Wednesday, December 7, 2011


It appears that one of the main blocks to complete automisation in the airline industry is passenger reticence about being take from pole to pole under the wing of an automaton*, and not any technical limitation therein (ht Robin Hanson).

Would you prefer sensible software to sensible Sam? I may trust the automaton. They don't fall asleep.

The consequences are interesting. It is quite clear that many high-end jobs are on the way out. Piloting remains one of the more well paid jobs in our macroeconomy, and has a gilded lucre and status to it. But they may be gone soon. Quote:

Today, the U.S. military trains twice as many ground operators for its unmanned aerial vehicles (UAVs) as pilots for its military jets. Its UAVs started off by flying surveillance missions, then took on ground attack; now they are being readied to move cargo and evacuate wounded soldiers.

Historically, it has been good practice to check in now and then with what the US Military is up too and then extrapolate from there what everyone else will be doing in ten years (the internet etc, this is because the army does not have the luxury of 'getting things wrong' and muddling through problems - because people end up dead - so the best way of doing things is uncovered very very fast)

The platinum rule of tomorrows workforce - if your job can be automated, it will be.

The pilot example shows that this does not mean just low-skill work. Automatons will be able to deal with complexity and (yes) analysis as well. Truth is subjectivity, truth is automaton.

The job of a GP, for example, may not escape the chopping block. It is not hard to imagine an egg shaped machine into which an ill person sits as a series of green rays pass over their body and churn out both a diagnosis and perscription (or pill itself) with greater accuracy and speed than a conventional doctor. What is Web MD?

A big chunk of the legal profession has already been passed to automatons (see The New York Times: Armies of Expensive Lawyers, Replaced by Cheaper Software)

This is the future to prepare for.

I await even the automaton CEO. For Ryanair, perhaps :) .

*I prefer the term automaton to describe these developments, more descriptive than 'software' in terms of implication, and less bound up with SciFi cliche than 'robot'

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