Human-machine systems. Comparison of humans and machines

We’ve done some analysis of two basic interaction actors — humans and machines. Now it is time to go back and make some synthesis.  Let’s take a look at human-machine systems.

In mass market UX, the machine is some kind of passive listener — or even slave — that exists to satisfy its user by reacting on his commands in the best way. That is a very nice approach, but it is limited.

If we consider some complex professional tasks, there appears some kind of symbiosis — the users and the machines work together to achieve general goal. And this goal is not actually the direct goal of the users — it can be set by business owners and management, by organizational purposes and so on.

It doesn’t sound good, but that is the everyday life routine. Governmental organizations and commercial companies have to hire people, if there are no good and effective technologies to replace them with machines, computers and robots. But they actively use technologies to spend less and reach business or organizational goals better, faster, with less expenses and so on — in areas, where people are not so effective.

That is why this symbiosis happens. And it is called human-machine system — where both humans and machines are integral part of the system.

But we’ve seen much similarity between humans and machines. From interaction point of view, both have sensor inputs and output possibilities, processors with some hidden logic inside them and so on. Now it is time to define what makes them different — because it will also be an answer to the question “why there is still a need for operators in human-machine systems?”

Let’s take a look at this list:

  • Machines are irresponsible, but people take responsibility over their actions.
  • Humans cannot make several tasks simultaneously, but machines can.
  • Machines do complex computational tasks million times faster than humans.
  • Humans deal good in uncertainty conditions, while machines are still too bad with it.
  • Humans get tired and stressed, and machines do not (but operating time is some kind of analogy)


Next: Types of user interfaces

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