Join us as Frank Lacson hosts our first Roundtable! This podcast episode explores the relationship between technology and human limitations, discussing topics such as exoskeletons, human modification, and the use of technology to reduce barriers for neurodivergent people. We also touch on the concept of war and whether it can be fought without human involvement, as well as the experimentation of working hours, and different models for a four-day week.
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[00:00:00] Nick Roome: All right. This is Human Factors Cast Roundtable. Frank, this is your episode. What would you like to talk about? This is you're the host here.
[00:00:08] Frank Lacson: Hey. Hey, Nick. Thanks for having me on here. Nick and Barry. One of the things I've been really thinking about and especially after. Taking a look at listening to some of the previous podcasts is that although human factors we design to fit the human a lot of times we're still human.
And so I've been reading a lot on how truly human our limitations. And I know we've done many things from a technology standpoint and our knowledge but then also thinking, stopping, pausing for a little bit to think about the, in truly inflexible parts of our humanity and how technology can help us support that or help augment that.
[00:00:51] Barry Kirby: That's it's an interesting starting point, isn't it? Because. What is it? You do get to the root of what does it mean to be human and therefore just how much should we be doing? Because you always go to that almost disaster scenario, don't you? It's so what happens if we emmp the world and you have no technology and engagement or, it just isn't available to you anymore.
What's the film where Where they have their cutie little character that, that finds life. And he, it takes it back to the spaceship, but not basically human. That would be Wally. Wally. That's the one. Thank you. Somebody's got the cultural record. But the humanity there has just basically gone to be living on these floating beds.
And they, they forget that they can actually walk and things like that. And I do wonder, and I think we did touch upon this previously, like with like exoskeletons and things, if we. If we start developing things too far that you cannot do a job without wearing an exo skeleton. Then actually have we done the design of the job and in, in and injustice?
So yeah, I guess fundamentally, what does it mean to be human? I think that's a really interesting concept. Yeah.
[00:01:57] Nick Roome: Nick, what do you think? It is a really interesting concept, and I think for me, I, my brain tends to go more towards like the cyberpunk approach of like human modification and modifying body parts to be bionic in some way or shape or form, are you going to call somebody who's an amputee that has a replacement piece of hardware less than human because they're using that? No, you're not. Would you call somebody less than human if they did that by choice? I don't think you would. At what point do we stop becoming human? Does it all live up here or is it the body?
Is it the way that we function? Humans I in this form at least, right? And would you still call a brain in a vat that's living off of signals Human if it's still having experiences? Even if they're like virtual halluc hallucinations in like a virtual environment, would you still call it human?
It's still having these experiences. It's still feeling emotion. It's still having, these are some really interesting questions. I don't know. Frank, where do you want to take the conversation from here, man.
[00:03:09] Frank Lacson: Yeah, it's really interesting that you mentioned that the exoskeleton and that's something I really thought about it.
The initial exploration I had was a about the mind. And one of the books had been reading about intent and so that there's this fairy tale of, oh, we, if you put your mind to it, anything can happen. That assumes that your mind is a hundred percent. And a hundred percent controllable in time.
So there are interesting cases where many cases out there where we fully intend to do things, but then our primitive brain just takes over and we find ourselves, oh wait there's that bag of potato chips I wasn't supposed to eat. Or the thing I was supposed to fix didn't get.
But then again when we think, oh, we don't have any care of any intent such as watching a sporting event that one likes or a favorite. Nine o'clock or six o'clock, whatever time shows up on Wednesday. I'm watching, sitting there watching Mandalorian and I didn't have to think about it.
I'm there with my wife watching the show that I like and took zero
[00:04:08] Barry Kirby: effort. It's interesting cuz I, I've had a, that sort of experience today where there's been a d I Y task that I've had to do is an outside leaking. And I know I've had to do it now for at least a month, something like that, a really slow leak.
So it's not, it's not a major drama, but I know that it, and all I've had to do is go to the front of the house, turn the water off to the house, swap the tap off. It's not a big deal in the grand scheme of things, but in the way I overthink things, I it's taken me ages to, to think about that.
But you're right, the ability to just sit in front of the TV and put on Master Chef or whatever the program it is that you're watching But the, that other example you give around because I am let's say challenged in the weight category and the ability to sit there and say, I know I shouldn't pick up the bag of chips, or, buy the takeaway.
I should be cooking a healthy meal, which I will enjoy. If I cooked a nice, healthy meal. I'd enjoy it because, you cook tasty food. But there's just something about odding, the takeaway. There's just something about it. And you know that it's, and that is almost, that, is that the fundamentally human thing to choose?
Or what are the chemicals being basically you are, you're running off en endorphins and the dopamine aren't you of knowing that you are doing the takeaway because the takeaways are treat and you know that you're gonna get that rush off it. Cause invariably, if it's Friday, I will then invariably get the takeaway.
I might also get a bottle of wine, and because it's Friday and Fridays involve a bottle of wine, you've been looking forward to this bottle of wine or what, whatever beverage you choose all week. I wouldn't necessarily get any, you know what, do I truly get satisfaction out of it or is it just I, my perceived satisfaction out of it, and therefore, how is that being manipulated?
[00:05:46] Nick Roome: Some of those points that you bring up though, that to me almost screams neurodivergence, like the ability to just get up and do something. For me, that's very hard. A lot of times A D H D brain says, oh, I need to do the dishes. But what does that really entail? Someone might say, okay, you just need to go up to the.
Grab the dishes, start scrubbing, throw 'em in the dishwasher. You're done. Okay. For my brain, what it means is, okay in order to do the dishes, I must first stop what I'm doing. Then I have to put my hands on my chair and lift myself out of the chair. Then I have to go and open the door. Then I have to go walk to the kitchen.
Then I have to, and because I string together all these tasks, these subtasks, to get to the point of even standing in front of the sink before I say, okay, now I have to reach over and turn on the faucet, and then I have to select my first dish to wash, and then I have to select that dish, and then I have to, There are different levels at which we think about things, and it's for me, there are there are strategies that I employ, at least in my everyday life, to reduce some of those barriers, to reduce the number of steps I need to think about in order to do something and does that make us human?
Where do you draw that line of I think we're all. But are again, with the same sort of theme, are you going to call somebody who is patching neurodivergence with medication less human than somebody who doesn't need medication to perform in the same way? I don't think so. And so when you think about technology, are you going to call somebody who uses an exoskeleton?
To, because they need assistance. Less human. I don't know. It's an, it's a really interesting conversation. I love this.
[00:07:42] Barry Kirby: I think in many ways, I think the, I don't necessarily think it's about calling people out for it, but I think there is a certain element there around how much do we create technology that people rely on a day-to-day basis that isn't just aiding a job.
It isn't just, that they. If we get to the point where we are wearing exoskeletons all of the time for whatever reason, then actually, are we negating the way that we exist normally? And I, I don't know. It's a bit like if somebody uses AI to write their articles all of the time, and they become a, an author, say a published author, and they've used chat g p t to, to deliver that, and suddenly chat, G P t disappears.
They can't write anything. Because they haven't got the, that, that technological crutch to be able to do it. I wanna take this from a, from an opposite direction. Work in the def I work in the defense industry and we constantly looking at the way we use technology to outwit the or out-maneuver the opposition.
And it's often one of the scenarios that we talk about is that actually, will we get to a point where humans are no longer involved in war? It will just be red machines versus blue machines type of thing. And the, whatever's left is war, truly war if people aren't involved Because this is war.
Just something that is fundamentally human. It's a human endeavor that's supported by technology and therefore if we just, drone versus drone, that doesn't actually mean anything. Someone
[00:09:11] Nick Roome: had to initiate it though.
[00:09:14] Barry Kirby: True. Is it enough to be sat back there like a, somebody with the, a chess grand master can just two people have a war against each other or does it involve more.
[00:09:23] Frank Lacson: Yeah. Is it? Yeah, that's an interesting point, especially with the rules of engagement. And so is, would war then be just boiled out to various rule sets? If, then and then we, we have AI and other kinds of things that can more smartly process the. In, in terms of on, on the ground when you're in a more face-to-face kind of situation, those rules are a lot more fuzzy.
There's interpretations, nuances. It's okay, I'm the rule. I'll, according to the rule, I'm supposed to take this action. But, there's something, whatever it may be a cue something that a machine might not be able to. The humans are really good at that.
Especially the vision component and says, okay, the rule says this, but something in the world causes me to just pause or not even follow the rule completely. And because of that and sometimes that, that saves lives.
[00:10:18] Barry Kirby: But is there something a bit more, even more fundamental than that as well though, that actually.
We're talking about the idea of, what is fundamentally human? Is there some, if we decide that we are going to war against another country because war is a, an inter-country exercise. Is, do we. Does there need to be literally human death in order for a war to be worked out?
Would it be enough to have machine against a machine? Oh, cuz then, the next step from that is you don't actually have to have machines. You could do all via simulation and to, how well did you do your simulation? And you end up having you, a simulated outcome. But you're not going to get to the end of that because surely.
If you don't get the simulated outcome you want, then you go and blow up the server. I don't know, it's do you need humans to actually sacrifice themselves in order for war to be war, to be there and therefore that's that combat is a fundamentally human thing.
[00:11:11] Nick Roome: It's fascinating. I don't know because I was thinking about the same thing. It's what if you had just these virtual fights? Is that still human? Does there sports? Yeah, exactly. Does there need to be? But then we then that tackles eSports, right? So is eSport a sport? I think so, yeah.
Because there, those guys are athletes. They are using their brains. To perform these maneuvers within a defined set of rules that these games have established. And I think the difference between like eSports and a virtual war is that both sides might not necessarily play by the rule set established, and it's who can decimate their target first and.
Yeah, you're right. Does loss of human life need is it a fundamental part of war and does war combat? Is war greater than two leaders? I would imagine at some point those leaders would need to bring in tacticians and the. Extending it, the range beyond just two people, the leaders. You are now introducing military leaders and because of that hierarchy, because there are more players involved, even at let's say you keep it to 10, you're still having a war between 20 people and the way it plays out will have ramifications for society, whichever society ends up.
And winning. And I don't know. That's all good questions.
[00:12:53] Barry Kirby: So we've probably taken us down quite a deep hole there. Yeah. More
[00:12:56] Nick Roome: To host your own human factors cast roundtable. All you need to do is become a human factors cast v i p.
Reach out to me and we'll get you scheduled and hopefully yv All enjoyed the first episode of Human Factors Cast Roundtable.
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