They are there to take the blame.
You cannot realistically expect a human spectator to switch modes at zero notice and save the machine from a deadly fuckup that the machine has already put them into. That’s not how human minds work. We just don’t bootstrap that fast. Jebus, we’re bad enough at salvaging bad situations we’ve knowingly manoeuvered ourselves into while already fully engaged in command and control mode.
At least when you—the human pilot—fucks up, you already know the decision chain that got you there because it is your own. With the machine you have first to determine it has gone catastrophically wrong, then determine how it has gone wrong, and finally calculate and execute the recovery strategy before…oh, whoops, too late: you just wiped out all the executive bonuses for this quarter. Also, there’s a blood streak on the street.
As for how large software development projects work, I think the trail of corpses already testifies more than suf as to how they don’t. Industrial institutionalization of incompetence is no defense, and any “professional” who hides behind it can go get fucked.
As much as I love the web, I think the move-fast-break-things ethos, which is arguably useful for startups doing who-cares-if-it-breaks things like social web front end tweaks, has been absolutely terrible for the industry more broadly. I have friends who make excellent money just sweeping up after the elephant parade of hotshots, solving infrastructure and code issues written by people who want to get paid like professionals without acting like ones. I'm glad for them, but the waste is maddening. And that's before we get to the body counts of places like Facebook and Uber.