First off, I highly recommend the Big Picture Science podcast. It’s right up there with RadioLab. I’m sure my friends and family are getting tired of me starting conversations with “So I learned today…”
That said, I was listening to “Humans Need Not Apply” on the way to work yesterday, a discussion of the jobs and traits that machines can perform instead of a human. Basically, an overview of the future of function allocation.
Right in the middle of the podcast was an interview with Kathy Abbott, Chief Scientific and Technical Advisor for Flight Deck Human Factors at the FAA. (They even said “human factors” several times during the interview.)
One of the interesting points Dr. Abbott raised was that function allocation is not just a question of function and capability – it is a social question. The host asked her whether airplanes would eventually be flown without a human pilot and her answer was that even if the machine were capable, human passengers would likely not accept a plane without a pilot in the cockpit.
If you’re impatient, the interview with Dr. Abbott begins at 27:32.
Photo credit U.S. Army @ Flickr