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170- Children of the Magenta (Automation Paradox, pt. 1)

2015-06-23 | 🔗

On the evening of May 31, 2009, 216 passengers, three pilots, and nine flight attendants boarded an Airbus 330 in Rio de Janeiro. This flight, Air France 447, was headed across to Paris. Everything proceeded normally for several hours. Then, with no … Continue reading →

This is an unofficial transcript meant for reference. Accuracy is not guaranteed.
This is ninety nine percent, invisible, I'm roman Mars, on the evening of May thirty. First, two thousand nine two hundred and sixteen passengers, three pilots, and now flight attendants, boarded and AIR France Flight in Rio De Janeiro. Brazil flight was headed across the Atlantic Ocean to parents a warning The story might not be a good one to listen to if you're sitting on a plane right now, both sport, Sir Katy mingle, letting you know that the closest exit could be behind you, the plane, the took off that Evening from Rio was an Airbus three. Thirty, the take off was unremarkable. The plane reached cruising altitude of thirty five thousand feet the past. Just read and watched movies and slept flew over the Atlantic Ocean passing the equator. There was a lot of thunder activity, quite typical nuts really unusual about that
That's William Long of ISA. He wrote an article four vanity fair about this flight and has written extensively about aviation. He also used to be a pilot so many many thousands of ours and cockpits, which means particularly well suited to tell the story of AIR France Flight for forty seven long flight, so we had to cope eyelids known as first officers and one Captain they would fly the plane in shifts to them fly, but one slept. We know that Light proceeded normally for several hours and then then, with no communication to the ground or air traffic control, it suddenly disappeared. Some pieces of the plane and several bodies were found days later floating in the Atlantic, but it would be two more years before most of the wreckage was found deep in the ocean. All to one
in twenty. Eight people on board had died when the wreck. It was found they also recovered the cockpit voice recorder and the flight data recorders, and they were in good shape the recordings were able to tell a story about how flight for four seven ended up in the bottom of the Atlantic Ocean and the story. They told was about what happened when the autumn it system flying the plane suddenly shut off and the pilots were surprised, confused and ultimately unable to fly their own plane mission in flight has been around for a long time. The first so called Otto. Islet was invented by the Sparrow Corporation in nineteen twelve and it allowed the plane to fly straight and level without the pilots intervention in the nineteen. Fifty is the I dont Scott better so that you the programme on autopilot to follow a route not just to keep the wings level that this was making the pilots job a lot easier.
But there is still a lot to think about in the cockpit of an airplane controlling the electric systems controlling hydraulic system. And because of all this most planes had three people in the cockpit to pilots. Engineer. Floyd engineers, Behind the pilots and they manipulated and manage these increasingly complex system, but by the nineteen seventies. All of those complex systems were also automated flight engineers lost their necessity and their jobs, by this time the jet engine had replaced the pistol engine making planes. Much more reliable Studies were showing that most accidents were being caused, not by mechanical error but by human error and a french company, All Airbus thought that they can make plain safer by letting automation carry an even bigger part of the burden of flying. Airbus was a leader Airbus has always been quite radical in its design philosophy.
Led by a guy named Bernard Ziegler, Airbus set out to design with they hoped, would be the safest plain yet a plane. Even the worst pilots, could fly with ease Bernard Ziegler. He famously said that he was building. Aeroplanes, his concierge, could fly. Ziegler plain not only had autopilot, it also had, was called a fly by wire system so that this can get a bit technical, but basically an auto pilot. Just does what a pilot tells to do. Fly by wire is a computer based control system that can interpret what the pilot wants to do and then Do it smoothly and safely. So, if the pilot pulls back on his or her stick, The fly by wire system will say: oh I see that you want to pick up, and here I'll do it for you a job. The right angle and rate
importantly, the fly by wire system will also protect you from getting into an arrow, dynamic stall. So in a car, a stall happens when engine stops turning but in a plane stolen is different. Basically getting. So slow that the wings no longer function correctly in the airplane. You know, loses altitude. There were a stall in a plane can happen when the nose of the plane is picked up at too steep and angle. A steep angle can cause plain to lose, lift and start to descend stalling in a plane is not good. For long enough, and you will crash but fly by wire automation- makes it impossible to do as long as it's on, unlike autopilot The fly by wire system cannot be turned on and off by the pilot. You can't turn this automation off, but here's the thing they can turn itself off and that's exactly what it did on May three. First, two thousand nine. As flight,
wherefore seven flew through the night sky over the Atlantic Ocean at some point, having flown normally for a few hours, the captain had gone back to sleep. This meant the two co pilot, where in control of the plane they powdered some, whether it wasn't rough, they d never hit significant turbulence. Fire, nothing out of the ordinary and then suddenly they lost airspeed indication. A pressure probe on the outside of the plane had iced over the automation could no longer tell how fast the plane was going at this point, auto pilot disk at the same time, the fly by wire system, degraded by one step. So the auto pilot turned off and the fly by wire system shifted into a different mode, a mode that did not protect against. A dynamic stall,
None of this was a, but it also wasn't a reason to panic. According to William, the plane the airplane was not upset. They done nothing upset had they done nothing, they would done exactly what they needed to do? Nothing, but that's not what and the co pilot in the right. He put his hand on his control stick alive oh joystick like thing to his right and he pulled it back. Not just a little. He pulled it three quarters of the way back why he did. That is a major question, perhaps he was startled or reacting to some turbulence. It's important to note that he did not tell the other pilot in the cockpit the guy in the left, see what he has just done if he had maybe his coat I let would have known the dangerous situation they were about to be in
in an Airbus. The two pilots have separate control sticks that move independently of each other in other commercial airplanes. The controls would move in unison so that you can actually feel the moves. Your co pilot was making on their controls there. Design variation may also have contributed to what was about to become a very bad situation. In any case as the pilot in the rights he pulled back on his stick, the airplane pull put his nose up and started the sore upward when Tal protections are in place, the plane won't just warn you not to pitch it at such an extreme angle. If physically will not let me do it, but remember, plain and shifted into a mode in which it was an offering that underline protection as the angle that deeper and deeper. The arrogant flow smoothly across the wings and the plane began to stall the plane the up trying to gain altitude, but it actually began to lose altitude, a warning, began, the sound the plane,
prevent stall, but it could stalled warn that install was happening. It said, stall, slow It would have sounded like this. Think that if you heard this alarming, some one would say: hey, I think we might be stalling, but this never happened. At one point, one of the co pilot did say, get your nose down, but he didn't say we ve stalled and the man the right see loose line. The airplane, the junior copilot you'd, put the nose down a couple times and bring a red back up again become. Its began to ring frantically for the captain to come into the cockpit. At one point one of them says: where is the airplane? shaking all kinds of alarms were going off. I'm thirty. Eight seconds after the episode started. The captain came under the carpet and ask what's going on here, because well. It's did not say we're in a stall instead,
one of them said quote: we ve completely lost control the airplane and we don't understand anything. We ve tried everything. The captain had walked into a difficult scene understand. Everyone was confused where they descending or climbing. At times they couldn't see to figure it out. Fine, They seem to realise their in a fast assent, losing thousands of feet per minute, but why they couldn't figure out why the captain never assessed correctly. What was going on here, obviously trying to wasn't there to drink coffee or suck Islam, but he was never able to figure out what was going on, even though it should have been amply obvious what was going on but for whatever reason it wasn't obvious to them what was going on there. No, they were in a storm it realized it. William says the fix would have been clear. Its basic its pilot school one hour,
The recovery would have required them to put the nose down power. Doesn't matter just get the nose down get below the wrong horizon for gain eyeing, speed and then put Out of the ensuing dive the plane continued falling down at a jaw dropping pace losing several thousands of feet permanent. But since, They started at thirty. Seven thousand feet for a while. There was still time for a recovery for quite a long time a normal crew would have been able to recover, and very end, at around sixteen thousand feet, the best crew in the world only probably would have been able to recover and below that altitude no crew would have been able to recover causation they didn't. Have the space beneath them to execute the died before hitting the water, but any case. They never tried to do it and so they rode this airplane down expressing confusion the whole time in
only expressing certainty that they were going to die for minutes and twenty seconds after the incident started, they pancakes into the water at a very high descent rate and, of course, a kill. Everyone instantly six years after the crash of flight for forty seven, what's clear is that the pilots didn't understand what was happening to them. The big quest is how how could they have a computer, yelling stall at them and not understand they were in the stall? there were various things that contributed to the crash of four four seven, but automation, which has overwhelmingly made airline travel safer. Also, Plato, in this accident however, much automation has helped the airline passenger by increasing so
DE. It has had some negative consequences in this case. It's quite clear. There These pilots had had experience, stripped away from them for years, William, actually do the math on this. The cap. Of the AIR France Flight had long. Three hundred and forty six hours of flying over the past six months, but of that time There were only about four hours in which he was actually in control of an airplane, take off and landing rights. The rest of the time auto pilot was flying the plane that's for hours in six months. The co pilot would have had even less time at the controls. This is not A pilots do nothing when auto pilot is on. They still have an important role to play with good pilots do in flight, they watch the systems. They handle navigation and communication. They occasionally program, things in flight path changes they deal with anticipation of whether they think
fuel management, increasingly Williams as pilots have become automation, managers with fewer and fewer chances to actually fly the plane. He blew Is this lack of experience at the controls left the pilots of four four seven unprepared to take over when the automation turned off the pilots were hideously, incompetent? That's, I think no one would disagree with that, so I have certainly heard that position from other people before I think we all have be very careful. None of us was there when this actually happened. That's needing cider systems, engineer at the University of Michigan, whose studied a lot of aviation accidents related to automation. My approach to things is different. I guess his pilots wherein that airplane with the passengers and I'm sure they had every motivation to keep that flight safe and yet they didn't sorts. Try to understand why. Why did they not? Did they not have the right information did they not have the proper training when one of the cope
That's hold back in his stick. He pits the plane into an angle that eventually cause the stall, but as possible, he didn't understand that he was now flying in indifferent mode, one that would not regulate and smooth out his movements. This confusion about her and it's come up in other accidents, the plane switches into a different mode, and suddenly, pilots find it difficult to understand what's going on at that, that point. They do not exactly know whether the system is still taking care of the aeroplane, and what's going on at charge point they do not exactly know whether of system, is still taking care of the aeroplane or whether there charge. No, they don't I sincerely understand whether all of it has disconnected or just parts of it have disconnected a lot of what is happening, is hidden from view from the pilots, its buried or the starts doing something that is unexpected and the pilot says. But now it now it and now it's doing that's a very
very standard comment in cockpits today. What's it up to now the pilots of air, France Flight for four seven, never quite say: what's it doing now, but they say similar things, William was The only person to point out that, what's it doing now, is commonly heard question in the cockpit it seems be almost a running joke in the industry, a joke that everyone agrees is a serious problem. What's the most often asked question and archive what's it doing now, American Airlines, Captain Warren Vander Burg, addressing a group of pilots in nineteen. Ninety seven people have been talking about this issue way before the crash of flight for forty seven. It's just that. No one really figured out how to solve it yet, but you see we become what I call children of the Magenta
The children of the magenta are too dependent on the guiding magenta colored lines on their screens. Now we think we have to have those magenta lines on the map and am agenda be bar the steering, toward their line. The tune of the Magenta are too dependent on automation in general, and it does you I'm talkin about, do not be defensive. The industry we created you like this, Then a bird recommends in certain situations to turn off the auto pilot and fly the plane yourself, who knew? The situation is right to practice your skills, turn off your auto pilot in your autos throttles fly aeroplanes. Obtain your skills maybe insider agrees that this can help. Shells recommends more and better training using simulators to let pilots explored different kinds of emergency scenarios and then, of course, people, who think the problem can be solved with more and better automation, but this
the paradox of automation, autumn can accommodate incompetence. In fact, it's designed to do that the Airbus was designed, after all, for Bernard Ziegler Concierge, to be able to fly, we appear to be locked into a cycle in which automation, begets the erosion of skills or the lack of skills in the first place, and when then begets more automation. Navy insider it's a mistake to throw me Automation at the problem. The position I would it up is one that has been termed human centred automation, where we what you need to do instead is to make the automation that you have made a may be smarter, but importantly, make good what we call a team player and part of that is to provide better feet. Part of it, is have the automation communicate more effectively with the pilot, no one. I talk to as advocating going back to the battle days before.
Nation, so automation in general, the fly by wire systems, all of those certainly to increase safety, I would argue, and even though, out of the accidents we see these days have to do with the interaction between pilots and automation. William says you have to, One of the reasons for that is that, because of automation, their hardly any other accidents and as far as how we should feel about AIR France Flight for forty, seven and other, accidents involving automation, should they be seen as an acceptable loss in an industry? That's become mostly safer through automation,. I think as a society- the answer to that is yes, you know for the individuals is no such thing as an acceptable loss. I mean this is terrible tragedy, a terrible for the pilots who died as well US planes are not any less safe or any more safe than any other playing on the market. Place have accidents, but it should be said that,
they're pretty safe to the accident rate for air travel is a very low about two point. Eight accidents for every one million departures- and there are plenty of pilots out there that no other take control in an emergency summary. Keep everyone just relax. It's gonna be ok, it's true. There are lots of good pilots out there in a far off future, we might be flying in pilotless planes. We're a long way from that, but the technology is definitely coming. And we will amend this will happen, and this makes a lot of sense. I don't like any one is sort of loudly Saint grade. That's costs could be a wonderful thing, but I think is what people are not our but not tearing your hair out about it because by the time happens. The automation will be so good and so reliable that humans, with of our human emotions and human fallibility. The children of the magenta will really just
be in the way. Ninety nine percent invisible was produced this week by Katy mingle, with same Greenspan, Avery Trough, woman and me roman Mars. Three relied heavily on the reporting and expertise of William Lung of issue for this peace, especial thanks to him. He went above and beyond for us and if you want, and even more in depth minute by minute analysis of the crash of my poor for seven check out his peace in Vanity Fair, it's called the human factor on the next episode of nine Everson visible we're going to take this idea of the automation, paradox and use it as a lens to view the next great design challenge in automation when we all potentially become the children of the magenta in our self driving cars. Yet our first to part series so stated,
now. Last week I mention that we have a new edition to the radio, took a collective and am pleased to announce that Nate Dumay owes the memory palace is joining the gang when I was first thinking about starting. Ninety nine percent of his real name was one of the first people. I called because I really love what he was doing with a show between these poignant Historical moment- and I do something in the same spirit with stories, design and so more than any other programme, I can say if you love and imprison invisible, you will love love the memory palace your friends, and he once recommended history book to me in on page three, twenty five, I noticed a couple senses just a couple of ends is that were a tiny but really striking digression from the main narrative and I do think that it would have noticed the charm of its historical footnote on my own, but the real reason. It's doubt me whiskers. I knew it sparked an episode of the memory palace, most memory, boss, pieces, start on page three, twenty five percent book,
You just heard is NATO the memory palace as a special way of viewing in on these moments in history that law? your imagination and hit you in the gut or for when, like that, object on there were these historical things that would jump out from long, you can burns documentaries or one moment in some historic home tore when, like that object on the mantel piece, like actually jumps, ounces, wow, that's amazing, with a beautiful thing, and so often those I noticed that the things that move me were these focused things. They were recognising. The single object they were incredible twist in some one story- and I wanted to fight on some level if there was a way to cut to the chase My head blown off or having my heart broken. This thing that, like I have once is there a way that I can replicate this feeling of being moved
Or having mine, you know, head blown off or having my heart broken. This thing that, like I have once belt, is there a way that I can get people to feel that same thing like? Can I retail the story in such a way that they don't take the whole historic tour or they don't have to sit through all nine and a half hours of this documentary series. Is there a way to a kind of crystallize it in turn, this sweeping historical story into a pop song, but the reveals is never just a simple historical anecdote? There's always something more going on like there is subject, and then there is meaning like there are. There are themes which is different than plot some of you. I'm not merely trying to you know. Tell historical story, I'm trying to conjure. It turned a habit sort of like leave. In the listeners mind for a bit and then melt away. I really like his show so much that I had a hard time, selecting which episode to present so
which an aim which episode released it out in as the one that all the things he was hoping to achieve and memory palace and he picked this episode enjoy. This. Is the memory pass and demand the world loved the worlds in the exposition Universal in Paris in eighteen, eighty, nine just killed the exhibits in the grounds were unparalleled in impeccable, lit the centre of it all. Was this audacious steel structure did manage to be imposing an elegant in the tallest thing on earth in unmolested? We French, all at once, Paris have the Eiffel Tower in them planning, the next fair, the colombian exposition in Chicago just a couple of years, away needed something that good something Eiffel Tower good, and that was an easy to find
The proposals ran from the ridiculous, like a structure that would sore more than a thousand feet above the land of Lincoln, made entirely out of stock logs, in top with a replica of apes boy at home to the extra ridiculous, Something so tall that visitors would take an elevator to the top of a slide that they dried down, its would drop them off in New York or San Francisco. The fares organizers were panicking They demanded that America's designers and engineers step up in a man in George Ferris Step forward when his ferris we always completed that summer. It rose two hundred sixty four you'd above the ground, which was a lot shorter than the Eiffel tower. But whatever the thing didn't even move.
The idea that something so massive, but that looks so fragile, like a bicycle, we'll who spoke slick too thin to keep biker thrilling and pretty terrify. Despite what the engineer said, despite the the laws of physics. Despite the many assurances of the fears organizers, there were people who are sure that this ludicrous machine was going to be a disaster. If people are going to die. Not only was there no way that that flimsy thing could stand up to a Prairie Wayne Gayle off the lake, even if it did the prospect of tumbling through the air in a cage many stories above Chicago was full on craziness who, in their right I was going to want to ride that thing. Hundreds of thousands of people did despite the fact that, during its first test run hundreds of bolts in loose parts rain down on spectators below, despite real store,
he's a panic riders trying to escape through the windows when they realized exactly how high two hundred feet was. Despite apocryphal stories of suicides in several limbs miss Berengaria. This thing that is basically a kitty right today, was a bigger thrill ride than any quintuple loop, open, carvers twist rocket coaster. They might have six flags, the papers, even somebody France, said it was the marvel of the age better than the Eiffel Tower that almost mundane sensation? We have looking down from above moving through space up now down background. No one had ever felt those things before and of course, now we can really feel them again be gone round him many times we loop too many lives.
Be back in eighteen. Ninety, three! You could pay your zero dollars and fifty cents and climb into a car right after sunset during the gold in experience, something entirely new? You could rise up above the world's first We're down below Americans were eating hamburgers for the first time we're Buffalo. Oh Frederick, Douglass Douglas Mark TWAIN were sightseeing, were in town. Our villages from Egypt in Algeria had been brought in reconstructing where people heard ragtime for the first time such Lula, dancers, bellied answers dancers and you can come back to earth. Call Kat be among the first people in human history to walk around at night with lights on, but Fair's end the shutdown they pack up and leave, and the Ferris wheel They moved it up to a different park in the North sea in after
while the novelty was gone and the fairest we'll became just a first will move towards the salvage company. Free, blew up and saw the pieces for scrap That's the memory palace from NATO male now from RE utopia after couple years have not putting the show how very regularly used running tv shows, books and stuff I am pleased to say, he's releasing weekly episodes through the summer so get on board you gonna wanna, set aside by sir, so to listen
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Transcript generated on 2020-02-14.