Curating the Internet: Science and technology digest for January 28, 2020


A discussion of the critical nature of human performance in complex software systems; Introducing the concept of Robotic Process Automation (RPA); GM revitalizing a factory that was nearly shuttered for use in manufacturing electric and autonomous vehicles; Reengineering viruses to cure bacterial infections; and Steem-based discussions of the Wuhan Coronavirus and a related Prevent/Cure/Treat framework for dealing with health issues


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First posted on my Steem blog: SteemIt, SteemPeak*, StemGeeks.

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  1. Revealing the Critical Role of Human Performance in Software - This summarizes and extends on a series of articles discussing the relationship between human performance and software engineering. It begins by describing an "above the line / below the line" framework where human performance occupies the space above the line and software engineering lies below it. It then summarizes previous articles in the series that established the framework, looked at anomaly response in the upper section of the framework, examined coordination during potentially disruptive events, and discussed factors that are involved in learning from incidents. This article adds the perspective that systems recover from incidents as a result of human adaptive capabilities, which implies that incidents can be seen as opportunities to incorporate organizational growth and change by updating the mental models that are in use by support staff. The article concludes with this encapsulation of the ideas in play:
    Understanding, supporting, and sustaining the capabilities above the line require all stakeholders to be able to continuously update and revise their models of how the system is messy and yet usually manages to work. This kind of openness to continually reexamine how the system really works requires expanding the efforts to learn from incidents. These articles provide tangible paths all can follow to learn how to learn from incidents.

  2. You’ve Probably Never Heard of Robotic Process Automation, but ... - Robotic process automation (RPA) involves the use of software bots that train themselves by watching what a person does their device(s) and then adapting themselves to accomplish the same things automatically. Once this baseline training is complete, the RPA bots can be distributed throughout an organization (cloned) in order to accomplish the same tasks for numerous users. Once distributed, the bots will continue to train and update themselves in order to become even more effective at the tasks and distribute that improvement throughout the network. Although this might seem threatening to workers, it probably is not. It is true that the bots remove humans from the automated task, but it requires human input to continue to learn and improve, and the humans who are freed from the need to perform repetitive tasks can complete tasks that require more creativity and innovation. A recent Forrester Survey found that 66% of employees who are using RPA bots believe that the tools are restructuring jobs, not eliminating them. The study also found that RPAs tend to increase engagement by freeing workers from the boredom that accompanies performance of repetitive tasks.

  3. GM is revitalizing a factory that was on the brink of closing to build a new generation of electric and self-driving vehicles - Last year, GM's Detroit-Hamtramck factory was on the verge of being shut down by the firm, but now the company has instead announced plans for a $3 billion investment and that it will be central to the corporation's plans for the next generation of electric and self-driving vehicles. The plant has a history dating back to 1910, and it has been "around" (whatever that means) since the 1980s. Right now, the plant has 900 workers producing slow-selling sedans from Cadillac and Chevrolet. It will be idled in February and after the planned upgrades, it will employee 2,200 workers in production of electric and autonomous vehicles. The plant holds a central position in GM's plans to sell 20 all-electric vehicles by 2023.

  4. Antibiotic resistance: scientists are reengineering viruses to cure bacterial infections - As the world teeters on the edge of a hypothetical global health pandemic with the latest Corona virus, medicine is also confronted with the fear that increasing levels of antibiotic resistance may usher in a post-antibiotic era. It is perhaps surprising, then, that viruses may offer part of a solution to antibiotic resistance. That is the case, though because scientists are currently looking at a particular class of viruses, known as bacteriophages, for just that purpose. Bacteriophages are estimated to be the most abundant organisms on the planet, they're harmless to human cells, they kill bacteria efficiently, and they can survive in many environments - like the human gut, for example. Phage therapy was used in the 1930s, but then largely forgotten about after WWII and the discovery of antibiotics. Recently, however, scientists have resumed work in the area, and they have even cured an infection from an antibiotic-resistant bacteria in a 15 year old girl. Bacteriophages are believed to be superior to antibiotics for many uses because they only target a single species of bacteria. In contrast, antibiotics kill large swaths of species indiscriminately, including helpful ones. A drawback of bacteriophages is that evolution makes bacteria resistant to a particular phage very quickly, but this problem can be mitigated through the use of "phage cocktails" that consist of multiple phages, and also through the use of genetic engineering. Although phage therapy is not yet available for most uses in Western medicine, it is available in Russia, and widely used in Georgia, "specially in paediatric, surgical care and burns hospital settings". For more information on the topic, bacteriophages were previously covered in Science and technology micro-summaries for June 19, 2019, which included a link to this video from Steem's @answerswithjoe:

    (A 10% beneficiary setting has been applied to this post for @answerswithjoe.)
    -h/t RealClear Science


  5. STEEM First Warning About the Wuhan Coronavirus Came From AI - In this post, @kralizec points out that, despite intense secrecy from the Chinese government, the first warning on the Wuhan Coronavirus came from Canadian systems that make use of IBM's BlueDot AI, which issued a widely-ignored alert all the way back on December 31, 2019. According to @kralizec, the technology uses advanced algorithms and searches through news sources in 65 different languages. On a related topic, Steem also has an article from @spectrumecons, Health - Prevent, Cure, or Treat. This makes use of the Prevent, Solve, or Manage framework that was posted in Prevent, Solve or Manage and covered in Curating the Internet: Science and technology digest for January 12, 2020. The framework is applied to health care by mapping "solve" to "cure", and "treat" to "manage". (10% beneficiary settings have been applied to this post for @kralizec and @spectrumecons.)


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Comments 3


Shared on Twitter, here. #posh

28.01.2020 17:04
0

It's great to see that even software engineers, 'geeks' considered socially less apt, are recognizing that technology is simply extension of human capability. Unless technology is doing that one thing, it is useless. No matter how amazing or innovative a new widget is, unless it is useful to people somehow, it is pointless.

Regarding phages, I am also very glad to see this kind of research. The solution to antibiotic resistance is diversity of vectors, and phages are a new, or relatively underutilized, vector of bacteriocide. I note that something that hasn't been undertaken even conceptually is the inverse.

There are numerous companies presently working on viricides. Given the current Wuhan situation, this effort is lent urgency. One of the most promising mechanisms are nanodevices which mimic cells and trick virii into latching onto the devices with the structures they use to attack cells. The devices then trap and destroy the virii. I suspect that bacteria can be engineered to perform this role, and even to be sustained on a diet of pathogenic virii, while also being self-replicating and not requiring economic and industrial manufacturing to produce after their initial engineering.

Thanks!

29.01.2020 18:16
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Thanks for the reply!

This is an interesting point.

I note that something that hasn't been undertaken even conceptually is the inverse.

We hear a lot about probiotics for promoting generalized health, but as far as I'm aware you are right that there has been no effort to make use of bacteria as a treatment for viruses. There's none that I can remember reading about, anyway.

Also, I have another one that takes this perspective in the post that's scheduled for tomorrow.

It's great to see that even software engineers, 'geeks' considered socially less apt, are recognizing that technology is simply extension of human capability

29.01.2020 20:27
0