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Humans and Machines

By: meerutmicro Verified Member MouthShut Verified Member | Posted Jun 08, 2024 | General | 110 Views

Humans and Machines


Should Mr Friday return today with his boss Mr Robinson Crusoe, after being marooned for over fifty years on a desert island, they would be astounded and amazed by what they see around them. I have not been marooned or was in any slumber during the past fifty years. I have been around growing with the times. My own incremental growth with the passing years was in synch with technology. I am not surprised about the progress we have made today. As I reminisce the past with my grandkids, they stream like a movie to their delight.


My first year in engineering college was in 1960, which is precisely 64 years ago. Mobile phones, calculators, computers, colour televisions and the internet were unknown. They were all visible on the horizon, for someone like me who kept reading science magazines in the media.


Log/antilog tables known as Clark’s tables were the mathematical aid for calculations in engineering subjects. This was later followed by the slide rule. I doubt whether many can guess what these two are. I have my old slide rule as an exhibition piece to amaze my grandson and granddaughter. They use a scientific calculator for their maths and science work these days.


Engineering drawing was a subject for all engineering students. We had high-quality drafting tables in the college hall for drawing on A0 drawing sheets- plates, as they were called sometimes. To draw at home, we had to use a drawing board with a ‘T’ square. Several additional drawing instruments like large set squares, protractor, an instrument box that contains precision compass, dividers, ink pens and attachments were required for drawing. Various grades of pencils and eraser were the standard drawing material. For blue prints most drawings had to be drawn with ink pens. Blue prints were made by exposing light sensitive paper with a drawing on it and exposed in the sun. All these are obsolete today and the skills I had learnt as draftsman were useless.


In a machine shop I had to learn to work on a lathe . My instructor spent his entire life as a master turner honing his skill to near perfection. He often reminded me why it is impossible to maintain precision if I could not co-ordinate my brain, my eyes and hands to focus on the job I was turning. That was a skill a student had to gain after much practice before he can qualify as an engineer he said. Not any more. Engineers need to develop skills, but of a different kind altogether. CNC ( computer numerical control) machines can not only maintain a very high precision but also do a job faster than a human managing a tool post on a lathe. We, in our own engineering development facility, use both CNC and 3D printers for manufacturing precision parts.


One needs to develop skills far different from the old world skills. Those who were trained in older skills had to relearn new skills to keep up with the times. I had to learn new skills with computers and software to keep with industry standards. If I did not, I would be an obsolete engineer.


From what I have written so far, the matter that comes into focus is the replacement of intelligent machines where human skills were hitherto in demand. The question I want to raise is can this trend continue to infiltrate further into regions where human skill are active now? Such as teaching in schools and treating sick people in hospitals and many others?


I fear it would because they have already made in roads into these areas. Schools have developed a plethora of teaching aids. Hospitals have a plethora of diagnostic tools and robots that handle delicate and precision surgeries on various parts of the body. These robots are , more safe and efficient than humans. As I see, the march of machines into human lives is unstoppable. Anyone who is reluctant to get used to this trend is in for serious trouble. This could be me and myself to a large extent .


I envisage a time when at my age I could feel sick some day. I consider the need to see a doctor. I call a toll free number with my ultra intelligent mobile phone introduced in the market. A sweet recorded voice replies, telling me to relax and place the mobile phone on my chest and sit on a comfortable chair while it carries out non-invasive scans on my body. A few minutes later, the report on the condition of my body is ready for download. I don’t need to read it and understand it. A short descriptive note tells me what was wrong with my body and how it would be set right in layman’s language. A prescription of drugs is also included in the report. I could order it right away without disconnecting the phone. The delivery would be through drones within a few minutes.


If my condition is serious, or life threatening the report will instruct me along with a voice message to be ready for immediate hospitalisation. I would be instructed to take the ambulance waiting at my doorstep. The ambulance is driverless, and I am guided by robots to a bed inside the ambulance and immediately connected to tubes and sensors and treatment begun with no delay whatsoever. At the hospital, more robots help me to a hospital bed and soon a comprehensive treatment that could include intricate surgery and other procedures will be carried out . These treatments will continue till my last breath of life. If I survive the treatment, I return home. If not, I am out of this world for any human or machine to go any further except the disposal of my body. This would be carried out in the manner I preferred and pre-registered long before I became sick. Most efficient and perfect in every way and definitely far cheaper than greedy human doctors who have never turned their eyes away from a quick buck in some manner or other during these periods of my sickness.


I am not sure I would want to be treated by a machine this way . A machine, after all, has no concern for my feelings. It is just going through the process step by step, working out a program on its own through the logical steps programmed in it.


My traditional doctor and his team had treated me and my family for ages. I trust them to do the right thing even if I suspected they overcharged me at times or carried out unnecessary procedures to be on the safe side or maybe even boost the bill. This is something I could never figure out. Yet I would like most others opt for a human doctor.


The major flaw today in intelligent machines is the absence of a sentience and sapience in their design. Their application of logic, reasoning and reaching the most appropriate solutions to a problem cannot be flawed. Their lack of emotions while handling humans in distress or pain can be prohibitive. Animals like a pet dog or a cat could comfort humans more when a human is in such distress. At this point in time, very few humans would want a robot to take care of them. Just the presence of a living being that loves your presence should often reverse or at least provide comfort to one’s condition. Not logical analysis of the condition, drugs or medication.


Every profit making establishments selling products or services either employs machines or considers machines in their customer care sections with impunity. Once having sold a product or service, they relegate their customers to a brainless machine to do the dirty job of providing service. After sales service to them is a far different region that is disjointed with the primary aim of selling their product. Some even replace the entire idea of after sales service to another product called AMC ( Annual Maintenance Contract.) They could sell this contract easily because they have a trained l sales force who can sell deep freezers in Lapland.


When a product or service you bought from some company malfunctions, you feel cheated. You think of the bright sales person who had sold you the product and wonder where the hell that person vanished when you called the company for help.


There are recorded sweet voices of seductive women to keep directing you to chase a wild goose. There are multitudes of machines some intelligent and others outright stupid designed by AI students just learning the ropes. There are machines that answer toll free phones, machines that reply to emails you sent asking information or complaints or even thanking the company for the excellent service. Replies always sound the same in the same standard phrasing only adding or deleting some words . When you get such replies, you know you are entering an insane asylum intended for humans and machines.


I have been trapped into chatting with an AI chatbot several times during the recent past. The most recent encounter was with Eureka Forbes and their AI machines. Eureka Forbes was a well established, respected company manufacturing and selling household equipment like water filters and vacuum cleaners, etc. I have had great dealing with them over the past several decades in various regions of India. Almost a friend for life, as they claim. To my surprise, they had committed harakiri by including machines indiscriminately in their workforce . Anyone who works with artificially intelligent machines long enough, can turn into an intelligent machine and a stupid human. This is my personal observation with no malice against anyone.


While Eureka Forbes has tried to introduce machines at random with no consideration for their customers, there are many companies that use intelligent machines with great human intelligence incorporated in them. While an ill-designed machine during chat sessions keeps sticking to phrases like ‘I don’t understand’, endlessly, the better designed machine can spot the road block. It realises it cannot go on and summons a human agent to take over. I believe more companies will take this route once they realise the folly of replacing humans with machines thoughtlessly in the future.


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