Ironies of Automation

Ironies of Automation


Lisanne Bainbridge


Ironies of Automation

Lisanne Bainbridge. 1983. (View Paper → )

Therefore one can draw the paradoxical conclusion that automated systems still are man-machine systems, for which both technical and human factors are important." This paper suggests that the increased interest in human factors among engineers reflects the irony that the more advanced a control system is, so the more crucial may be the contribution of the human operator.

This paper speaks to the unintended consequences of automating something. Once automated the majority of the work left involves monitoring the system. But if the system fails you may need to take control. The challenge being that the operators’ manual skills and cognitive skills are likely to have degraded as the frequency with which they use them has diminished. They’re also unlikely to know the state of the system when they take over, which makes manual operation harder.

The more reliable the automation, the less likely the operators will be able to fix it or takeover if something breaks.

Ironically, by taking away the easy perts of a task you can make the difficult parts of the role more difficult. You need to consider the human-machine interactions.

The paper proposed some mitigations including monitoring to catch problems as early as possible.