Three Laws of IT Automation
Recently, I watched the movie “iRobot” that is set 25 years in the future and stars Will Smith who plays a cop that is not very fond of the technology of the times. As the name infers, the movie is about robots. And they have been designed to follow The Three Laws, a set of rules devised by the scientific author Isaac Asimov. As I watched, I started to formulate some parallels between these bots and IT automation - a favorite subject of mine. The robots were built to be highly functional autonomous machines that could help human kind. Today, our best IT automation is far from being intelligent and completely autonomous but it is built to be highly functional and to aid humans. This led me to the question, “Should todays software automation solutions be designed with the Laws in mind”? Even Asimov indicates that likenesses of the Laws can be found in the design of most tools like hammers or screwdrivers.
What is IT Automation?
To begin to suggest what the laws of IT automation might be it’s important to define IT Automation Systems and the scope of such systems. Certainly, I’m not suggesting that IT automation is anything like the robots found in sci-fi movies that are designed in the likeness of man. Rather, those systems designed to increase productivity in well known environments. I’m referring to automation tools that can be deployed into data-centers or throughout large computer infrastructures to perform routine tasks, aid people in execution of business processes and ease the burden of maintaining their always growing technology.
Ok, it's not the most thorough definition but it's enough to give us some scope and for this short blog we'll go with it.
The Three Laws of IT Automation
- A software IT automation tool must not create a more unsafe environment than already exists.
- A software IT automation tool must respond to humans without violating the First Law.
- A software IT automation tool must perform its function more efficiently than its human counterpart while avoiding itself becoming a maintenance overhead without violating the First and Second Laws.
A software IT automation tool must not create a more unsafe environment than already exists.
The First Law must revolve around safety or security. (And not just because it’s similar to the First Law in “iRobot”) It’s important to understand that no level of automation or increase in efficiency be a reason to ignore safety. A user must not be permitted to perform a task that is inappropriate with his/her role. Without safety, the confidentially, integrity and availability of the computers systems and the organization it aids would be at risk.
A software IT automation tool must respond to humans without violating the First Law.
The Second Law provides the ability for humans to still have complete control. At no time, should an automation system prevent human interaction to interrupt its behavior. I think of this like a parent/child relationship and the automation system being the child.
A software IT automation tool must perform its function more efficiently than its human counterpart while avoiding itself becoming a maintenance overhead without violating the First and Second Laws.
The Third Law insures that the automation system eases our technology burden without introducing addition burdens thereby providing real life productivity gains. If an automation system cannot abide by the Third Law there is no reason for its existence.
Whether these laws can and should be abided by when designing automation solutions it’s interesting to think about how our technology will continue to change and improve in the future. And whether or not, like the robots in the movies, our next generation systems will need to truly follow a set of laws in order to operate in our technology driven world.