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Hey Siri, fix my PC.

Level 13

If the machines are taking over the world, are they coming for our jobs too?

“Automate all the things!” is the current trend in our industry. Chef, Puppet and Ansible scream that they are the solution to the end of monotonous work. We script all the things, ending the days of clicking Next, Next, Next, Finish. We’re using machines and machine languages to build, update and alter other machines. Right now, they still need us. They’re just making our lives easier.

Or are they enabling us to take an acceptable step towards outsourcing our tasks …. to them?

This year Zendesk dipped their toes in the water with Automatic Answers. The feature “uses machine learning capabilities to analyze customer and agent actions over time, learning which articles solve tickets associated with specific keywords and topics. If a customer indicates their inquiry has been solved successfully, the ticket is closed. For tickets that remain unsolved, they proceed to the customer service team as normal.”  It’s easy to think of that in a B2C scenario, say if I’ve emailed a company asking about the status of a product return. Automatic Answers could glean enough information from my email to check another system and reply with an answer, minus any human interaction. With in-house tech support, maybe that frees up the Helpdesk from questions like “how do I give someone else access to my calendar?” or “how do I turn on my out of office replies?” DigitalGenius chief strategy officer Mikhail Naumov confirms that customer service is easy because a history of recorded answers is a goldmine for machines to learn appropriate responses from.

At the other extreme, we now have robots that can heal themselves and this technology has been around for more than 12 months.

Somewhere between the two sit our software machines. Without physical moving robot parts, the technology that we interact with from our desktops or mobiles boils down to a bunch of code on a hardware base. If it all comes down to binary, will it one day be able to fix itself?

Software developers might start to get worried. Grab a cup of coffee and read this article about how we’ll no longer write code to program machines, instead we’ll train them like dogs. Yippee says the girl who hates coding.

A toe in the water example is Microsoft’s ‘Troubleshooter’ capability. Still initiated by a human, it will look for known common causes of problems with Windows Updates, your network connectivity or Windows Store Apps.  Yes, I know, your results may vary, but it’s a start.

IBM was playing around with Autonomic Computing back in 2003. They mention automatic load balancing as an example of self-optimization which I guess is a very rudimentary autonomic task.

Now we’ve built some intelligence into monitoring, diagnostics and remote management. Some monitoring systems can attempt a pre-programmed resolution step for example (e.g. if the service stops, try and restart the service). There are even a few conferences on Cloud and Autonomic Computing http://icac2016.uni-wuerzburg.de/  http://www.autonomic-conference.org/iccac-2017/

But autonomic computing of the future looks to building systems that can monitor, react, protect and manage themselves without human intervention. Systems will be self-healing, self-configuring, self-protecting and self-optimizing. We won’t program automation anymore, we’ll train the systems what try when they are failing (or maybe train them to aid each other? Paging Dr Server!).

I’m not sure if that’s a future I’ll really looking forward to or if it scares the heck out of me. When I get flashbacks to server that won’t boot and log in after a failed Microsoft patch, I’d gladly settle for one that correctly identifies it was a bad patch, reboots & uninstalls and actually returns it to the previous good state, all automatically.

But maybe the service desk tickets and red dashboard icons are keeping me in a job? What would you do if the servers & networks could fix themselves?

20 Comments

What would I do if servers and networks could fix themselves?  Hmm.

For a while I might stress out and worry.  Will I be out of a job?  If I AM out of a job, will I still be able to have income to support myself and my family and our wants and needs?

If I lose my job and income, up goes the blood pressure and out comes the resume--my new full-time job just became getting a new job, a new source of income:

  • Review my opportunities in my area, find alternate employers and start applying for positions
  • Determine what telecommuting solutions are available and leverage them with a new company
  • Get new certifications, new degrees, be what new employers want/need

If I DO have the ability to meet my wants and needs (without my job, because my job was replaced by automation):

  • I'd travel and attend new training opportunities--just for fun!  I've often thought being a "professional student" would be VERY interesting and personally rewarding.
  • Go camping, fishing, boating, seek new beautiful birds and animals, indulge in the rich variety of Nature that I've not yet seen.  Exploring Bora-bora might just be on the bucket list, if I could afford it.
  • Learn new languages and go meet new people.
  • Volunteer at the local community theater--I've acted on stage, and performed in the orchestra for numerous musicals.  It's a LOAD of fun, and you meet some mighty fine people in those worlds.
  • Start new hobbies that I never had time for while I was working full time:
    • Wood working
    • Painting
    • Expand on my photography hobby
    • Teach those who wish to benefit from my experiences and training

Seriously, it's all good--automation or not.  Maybe that automation would simply enable me to be more of a Systems Designer, or Enterprise Monitoring Master.  Maybe I'd find a way to break down the departmental silos and expand that single pane of glass called "Orion" into other teams beyond my own Network Analysts group.

Yeah.  That WOULD be nice!  Bring it, automation!

Level 14

rschroeder​ hit on some awesome ideas and potential realities..... ( the good, the bad, the ugly and the possible!!!!)

I'd love to experience work life without the mundane break/fix stuff.... No more "it doesn't work ... just fix it" calls....

My only requirement... Let me do it remotely! (Winter in South Carolina.... Summer in Maine!)

I want to concentrate on:

  • Traveling across the US
  • Fix neglected baseball fields for kids
  • Write that book I always joke about
  • Help my kids and grandkids...

Ya.... that will do it.

When can we get started?

MVP
MVP

having backout or interim income opportunities helps a bit.

Self repairing servers, data centers, etc.  Autonomous computers, in the end, it still runs on hardware and at this point still takes a person to swap boards and power supplies....

Level 20

theytookourjobs.jpg

An IT career demands that you prepare for you next job now. Work in IT doesn't go away, it changes. Automation and AI will drastically change IT work, but I plan to stay on path of providing the solution, not replaced by it.

Level 9

Basically we're all a bunch of Tony Starks trying to create Ultron. To quote a famous General, "I've got a bad feeling about this."

Level 14

If systems are self repairing, does that mean they won't allow changes that it doesn't like?  HAL?

Level 9

I was just listening to an episode of Star Talk with Neil deGrasse Tyson and Elon Musk. Musk said that the one thing he fears is Artificial Super Intelligence. Tyson said that people always state the solution to rouge Super AI is to just unplug the machine/power it off, but then he said that this solution operates with a false assumption...that the machine will let you get to the plug or power button.

So maybe we need to ask ourselves just because we could do it...should we do it?

There may be several options that can resolve this conundrum:

  • Don't built if, if it's going to ruin you, your world, civilization, your private dreams, the atmosphere, all security, etc. . . .   But that would require significant thought and ethics and altruism, all to be put into play before building it.  Our species doesn't often consider the consequences of our actions seven generations further on down.  Less than a hundred years ago, if it was cheaper to dispose of toxic materials by dumping them into lakes and rivers than to prevent their creation or safely remediate them, then the rivers would receive the pollution.  We're still paying for that today.
  • Think outside the box.  If the AI won't let you shut it off, what options can accomplish the same thing?
    • Get underneath it and weaken its physical foundation, then let gravity disable it.
    • Disable the power plant instead of trying to hit the thing's Off-Button
    • Derail a train into it, or the equivalent (air plane, hurricane, river, asteroid, solar flare, micro black hole--whatever it takes)
    • Build in hidden fail safes to disable it
    • Tell Thanos that the AI is hiding an Infinity Stone from him, that it thinks he's weak and pitiful
    • Notify the Avengers
Level 9

Personally, I'm holding out for the blending of man and machine. Cyborgs...the best of both worlds, because if you can't beat 'em, join 'em!

I'm cautiously optimistic, while remaining skeptical, about the viability of cyborgs.  First guarantee they're 100% ethical and altruistic; then I'll jump on their band wagon.

The last thing we need is immortal engines of steel with immoral desires and unethical motivations.

Level 21

I certainly don't look forward to the idea of trying to re-train a system to stop applying the wrong fix to a problem when it insists it knows better even though it doesn't.

The biggest challenge with systems fixing themselves is the contextual knowledge that humans have that systems don't.  This is why I always compare monitoring to the medical field and point out that the monitoring system is like the medical equipment, it shows me the symptoms; it's the doctor that makes the diagnosis.  This is because humans have contextual knowledge and while computers can compute faster than us, our brains are still much more efficient and handling abstract concepts and linking seemingly unrelated events.

Level 13

I love it when people see change as an opportunity!

Level 13

I'm with you!

Level 13

I know many data center engineers and hardware techs are worried about companies moving to Infrastructure as a Service from the bigger players.

Level 13

That's a great attitude to have.

Level 13

You'll love my next article then.

Level 13

This week I'll talk about ethics and AI ... not whether what we are doing is the right thing but whether we'll be able to 'code' ethics into the machines.

Level 13

Imagine if a patch automatically backed out correctly if it caused a problem!

I was in an interesting Big Data session yesterday about Machine Learning and Deep Learning. Speaker talked about how we know the difference between correlation and causation. But we also have a human tendency to look for and identify patterns even if they don't exist in random data.

Financial technology (fintech) is going that way. The data crunching, dashboards and graphs will offer insights into the data that we wouldn't have seen or have known to look for. But you're absolutely right that the human eyeball over that knows whether there's a valid reason for the results or if they really are highlighting an unknown anomaly.

MVP
MVP

How would a patch know that is was bad and had to be punished by being backed out ?