Bias number 10 is known as the automation bias. This bias, sitting in the category of social psychology, demonstrates how humans have an unreliable relationship with answers provided by automated decision-making systems, even if contradictory evidence derived without automation is proven to be correct.
In short, this bias describes the ambivalent and often unhealthy relationship between man and machine. It is especially of concern in mission-critical environments such as accident and emergency or heavy industrial engineering where important decisions are made by a machine, often a computer and its components, being observed by a person with the capability to make decisions.
In some cases, a person will give up his or her power to make decisions by deferring to the information the machine provides, even when the machine data is not needed. In other cases, a person will ignore the information the machine is providing and make decisions in spite of it.
In both cases, what this bias draws out is an imbalance in the area of trust in machines. Too much trust leads to excessive reliance, while too little or no trust leads to rejection.
Where do you sit on the spectrum? Do you have absolute faith in the ability of machines to produce correct answers every time? Or, do you have no faith at all in the information machines provide you? Or, maybe you sit somewhere in the middle?
Let’s look at how this might play out in the real world by taking a market sector that affects us all — technology.
There are people in the world who firmly believe that technology provides THE answers to the problems of the planet. In their minds, there is nothing that cannot be solved with a good algorithm and a metallic widget. They have made it their lives’ work to find the answer to life’s riddle through technology.
Then, there are those that eschew technology completely, seeing it as the source of many of the world’s problems. They see the movement away from technology as a movement forward for mankind. They long for the days when life was simple as they load their washing machine for the sixth time that day and sit down with a cup of tea to watch RHONY on a streaming service.
It’s their guilty pleasure. Everyone’s entitled to one, right?
I’m poking a little fun at myself with these descriptions, because I hold my hands up, guilty as charged of flitting back and forth between the two poles. Having had a lifelong interest in technology ever since I played Pong on my Atari console way back when, I know that technology has, in many ways, enhanced our lives. I would not be able to communicate with you in this way without it.
At the same time, I have encountered people who put so much of their faith in algorithmic logic that they are completely blinkered by the technological laser light.
I myself have been the subject of inappropriate intrusion technology enables, to the point where I felt like running away to the Congo to live out a life in the wilds of nature. At the time, dodging creepy crawlies in the flesh seemed infinitely preferable to dodging virtual creepy crawlies. Now I’m not so sure.
Here’s the point. Confining yourself to a life at either end of the spectrum creates problems. Polarisation of thought, in any shape or form, restricts you from discovering Truth with a capital “T”.
In choosing one path, you miss out on the opportunities other paths offer and you become uni-dimensional in your thinking. You cut yourself off from a whole host of possibilities that could enrich and expand your experience beyond a single focus. You discover things that you would not have otherwise discovered by adopting a narrow focus.
And, you limit your experience of Truth.
So, if you are willing to expand your understanding of Truth with respect to automation, what do you discover? You might discover that machines are fallible. You might realise that machines, made by human hands, are subject to the fallibility of the human that created it. You might discover that your intelligence is just as valuable, if not more so, in certain situations, and you learn to trust yourself.
Equally, you may discover that machines are merely tools to help your life run a little more smoothly. Maybe you learn to work with machines rather than against them. Maybe you start to appreciate the human being whose thoughts and hands worked together to create the labour-saving or entertainment devices you use every day.
Consider that it’s not the “machine” that’s bad in and of itself. It is your relationship to the machine, your judgements of the machine, your attitude to the machine and your use of the machine that renders it good or bad.
What new appreciation for your tools and their creators can you develop today? How might that alter your experience? In recognising the brilliance of both worlds, you add new facets to your understanding, diffusing the light so that it illuminates more of you as a result.
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