17 November 2016 | By Andy Wright Community

Human-machine collaboration

Working towards a vision of human-machine collaboration can create jobs and enhance our lives as well as improving efficiency, reducing costs and providing customers with better experiences

Technology exists to augment and improve human capabilities - to overcome the physical limitations of the human body. From the telegram to the jet engine, electricity to the internet, humans have always worked in partnership with technology to achieve more. To do what would otherwise have been impossible.

Today this trend is being accelerated by game-changing advances in connectivity, sensors, data analytics, Artificial Intelligence (AI), robotics, advanced manufacturing and virtual reality. The building blocks of the fourth industrial revolution.

Fear of change

The speed of change can be unsettling and there are understandable public concerns about the impact of new technology. In particular, fears that jobs are at risk from robots, automation or AI-driven chatbots. The World Economic Forum predicts that increased automation could lead to the loss of over seven million jobs in the next five years.

Other commentators point out that new technologies traditionally create new industries and new jobs. And that it is easier to identify the types of roles that could be at risk, than it is to predict the entirely new professions that will emerge.

Close collaboration

Our own view is that we are entering into a new era of collaboration between humans and machines. Technology will continue to enhance us rather than replace us. Humans, autonomous machines and AI software will come together to form integrated systems that enable closer collaboration across a range of industries, from manufacturing to healthcare. This will improve efficiency, reduce costs and provide customers with better and more personalised experiences.

In the military space-intelligent systems already help our armed forces to do their jobs more effectively, keeping them out of harm's way and enabling them to make better decisions, faster. This will continue. In the future we see unmanned vehicles complementing and supporting rather than replacing manned platforms.

For instance, the unmanned wingman that flies ahead into more dangerous environments, allowing the manned aircraft to remain out of harm's way. The unmanned vehicle enhances performance, the speed and quality of decision-making and provides an opportunity to observe operations and outcomes from multiple points of view. But the pilot of the manned aircraft remains the decision-maker, in charge of the mission and deployment of weapons.


We call our vision of a responsible approach to human-machine collaboration “Human+”. We are in favour of delegating to a machine tasks that it can do more effectively, but humans must remain in control and should continue to take the big strategic decisions. The use of autonomous technology or AI does not mean loss of command, the removal of the individual or the abdication of responsibility for decisions.

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