Air Force wants to understand impact of automated systems the human psyche

Air Force wants studies impact of human reliance on autonomous systems

When I think if the United States Air Force I don't typically think of it worrying too much about the human psyche.  But in this case, the Air Force says it wants to begin studies that look at  the psychological, neurological, or contextual elements of human reliance on autonomous systems. The idea, the Air Force says is to identify general principles of human trust.

Once the studies are complete the Air Force says the data can be used to forecast the limitations and benefits of various autonomous systems. Without this understanding, novel technological systems - such as an unmanned aircraft's ability to decide on its own who to shoot at and when -- run the risk of both over reliance or under reliance by users which will hurt a given mission.

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Specifically, the Air Force says it expects to award up to four, $100-$250k contracts that will last up to three years to look into a variety of topics including:

(1) Empirical studies to reveal the psychological, organizational, technological, and group-level factors that shape reliance on automation

(2) Neuroscience and psychophysiology research to establish the markers for said reliance

(3) Case studies of Department of Defense users with experience using autonomous vehicles to identify practical lessons learned and realistic perspectives for use or disuse of such systems

(4) Anthropological/cross-cultural science to understand the barriers to optimal use of automation in other countries

(5) Cross-service studies to reveal potential differences in perceptions/use of automated systems

(6) Harnessing and understanding relevant and practical metrics for establishing trustworthiness of autonomous systems

(7) Understanding the impact of different generations (i.e., age groups) on reliance

Automation is a key future technology in the Air Force, other services and in the private/public sector as computers and software are built with increasing amounts of intelligence.

From the Air Force:  "It is possible to develop systems having high levels of autonomy, but it is the lack of suitable verification and validation methods that prevents all but relatively low levels of autonomy from being certified for use. Potential adversaries, however, may be willing to field systems with far higher levels of autonomy without any need for certifiable verification, and could gain significant capability advantages over the Air Force by doing so. Countering this asymmetric advantage will require as-yet undeveloped methods for achieving certifiably reliable verification. The Air Force, as one the greatest potential beneficiaries of more highly adaptive and autonomous systems, must be a leader in the development of the underlying science and technology principles for verification and validation.

Natural human capacities are becoming increasingly mismatched to the enormous data volumes, processing capabilities, and decision speeds that technologies either offer or demand. Although humans today remain more capable than machines for many tasks, by 2030 machine capabilities will have increased to the point that humans will have become the weakest component in a wide array of systems and processes. Humans and machines will need to become far more closely coupled, through improved human-machine interfaces and by direct augmentation of human performance."

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