About stand-by-jobs, facilitation and driverless underground trains. And about Uli.

I short time ago, I was introduced to Ulrich Sendler. Uli is an “Independent technology analyst” and musician. He writes books (that are even translated into Chinese, where they are best-sellers), gives presentations (judging by what I saw of him, I assume his presentations are rather competent and entertaining) and he also works as a counsellor and moderator. When we met, he told me that he will soon be speaking in Gütersloh on the keynote topic: “Automated Society”. You order a service via internet and the delivery or service will be carried out automatically.

For me, “automated society” and “self-service society” are also “buzz words” often used when people characterize our “new digitalized society” in our “post-fact everyday life”.

These expressions immediately triggered a few association and ideas:

Technology is there to make life and work easier for humans. There is a nice and nowadays often used buzz word for this:
In Wikipedia, you find the definition: 
Facilitation is any activity that makes tasks for others easy, or tasks that are assisted.

In everyday life, this is responsible for the fact that work humans used to do is now easier because of technological advances. We might even end up having to do nothing at all.

Just think of Lufthansa pilots. Currently, they are often written about in the press because of their passionate attitude towards strikes. Your average poor pilot will only be allowed to actually become active for ten minutes of a long-distance flight, for instance to the Caribbean: when initiating and realizing the start and landing phases. He spends the rest of the time watching the plane fly. The poor pilot is not allowed to relieve his boredom by playing computer games. Presumably, alcohol is just as forbidden as visiting ladies – like stewardesses – in the cockpit. All that remains is boredom.

Wecker1In my vocabulary, these jobs are “stand-by-jobs”. Since I used to be a programmer, this would be like having to watch the computer programming itself and then being allowed five minutes to evaluate if the resulting program is what it should be. To me, such a job description sounds rather cruel. It is quite possible that such a stand-by job will cause depressions.

Two decades ago, there was a phase of about two weeks after I had switched to a new employer during which there was nothing to do for me. I sat in my office from morning to evening, was terribly bored and tried with all my might to do something meaningful. And the digits of the clock seemed to really, really creep.

Never again in my work-life was I as unhappy as then.

Münchner U-Bahnhof Dietlindenstraße (U6) - Urheber: FloSch - Eigenes Werk unter CC BY 2.5 (2005)

Munich Underground station Dietlindenstraße (U6) – by FloSch, under CC BY 2.5 published in Wikipedia (2005)

One of the systems the Stadtwerke München (SWM) supervise is the Munich Underground Network. The SWM are intelligent employers. They know that humans do not appreciate “stand-by-work”. Underground train drivers, too, have become “stand-by-workers”.

But the Stadtwerke want happy underground train drivers who are motivated to do their jobs. A short time ago, I learned that all underground train drivers have to exit at every station to control how full the train is. And after this has been done successfully, they have to signal that the train can continue. That is an important task.

This activity was introduced to make the platforms safer. Above all, however, it is a measure that serves the driver, because in this way his job gets more responsible and diverse, and he even gets a little exercise. That is good both for the body and the soul.

Except that in Nuremberg, the underground trains have been moving without a driver for many years now. And those in Lyon have been doing so for decades. And in both cases, the model seems to work quite fine, actually even better than with a driver.
May my readers come to their own conclusions.

(Translated by EG)

Yesterday, I used the MVG Bus number 210 from Neuperlach Station to Ottobrunn, Jahnstrasse. The driver sat in his dark cabin and was rather isolated. All contact between vehicle and passengers was automated: the display and announcement of stops. The driver is reduced to being the one behind the wheel. He will stop the bus whenever he can see someone at the bus stop or if someone has pressed the button inside the bus. On this evening, I was lucky, because the driver drove very sensibly. He never accelerated too abruptly or stomped on the breaks with too much force. I found that rather agreeable. But there are also some drivers who really let their hair down. That is when you think a self-driven bus might have its advantages. Technologically speaking, I am sure it is already possible.

3 Kommentare zu “Digitalisation Today: “Automated Society” and Other Buzzwords”

  1. Hans Bonfigt (Sunday December 4th, 2016)

    Ja, lieber Roland,
    die Botschaft hör’ ich schon, allein, es gibt das Wissen…

    Glauben Sie ernsthaft, eine Gesellschaft, die das Gefahrenpotential eines breitbandig angeschlossenen Internetrouters nicht erkennt und folgerichtig nichts dagegen unternimmt, wäre in der Lage, ein selbstfahrendes Fahrzeug zu bauen?

    Eine Gesellschaft, die das Potential eines Transrapid verkennt und stattdessen plan- willen- und ziellos in die Sackgasse “Elektroantrieb” abbiegt – die bekommt doch keine sinnvollen Konzepte auf die Reihe?

  2. rd (Sunday December 4th, 2016)

    Gute Frage!

  3. Chris Wood (Tuesday December 6th, 2016)

    Yes, my worst job experience, (except for the odd disaster), came when I was persuaded to take the “standby” mobile telephone for a weekend. In an emergency, a customer could call it. None did, so I got paid for doing nothing. But it ruined my weekend! The worst aspect was that, if a customer called, there was little chance that I could help. As a developer, my knowledge was too specialised for trouble-shooting.
    I am reminded that a professional sportsman can have a similar problem. The goalkeeper whose team loses 0-1 after dominating the game is one case. Even worse is the case of the “slip fielder” in cricket. He waits up to 6 hours in a day for a ball to come off the edge of the bat, so he can catch it. He needs to concentrate only when the ball is bowled. But that means a few hundred times in the day, with perhaps only one or two difficult catch chances.

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