Check it out, our machines are not always better than our people

Tuesday, 15 October, 2013

They may have their advantages, maybe if you don’t want people knowing you subsist on a diet of cheese flavoured tortilla chips, or some such, but overall supermarket self-serve checkout machines can’t hold a candle up to their human counterparts.

The human supermarket checker is superior to the self-checkout machine in almost every way. The human is faster. The human has a more pleasing, less buggy interface. The human doesn’t expect me to remember or look up codes for produce, she bags my groceries, and unlike the machine, she isn’t on hair-trigger alert for any sign that I might be trying to steal toilet paper. Best of all, the human does all the work while I’m allowed to stand there and stupidly stare at my phone, which is my natural state of being.

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Good morning passengers, this is your automated pilot speaking

Monday, 5 December, 2011

If cars can be driverless why then can’t aircraft be pilotless, or completely automated?

In the sphere of commercial flight, too, automation has thinned the cockpit crew from five to just the pilot and copilot, whose jobs it has greatly simplified. Do we even need those two? Many aviation experts think not. “A pilotless airliner is going to come; it’s just a question of when,” said James Albaugh, the president and CEO of Boeing Commercial Airlines, in a talk he gave in August at the AIAA Modeling and Simulation Technologies Conference, in Portland, Ore. “You’ll see it in freighters first, over water probably, landing very close to the shore.”

Flight, and to a lesser degree, take off, are usually fairly straightforward processes – in controlled airspace anyway – but I wonder how an auto-pilot would deal with landing, which can be a little more delicate?

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Clone yourself online with smart email auto-reply and nag scripts

Thursday, 27 May, 2010

Hilary Mason has written a couple of scripts that can identity and auto-reply to email messages that are of a certain subject, and also send follow up messages to people who have not replied to your emails.

Mason wrote a series of scripts that auto-respond to email with particular content, and auto-nag folks she’s emailed but hasn’t gotten a response from yet.

Once she has perfected the code, she will post the open-source scripts online.

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Changing work and occupation trends since 1850

Monday, 28 September, 2009

While based on US census data, this graphic depicting changing occupations and work roles is probably reasonably similar in a number of other areas.

What I found interesting though was the rise in the number of clercial work roles (in the 80 to 90% region of the graph)… with increasing automation I’d have thought that sort of work would have likewise gone the way of farm work.

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Are “rock star” astronauts hindering the exploration of space?

Tuesday, 16 June, 2009

David Mindell argues that “the cult of the astronaut”, built around the first people sent into space by NASA, has prevented automated space exploration programs, and other beneficial technologies, from being utilised.

NASA‘s engineering culture supported the centrality of the astronaut. Initially designated “capsules,” crew vehicles were renamed “spacecraft” to signify the human pilot’s mastery and control. The terminology matched the technology: The spacecraft’s controls, displays, and overall structure were designed with the pilot in mind. Yet many steps in the flights were automated, from the closed-loop launches to the predominantly automatic reentries. No human being could have handled all the complex tasks involved in orbital rendezvous and lunar landings without the aid of computers and fly-by-wire systems.

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