Navy Discovers Superiority of Man over Machines

Two peacetime shipwrecks over two months time left 17 sailors dead. How did this happen?

Navy returns to compasses and pencils to help avoid collisions at sea
Read the associated story from the New York Times via this link

Over-reliance on technologies and over-worked personnel are the ingredients for a deadly cocktail. I can personally relate to my own Vietnam War experience. The Norden Company assigned me to the USS Constellation stationed in the Tonkin Gulf.

My workday was typically a 30-hour stint with 4-hour bedrest. I became so weary that I would fall asleep standing in the shower. In the NY Times story, we learn sailors worked 100-hour weeks. A 7-day week spans 168 hours, for your reference.

Due to the turnover of personnel and the cost of training, the Department of Defense charted a course decades ago toward applications of high technologies (automation).

Compare autonomous ship guidance systems to the newest automobiles that can actually park themselves, accurately navigate the nation’s highways, and automatically brake to avoid collisions. Well, almost.

Reliance on artificial intelligence (AI) to autonomously drive the car will inevitably lead to deadly collisions, maimed survivors, and unfathomable legal consequences. If the car’s computer is driving the car, who is liable for accidents? The owner of the vehicle or the manufacturer? It’s reasonable to foresee decades of torts comparable in some respects to the lawsuits against tobacco companies.

The key word is artificial. AI simulates human responses to specific stimuli. Let’s compare artificial intelligence to natural (human) intelligence?

According to Science ABC:

At the time of this writing, the fastest supercomputer in the world is the Tianhe-2 in Guangzhou, China, and has a maximum processing speed of 54.902 petaFLOPS. A petaFLOP is a quadrillion (one thousand trillion) floating point calculations per second. That’s a huge amount of calculations, and yet, that doesn’t even come close to the processing speed of the human brain.

In contrast, our miraculous brains operate on the next order higher. Although it is impossible to precisely calculate, it is postulated that the human brain operates at 1 exaFLOP, which is equivalent to a billion billion calculations per second.

Learn more from Scientific American – Computers versus Brains

Despite how Google, Siri, and other AI technologies astonish you, it is your own brain, that grey matter between your ears you should depend on.

The Navy learned the hard way that there is no substitute for human skill and trained minds.

John White
Rockwall, Texas

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