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Scheduling a Human Channel

by   Melih Bastopcu, et al.
University of Maryland

We consider a system where a human operator processes a sequence of tasks that are similar in nature under a total time constraint. In these systems, the performance of the operator depends on its past utilization. This is akin to state-dependent channels where the past actions of the transmitter affects the future quality of the channel (also known as action-dependent or use-dependent channels). For human channels, a well-known psychological phenomena, known as Yerkes-Dodson law, states that a human operator performs worse when he/she is over-utilized or under-utilized. Over such a use-dependent human channel, we consider the problem of maximizing a utility function, which is monotonically increasing and concave in the time allocated for each task, under explicit minimum and maximum utilization constraints. We show that the optimal solution is to keep the utilization ratio of the operator as high as possible, and to process all the tasks. We prove that the optimal policy consists of two major strategies: utilize the operator without resting until reaching the maximum allowable utilization ratio, and then alternate between working and resting the operator each time reaching the maximum allowable utilization at the end of work-period. We show that even though the tasks are similar in difficulty, the time allocated for the tasks can be different depending on the strategy in which a task is processed; however, the tasks processed in the same strategy are processed equally.


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