Monday, October 12, 2015

The Human Element

In the class I am taking about robots, we oldsters are in various phases of astonishment and dismay at how much "human" activity has already been accomplished by machines and how much more there is to come.  "But the machines are only as good as the people who program them.  We're still in charge," some of us say.  No so, we learn.  The computers can identify problems and fix them all by themselves.  (Did I just refer to a robot as "self"?)

I was thinking about this when listening to my sports guys rail against the umpires in a recent playoff game.  "That plate umpire was atrocious!"  Or,  "Instant replay showed he was clearly out!"  Ah, instant replay.  Until recently, we were content with the "human element" in sports.  Bad calls and grumpy umpires were part of the game.

With technology, the urge to fix is insistent.  So, now we have overlords sitting in a room far away with the power to reverse a call -- or let it stand.  With that, sports takes a step away from life.  So far, life doesn't give us instant replay to correct our mistakes and alter the consequences.

If you are comforted by instant replay and the "justice" implied, remember this:  it is a surrender of the "human" element.

Did I just slip?  Is that a slope I see?

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