maintenance and repair for machine, where men will continue be the most flexible and capable resource for the problem. Think about the poor humans fixing failed machines at nuclear power plants. Machine failed, humans had to do the job.

Finally the biggest challenge for humans is not the machine gap, the biggest challenge is still about to come: What do we do without the compensatory satisfaction of dealing with technology? How do we develop ourselves giving up behaving like machine? And what’s our very nature? What did we miss the last 200 years?

2016/06/06 by Eberhard Frank

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