Kasei: The Importance of Fudgability, discovers that the life of the law is not logic, and that lawyers are hard to replace with expert systems:
A team of adjudicators spent a lot of their time reading application forms, deciding whether relevant criteria had been met, and then writing a response letter containing their decision. This seemed to be a straightforward rules-based system that could automated away, so we interviewed some staff, watched them do their job for a while, and implemented our replacement system. …
In hindsight, we had made several major mistakes – mistakes that seem to be repeated again and again throughout the software industry.
Part of the problem was how arrogant we were. We believed that we could spend a couple of days watching trained lawyers perform a highly-skilled job, talk briefly to them, and then make their jobs completely obsolete.
Worse, we made the job completely non-fudgable. In any human process there's always a degree to which the outcome can be fudged by the person performing the task. Even when the rules are simple or well-understood, there are always cases when someone will have a compelling reason to do things differently. In this case we didn't even know all the rules, and discovered to our horror that there were many more edge-cases than we'd imagined.
My students will be the next-to-last to be outsourced, right before the pizza delivery guys. (spotted via the blog with the great name, 0xDECAFBAD)