Friday, October 3, 2014

Excessive Automation & Laziness

Recently, I have watched couple of episodes in "Terror in the Skies" series run on National Geography Channel (NAT GEO). This series exclusively covers the dangerous and fatal errors committed by the pilots of commercial air carriers and their aftermath.

This program has rekindled me to think about human limitations and the limitations of technology as well. I am not an expert in aviation and aircraft safety to make remarks on the human and technical faults. Hence, it is my sincere request to the readers to view this article as an opinion of a general viewer.

Manual Vs. Automation

The cutting edge technology of modern times (since Charlie Chaplin's Modern Times) has crossed many a milestone. The expansion of human imagination in terms of technological discoveries is quite impressive and sometimes explosive (like the Manhattan Project by USA).

As the automation improved from time to time, the human intervention has become lesser and lesser. In other words, humans have started to become 'immobile' and 'irresponsible' in direct proportion to the technological advancement that they are exposed to.

Many experts who spoke on "Terror in the skies" have categorically stressed upon this 'human indifference' to the impending danger. This lackadaisical attitude, as per the experts, is due to the overconfidence generated in them by the super smart machines strewn around them. As the people (pilots in this case) were seen suffering from 'lack of work' during the working hours due to heightened automation. One pilot was shown dozing off in an airborne airplane after putting the flight on "auto pilot."

Many such incidents shown in the Nat Geo program have repeatedly confirmed one thing i.e. 'Laziness' that automatically sets in to the brains & bodies of the humans. This laziness is the first and worst enemy of human intelligence. 

Lessons from the Past:

Dandin, the 6th century poet from ancient India, thus writes in his much acclaimed work "Dasa Kumara Charitra" -

श्रॆयांसि च सकलान्यनलसानानां नित्यसन्नध्यानि
¾rey¡¯si ca sakal¡nyanalas¡n¡n¡¯ nityasannadhy¡ni

Meaning: The welfare & prosperity shall always be with them who are devoid of laziness and are active.

The above wise saying may be seen as a mere "pearl of wisdom" from the pen of a creative poet and nothing more. But I feel that the above saying must be looked from a different angle. And the angle to be seen is the "time."

Dandin said this in 6th (or 7th) century i.e. almost 1,500 years ago when the automation was in its nascent stage. In those days, majority of the routine & special works were being manually labored by the people under strenuous environment. The fruits of the then advanced technology was highly marginalised and were available to the upper strata of the society. Yet, Dandin warned all his readers to be alert and never encourage laziness to set in.

I am sure that the advise by Dandin is more relevant in our times than of his age. Hope we take a note of such wise sayings and assess our so called "state-of-the-art automation" at regular intervals. After all welfare & prosperity are the wanton needs for everyone of us!