Automation and ATC

Goxupeko

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Mod note: edited from another thread

Lastly, this career is RIPE for far-reaching automation. 99% of it is memorizing a ton of rules and facts and applying them logically with constant, unerring vigilance. It is literally the perfect application for computer intelligence. The government moves painfully slowly, but it's hard to imagine that there won't be significant impacts in the coming years.
 
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CaptainObvious

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OP and others struggling to get in, I have some thoughts for you.

I myself struggled to get through the hiring process. I did finally get through via an uncommon path and after several years of effort, waiting, and anguish. In my mind I built up this career to more than it actually is. After an initial false start, I became even more obsessed with it and saw it as my only path to a good future.

I'm currently at a high-level facility and I can say that things haven't quite lived up to the dream. This is a good job but it has its downsides, too. There are many jobs with way better schedules and more flexibility with using leave, or where you don't face 20 layers of bureaucracy to change anything. And there are many jobs where you can work in more modern, better-kept facilities. And there are many jobs where you have more diversity of tasks, autonomy, creativity, and satisfaction.

Also keep in mind that if you win the hiring lottery, you still face the equally ominous placement lottery. It's easy to overlook this or brush it aside before you even get in, but the reality slaps many new hires in the face. It's not difficult to end up at an undesirable facility or in an undesirable location and be stuck there for years upon years.

Lastly, this career is RIPE for far-reaching automation. 99% of it is memorizing a ton of rules and facts and applying them logically with constant, unerring vigilance. It is literally the perfect application for computer intelligence. The government moves painfully slowly, but it's hard to imagine that there won't be significant impacts in the coming years.

All of this is to say, don't necessarily rest all your hopes on this one career option.
I think your points on automation way be an overreach. Just because a computer can be coded with the regulations doesn’t mean that it can provide a solace for a real human experiencing difficulty and fear
 

Goxupeko

Member
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I think your points on automation way be an overreach. Just because a computer can be coded with the regulations doesn’t mean that it can provide a solace for a real human experiencing difficulty and fear
I expected someone to reply like this. But your point does not refute mine at all. Handling emergencies is part of the 1% of the job were a human could still be useful in the future. But that doesn't mean we will still need 100% of the controllers we have now.
 

DL0509

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I expected someone to reply like this. But your point does not refute mine at all. Handling emergencies is part of the 1% of the job were a human could still be useful in the future. But that doesn't mean we will still need 100% of the controllers we have now.
How is the type of automation your talking about possible at vfr towers.
 

DL0509

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339
Yeah I don't see that happening. Sure some of the level 4 and 5 tower only should be contracted out but that doesn't mean that it will happen. Unless you know something others don't.

My point is automation can be nice but there's no way a computer will be able to sequence arrivals departures, transitions, traffic pattern etc in a 4-5 mile radius while also trying to decipher what the f*ck a foreign student pilot is saying.
 
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DowntownTG

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68
Until the airplanes are fully automated, the ATC won't be automated. It will either be both have humans in control or both have none.
 

Goxupeko

Member
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You sound like you’re fun at parties
Touché.

Not to mention weather, GA pilots, surveys, military/police work
None of this presents a particular difficulty for automation.

...there's no way a computer will be able to sequence arrivals departures, transitions, traffic pattern etc in a 4-5 mile radius while also trying to decipher what the f*ck a foreign student pilot is saying.
The only part of this that would currently be tricky for computers is understanding a foreign accent. But computers are rapidly getting better at that, and regardless, the future of ATC won't be done with voices. It's already slowly moving away from voice with Data Comm, automated pointouts, etc.

Aircraft have been nearly completely automated for years, and yet there are still pilots.
Aircraft are in the same situation as ATC. They absolutely could be more heavily automated but regulations have slowed it down thus far.

Until the airplanes are fully automated, the ATC won't be automated. It will either be both have humans in control or both have none.
Possibly. There's no reason both won't happen.


I was a bad idea to post this here. It's uncomfortable to understand that your job could and should be replaced by machines. But most controllers are too arrogant and ignorant to even see it coming.
 
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GulfCharlie

Comrade Commissar
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Touché.


None of this presents a particular difficulty for automation.


The only part of this that would currently be tricky for computers is understanding a foreign accent. But computers are rapidly getting better at that, and regardless, the future of ATC won't be done with voices. It's already slowly moving away from voice with Data Comm, automated pointouts, etc.


Aircraft are in the same situation as ATC. They absolutely could be more heavily automated but regulations have slowed it down thus far.


Possibly. There's no reason both won't happen.


I was a bad idea to post this here. It's uncomfortable to understand that your job could and should be replaced by machines. But most controllers are too arrogant and ignorant to even see it coming.
Please share what ever you are smoking. At the end of the day no one is going to trust a computer to sequence with level 6 weather, HCF VFR Traffic/ pop ups / 3 dead radios or inop transponders/ or a BE58 losing one engine and 12 arrivals to a single runway. Can automation for certain functions in our job increase? Sure, especially between terminal environments and centres, but trusting a computer for even the few simple things mentioned above I can promise you will not happen. The citizens of the US would rather have an imperfect human making split second decisions and holding them accountable vs a computer code missing a 0 that killed 300+ people.
 

GulfCharlie

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I said HCF but meant which ever TRACON is in central FL that deals with student pilots in that they all (surprisingly) try to kill each other (again surprisingly).
 

GulfCharlie

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Here is another perfect scenario, MEDVAC waiting to depart 2C, windshifts, Arrivals bearing down on 20R, do you launch the MEDVAC who has stated if he has more than a 5 minute delay he will fail his mission or do you let 5 airliners land 20R causing a person to die because you didn’t send them around to launch the MEDVAC ODO? Which choice do you think the computer will make?
 

GulfCharlie

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You cannot program yourself for every problem or every solution to this job. The best thing you can do is see situations and make the best choice you based off experience gained and knowledge that you understand. If a computer decides to let 5 airlines with 500-600+ people land only to let one person die because the heart a MEDVAC was carrying was unable to take off due to a windshift, how will you explain it to the family let alone the national public that hey the computer made a choice that resulted in the death of a patient?
 

denver0739

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252
I know that I have about zero authority to speak at all. I’m not in the door yet, haven’t done the job and so on and so forth. That being said, I’ll always argue against automation.

There are tons of examples or situations over a variety of careers that could easily prove that a computers processes are limited by what it’s programming is. One of which is that 18-wheelers could/should be fully automated. Personally, I’d rather take a person who’s had x amount of years driving the truck than some computer that glitches when it ran into a scenario not programmed in.

That easily translates over into ATC. I’d rather that people who’ve had the experience and training and real life experiences be the ones calling the shots than a computer run into a scenario it isn’t programmed for.

That’s just one persons opinion who doesn’t have a bunch of “facts and scenarios” to prove their point. But the reality of it is that a person can do 10x what a computer can by prioritizing every day and situation as is needed per the situation.
 

spider

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231
I think ATC will eventually be mostly automated. It won’t be during our careers, though.
 
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GulfCharlie

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Now as a controller do I make inefficient calls, sequences, and decisions? Absolutely, I will be the first to admit that. There is a gut feeling that sometimes I cannot explain that says “give an extra mile or two” or “handle this person with kid gloves because something seems off” for example. Does this lead me down the shitter sometimes? Absolutely and this is something that gets better with time. That said I, personally, will die on the hill of listening to my gut over a computer program making a decision any day.
 

DL0509

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The only part of this that would currently be tricky for computers is understanding a foreign accent. But computers are rapidly getting better at that, and regardless, the future of ATC won't be done with voices. It's already slowly moving away from voice with Data Comm, automated pointouts, etc.

Do you have VFR tower experience? I'm starting to think you don't. The only days I think a computer could do my job are those IFR days when the RVR is low there's an indefinite ceiling and the Vis is below a 1/2.
 
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