Before you automate something, think about how something is done.
In order to become a driving instructor in Finland, you need to attend a course. One of the questions in the final exam is:
”Describe exactly what you do when you change gears.”
How would you do that? Especially if you have driven a manual-gear car for several years, the gear-changing is an action that is pretty much performed automatically, you’re not really thinking about it. I’m still going to take a shot at describing it.
- Press the clutch
- Change the gear-stick to the desired gear.
- Release the clutch and simultaneously push on the accelerator
Except that’s not exactly what I do when changing gears. Let me try again.
- Move your leg on the clutch pedal.
- Move your hand on the gear-stick.
- Ease up on the accelerator pedal while simultaneously pushing down on the clutch pedal
- Change the gear-stick to the desired gear
- Slowly raise up the clutch pedal in sync with pushing down on the accelerator.
Okay, so we got about two steps more. But it’s still not exactly what I do when changing gears. One more time.
- Listen to the car’s engine for clues to change gears
- Glance at the car’s meters and take note of them
- Feel a physical rumble giving a clue to change a gear
- Move your left leg on top of the clutch pedal, let it rest gently on top of the pedal
- Move your hand on the gear-stick
- Take a grip on the gear-stick
- Ease up on the accelerator pedal while in sync push down on the clutch pedal
- During step 7 move the stick to the desired position
- Release your grip on the gear-stick
- Slowly raise up the clutch pedal in sync with pushing down on the accelerator
- Assert that the engine’s sound has changed
- Assert that the meters have changed
- Assert that the handling of the vehicle has changed according to the desired gear
From three to thirteen steps and yet still I’m not exactly there. I’m not going to add to the list anymore but this is just some food for thought:
Whenever we are deciding on automating an action, we are actually automating our estimate of the actual process. Our models can be lacking or they can be (sometimes even needlessly) detailed. They are still nowhere near as detailed as a simple human action. We assert variables with several senses in the same time and background process things with ease.
To truly automate human behaviour we need to have all the variables in place and it could be much more complex than we originally thought.
This is why in order to automate properly we have to properly concentrate on the design process.
How do you change your gears?
About Tuomas Peurakoski
Tuomas Peurakoski is Managing Consultant who has been working for Sogeti since 2013. His main interests are human psychology interacting with technological advancements and trying to figure out why he sees the world like he does. He has worked in many different fields in technology doing consulting, automation and QA. He is also the Finnish representative of Sogeti’s Global Automation Network and leads the Automation and DevOps in Sogeti Finland.
More on Tuomas Peurakoski.