OGR Webmaster posted:Ed Mullan posted:
I'm sure that there are a few folks who were very happy that Captain "Sully" could handle his aircraft in a very unusual situation....
Ed, I'm glad you mentioned Sully. I had not thought of that wonderful example. If this had been a pilot-less "autonomous" aircraft, everyone aboard it would be dead now, along with a lot of people on the ground.
These emergency situations are the kinds of things that technology simply cannot deal with, no matter how advanced it might be. Inevitably there will be situations presented to a vehicle (truck car, train, aircraft, whatever) that the software was not written to deal with.
The biggest, most perplexing problem presented to any software engineer is that of "error checking." What happens when things don't go as they should? Error checking within a software program has to anticipate EVERY POSSIBLE ERROR that could occur and have a routine written to deal with it.
Anticipating EVERY POSSIBLE ERROR in ANY software program is absolutely impossible. This is the "dirty little secret" that the technology proponents don't want to talk about.
I test software for a living, been doing it a long time, and that is true (there is famous theorem called the completeness theorem that says that there are things a program cannot do). Bugs are a fact of life in software, and nothing is foolproof....but that also includes human beings, too. From everything I have been told about Captain Sully (or the pilot whose name I forgot who in the late 80's made an incredible landing I believe in Iowa, with a crippled plane, steering it with the engines alone), what they did was both incredible, and also something that may not have been handled by most other pilots..so let's say instead of Sully or the other pilot, you had one of the pilots who today fly the feeder airlines,whose training is nothing like Sully or the other ex military pilots..chances are if they were flying it, they would crash. I will add that Sully, and likely in the other example, they were relying on control systems that are heavily computerized/fly by wire) and they worked, too. For all the heroics of captain sully, how many things do we have like the Indonesia Airliner, or the pilots who commit suicide by driving the plane full of people into the ground, or who fly drunk, or who screw up like the KAL flight into SF? Not knocking pilots, but what I am saying is that human pilots are not perfect, far from it, nor is every pilot going to pull off that once in a thousand miracle like Sully did or the other guy I mentioned. Yeah, I have heard people sneer about their pc locking up or people on here saying "They can't even make a legacy engine that works right all the time", but that misses the point, that is comparing apples and oranges, they are built for very different things to different standards
Rich's post would be correct if we were talking straightforward programming, the kind of stuff you see in routine applications, like legacy command control,tv control, your microwave oven, smart phones, that kind of software would be very difficult to create something that could handle extraordinary circumstances, when Sully did what he did he wasn't relying on a rule book (I doubt very much there is one) or a checklist, he relied on many years of experience, he relied too on intuition and inference as well. Ordinary flying can be done by such a rule based system pretty easily, they have automated landing and takeoff systems, for example, that outside of extraordinary circumstances (something like Sully faced is probably something that happens a tiny fraction of the time, prob 99.98% of flights are going to be routine or have issues anyone could handle) can today land and takeoff a plane, and likely would make for more efficient operations, but there were all kinds of issues around using them, some were still technical hurdles having to do with the ATC system being ancient at the time, others were resistance from the industry and pilot association.
The thing is, that kind of programming, the kind of routine, even rule based system, programming is not what would likely be up there. One of the things that has made tremendous improvements is machine based learning, where literally systems learn as they go, they do what human beings do (in different ways), as they gain "more experience" the system becomes better and better. This isn't science fiction, there are systems out there already using this kind of technology, systems that instead of programmers going in and rewriting routines, the systems can create their own rules based on what they come across as they go. This code isn't foolproof, and any such system would need a lot of testing and burn in time before they ever were allowed to 'replace' pilots. The thing about that kind of system is they can also 'learn' from the experience of other systems, over time as more and more data comes through from all the flights happening with these systems, the systems on board an aircraft 'learn', the way pilots today learn from talking to other pilots. So instead of a programmer guessing at situations, like "hmm, plane loses all 4 engines at 1000 feet over NYC, okay, turn the plane X degrees, set flaps to why", you could have a system that "knows" from the data ('experiences' ) of other systems, what to do/try, and to adjust if it isn't working, that is the big difference.
For the record, I don't think such systems are there yet, but in the not too near future they will be. My guess based on what I know about machine learning is initially, planes will have data recorders pulling in all kinds of data, that is used in training flight systems, helping them "learn", once they get to a certain point, have passed all kinds of simulator testing, etc, they will be onboard the aircraft, operational but not in control, and burn in further, even learning from what human pilots do...and eventually will go into trial use, perhaps with cargo planes with pilots on board acting as backup. I don't think it is going to replace pilots anytime soon, but for example, the military is actively developing pilotless planes, either controlled remotely like they do drones, or even flying themselves and operating in combat,for obvious reasons (losing a plane is a lot better than losing a pilot, if remotely controlled), plus a remotely controlled aircraft doesn't have to worry about a pilot in a dogfight getting hurt by high G forces.
Like I wrote in another post, this has real world implications no one is really addressing, I think those who promote technology and automation and claim it is no big deal, that plenty of 'new jobs' will be created, aren't addressing the point, nor are those who scoff at what technology can do and claiming you can't replace a human being, the one thing history has shown is that both aren't true. It is true that the first phase of technology helped created more jobs, and the next ones did, but what we are seeing is different, a lot of jobs are disappearing and being replaced by very few others..and to me no one is facing this reality from any end of things.....