In this episode of Beneficial Intelligence, I discuss humans and computers. Jeff Bezos went to space in a fully autonomous computer-controlled rocket. Richard Branson went to space last week, and he had humans flying his spacecraft.
The Silicon Valley mindset is that you can program or train computers to do anything. However, as the continuing struggle to build truly self-driving cars has shown, some things are still very, very hard for computers. Even Elon Musk, who claims his Teslas are self-driving, has manual controls on his spacecraft, SpaceX Crew Dragon.
Jeff Bezos remains fully committed to the power of computers, and computers will fire Amazon workers automatically if they don't perform as the algorithm expects. Richard Branson, on the other hand, is an entrepreneur. He has founded dozens of companies and made them successful by believing in humans. He hires good people, gives them resources and direction, and lets them do their thing.
The first human spaceflight program of the United States was Project Mercury. NASA initially subscribed to the computer-centric school of thought. But the highly trained astronauts rebelled and demanded a window so they could fly the spacecraft if needed. Fortunately, they got their way. On the last Mercury mission, astronaut Gordon Cooper saved his life and the U.S. space program by hand-flying his craft back to earth after multiple equipment failures.
You can implement IT systems in two ways. Either the computer is in charge, and the human can intervene. Or the human is in charge, and the computer assists. What's your approach?
Beneficial Intelligence is a weekly podcast with stories and pragmatic advice for CIOs, CTOs, and other IT leaders. To get in touch, please contact me at firstname.lastname@example.org