22 January, 2015

The View from the Glass Cage | Books and Culture

The View from the Glass Cage | Books and Culture: Moreover, when pilots do choose to take control—or are forced to do so by the failure of their systems—they often make bad decisions because they are out of practice. This is the third consequence of reliance on automation: highly trained experts whose skills atrophy because they have few or no opportunities to keep them sharp—until a crisis hits, which is of course the worst possible situation in which to try to recapture one's old abilities. [...]

Perhaps here we will have a measurable—and terrifying—cost to
automation. But more generally, Carr wants us to ask what value we place
on the loss of opportunities to experience flow—the loss even of
opportunities to develop and exercise skills that challenge and reward
us. Carr readily admits that these are extraordinarily difficult
questions. "How do you measure the expense of an erosion of effort and
engagement, or a waning of agency and autonomy, or a subtle
deterioration of skill? You can't. Those are the kinds of shadowy,
intangible things that we rarely appreciate until after they're gone,
and even then we may have trouble expressing the losses in concrete
terms. But the costs are real." They are real for the Inuit, they are
real for pilots, and they are real for us.

Nicholas Carr is asking us to count those costs, as a prelude to figuring out whether we can minimize them.