Internal Tools: Improving Efficiency Through Tools That Enhance Coding Software; Analysis of Consideration Factors for the Integration of Automated Systems

Kotha, Sashank, School of Engineering and Applied Science, University of Virginia
Graham, Daniel, EN-Comp Science Dept, University of Virginia
Neeley, Kathryn, Engineering and Society, University of Virginia

Modern automation software such as Robotic Process Automation can mimic rule-based business processes such as document scanning and data analysis, but the limits are still unknown as research and efforts to expand this field continue. Thus, experts in the field have expressed concerns about mass job replacement and support for robot tax or universal income. My STS research focuses on differentiating different levels of automation as well as investigating potential socioeconomic impacts particularly in urbanization and income inequality. My technical project closely ties into this as a practical example of the higher-level concept of partial automation that could be used as a case study to identify advantages and disadvantages of introducing an automated solution. The project demonstrates STS perspectives to support ethical responsibility by including and accommodating for the human aspect in the incorporation of automation. It enables the investigation of whether certain groups are disadvantaged by the system, how much uninhibited control we should give to a system with the potential to crash, and so on.
The technical portion of my thesis produced an internal application called InspectionTracker during my internship that would display code inspections (a ticket associated with a particular code change that requires the approval of other team members to be confirmed) in a more user-friendly format. Previously, developers would view code inspections on a website called Crucible, but the results were displayed as an unsorted list making it cumbersome to search for a particular review if a deadline was approaching or action was needed. The InspectionTracker instead reads the code reviews from Crucible, provides the functionality to filter by team, and adds color codes to more clearly indicate the review stage or approaching due dates. The potential benefits are developers can quickly locate and inspect code inspections and utilize that saved time for more meaningful tasks and (in the future) add the capability for email notifications to give developers real-time updates on important changes to any of the details regarding current inspections.
In my STS research, I investigate the potential repercussions that the uninhibited incorporation of automated systems can have on urbanization with population movement between cities influenced by automation takeover and income distribution as fewer available jobs could increase the possibility of universal basic income. I utilize the Ethics of Care framework as a method of bringing attention to the underrepresented population who could be most affected by the impacts stated above considering there are many unknowns regarding how extensive the incorporation of automated systems will be in the future. This approach led me to the realization that it is more beneficial to use these factors as points of consideration in the design stages of these systems to avoid unproportionately impacting certain individuals or groups later on through their incorporation.
My STS research was mainly influenced by my technical project as it was a tool meant to enhance the developer experience and, in the midst of hearing about the untapped potential of robotic process automation and concerns of mass automation replacement, made me question how nuanced automation integration is despite the binary nature of a human or robot workforce that experts seemed to indicate in their concerns. The technical and STS portions of the paper have helped me realize that companies don’t have to support either just partial or complete automation, and that they can be incorporated on an aspect-level of a system. For example, companies could utilize partial automation tools such as InspectionTracker to view code inspections easier which augment the coding aspect while testing is completely handled by automated testing systems allowing developers to maximize the time spent building products.

BS (Bachelor of Science)
ethics of care, Automation, Job Replacement, Robotic Process Automation, Internal Tools

School of Engineering and Applied Science
Bachelor of Science in Computer Science
Technical Advisor: Daniel Graham
STS Advisor: Kathryn Neeley
Technical Team Members: N/A

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