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The human factor in IT

By Jean-Claude Elias - Nov 13,2020 - Last updated at Nov 13,2020

Photo courtesy of sprocketexpress.com

How much of robots have we become?

Never has the combination of computer and Internet technologies been so much needed as now. Over the past eight months the trend towards more “everything online and remotely” has increased significantly, probably exponentially.

And yet, until this very point in time, the human factor seems impossible to erase or to avoid completely. One way or another, in countless situations, only a direct interaction between human beings, in person or over the phone, bypassing any automated process, can help solve a problem or bring the answer that the machines and the network cannot bring.

One of the most striking examples is when dealing with the biggest online shopping system of them all, Amazon.com. If most the time – about 99.9 per cent of the time – their system works flawlessly, there are exceptional cases when we need to speak to a client service representative on the phone, to a real person, to address a specific issue. Despite the gigantic size of the organisation, it is not only possible but also easy. This human plan B has tremendously added to Amazon’s credibility and contributed to its unprecedented success.

On a level that is technically higher and more complex than online shopping, Amazon through one of its subsidiaries, provides very advanced professional IT services, cloud services called AWS (Amazon Web Services). Here too, human interaction is possible, when everything else fails. The cloud is never entirely virtual!

From another viewpoint, purely human, manual work has also proven that it is far from being a thing of the past, in the US presidential elections that took place a few days ago. Many thought that the final results of the polls would be known in a matter of few hours, given the advanced level of networking and automation in the country. It took about a week for that, because counting the votes was carried out manually in countless places and cases, regardless of why it was done that way: security, tradition, available resources or other.

Some ten of fifteen years ago there was still a minority that was clinging to the moderately automated system, that didn’t trust the cloud and that felt much more comfortable dealing with tangible material, with people instead of systems, virtual networks and the like. This dinosaurian attitude of the old guard stemmed not only from rational belief, but because they were not able to fully understand and make good use of the advanced technological functionalities. This minority has practically disappeared today.

There are just two reasons left today to revert to and to justify human intervention. The first is when the system fails, does not have a provision to address a given situation, or provide an answer automatically. The second is to train the population on properly and efficiently using newly introduced applications and features.

Scholars may argue that there may be a third reason, which is just to keep our sanity – but this is another story.

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