The rules for automation – Trend #3 of 6 from SXSW 2019


In 2018…

We talked about Data integrity and how we need to protect ourselves from big players using or selling our personal data.

In 2019…

We were talking about Data for automation, discussing how to best approach automation in a way that fosters human value and robot-to-human collaboration.


Automating our own value 

The fear of automation greatly disrupting labor markets has been increasingly tangible, and something that many speakers decided to approach in various ways. Some with concern, some with the sense that “We are all being promoted”. From the more politically engaged speakers, there is a case being made that we are currently defining ourselves as the economic value that we create, and that we are now making human labor less and less essential to the economy.

Google’s Chief Decision Scientist Cassie Kozyrkov firmly disagreed, arguing that it would be foolish and meaningless to create machines and artificial intelligence that would compete with human skills, human values and human needs. Instead we need to find how technology can complement us, in such a way that we can do what we do best, and technology can do the same. What we need is not more competition, what we need is more tools to leverage our human skills.

The chatbot of our dreams 

As the use of automation tools becomes more wide spread, people start to adjust to this. For example, if you are using a functionality that “optimizes” the time at which you send out your weekly newsletter emails, they might just arrive at the same time as every other non-personal email to your recipients’ mailbox. Instantly, they might get categorized as unimportant and moved to the trash folder.

For some information or experiences to reach all the way through, we might want to amplify the human touch. In this example, pressing the send-button yourself at an irregular time can increase the chances of your email being read. In some cases, it may be the opposite.

One study presented by Aleksandra Przegalinska, a philosopher and researcher at MIT, found that a simple text bot with no human resemblance provokes almost no emotions in the human it is interacting with. However, one with clear human traits (think Sophia the robot) evoked a lot of emotions. But they were negative ones; people felt much more unease interacting with the more human chatbot.

What does this tell us? That we want to carefully select what we decide to automate and consider what we want to alleviate in the interaction with customers or users.


Alex – The robotic news reporter

Image: bbc.com

Russian news channel Rossiya 24 have created a robot – Alex – reading some of its news bulletins.
The question is: Which emotions is he creating for the viewers?


The state of play

As users of, or friends to, automated systems it seems that we want to know when we are interacting with one. The separation between human-to-human contact and human-to-machine contact makes the experience different. It also differs in what context or mood we are in.

A representative from Slack shared their approach to finding out in what situations their users enjoy interacting with machines. Turns out it is when we are in a so-called state of play. When someone adds their 23rd reaction to a certain message in Slack, you can be rather sure that they are not busy doing some important work – this has proven to be a great point at which to introduce a machine that initiates contact with the user.

Identifying situations where users are more receptive and open to machine interactions is an important part of developing a good system design.

Slack interacting with their users in a State of play

The human-machine collaboration

Whether it is in the context of autonomous vehicles, chatbots or any other automated system, we are facing some tricky but important challenges to create a system that is helpful.

One being the need to consider how these systems learn and adapt over time. They are in many ways adaptive to their environments, just like humans, and if your company decides to employ a chatbot in customer service you need to not only think about the technology but also how to ensure that it stays true to corporate values and has some integrity in its interaction with customers and users.

A second one is that when building large-scale autonomous systems, human interaction in combination with these systems is likely to make them deviate from the most optimal functioning. We are seeing increasing numbers of autonomous cars trying to be introduced to the roads and one issue is how they are to collaborate with human drivers. This will evolve beyond our roads and into our organizations as well, which is why we need to evaluate both where to take advantage of automation but also how to design this interaction.

If our employees and/or customers are interacting with a system, there are multiple dimensions that, positively and negatively, affect the outcome of this. Being aware of this when structuring the systems we should consider whether we want this to be a fully automated process or one with human touch points, as it greatly affects the optimal design. A better design will increase the level of trust in a system and ultimately, with more trust, we can be comfortable releasing more data to it and subsequently improve its ability.


According to Aleksandra Przegalinska there are three important dimensions in building a trustful collaboration between a human and a robot:

  • Transparency — Honesty: The agent is what it is and does not pretend to be something else. It does not deny its status
  • Predictability — Integrity: Seen as a factor associated with credibility, and concerns the trustors’  expectation that an object of trust will act consistently in line with past experiences. If the user perceives the chatbots as predictable, this may lead to a feeling of trust in the chatbot
  • Control — Benevolence: The degree to which the motivations and intents of the trustee are in line with those of the trustor
Hidden Content

 

SXSW is one of the biggest digital conferences in the world, and a global meeting place for the world’s most innovative technology companies and people interested in how disruption can transform their business and everyday lives. The event takes place during during 10 days each year and this year Cartina had the chance to be part of it.

This series consists of 6 global mega trends that business leaders, experts, innovators and disruptors talked about during the days in Austin.

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