Friday, December 16, 2011

More on System Failure and Human Error

The South Florida Sun-Sentinel reported that an investigation revealed a police officer who was killed in a car crash was late for work, was not wearing his seat belt, had just turned on the police cruiser’s on-board computer and was speeding. It was a tragic loss of what the story depicts as a good cop, husband and father of four children

What caught my eye in the story was another example of what I blogged about two days ago, which is the increasing trend of invoking system failure as the root of all evil. With all due respect to the late officer, one can only conclude that human error, not system failure, was the cause of this man’s death. Yet the response of the department was this:

“Following the crash, Delray Beach police instituted additional driver training for their officers, police spokeswoman Nicole Guerriero said.”

The department must have decided that a system failure had occurred. The corrective action was to make its officers take further driver training.

I think the photograph of the car wrapped around a palm tree and the description of the actions of the deceased officer that appeared in the newspaper account would have been adequate reinforcement of good driving habits.


Anonymous said...

Cops are specialists in memeplex-frakin their own error reports because badges confer extra rights. Take note of all the citizens who "died in a struggle with the police", aka, were suffocated to death from restraint asphyxia due to incompetent and unconstitutional restriction of movement of the chest wall. See the death of Mr. Kenneth Howe in No. Andover, MA, for just one example: The MA State Troopers and the Essex Co. DA "cleared" this outrageous drug war manslaughter case.

A criminal event usually means that a combination of human and system errors occurred; the "criminal justice" system hasn't kept pace with our understanding of the etiology of those errors, which is itself an error. Holding someone criminally responsible for DWI-related injuries and deaths is absurd if they are "I", intoxicated and impaired. No one would be held accountable if they had a witnessed seizure or became hypoglycemic due to insulin pump failure. Rather than spending money prosecuting and jailing incompetent people, we should be focusing on keeping incompetent people from turning on their cars in the first place. We have the technology. The reason we have supercomputers in our hands that are capable of cognitive skill testing and locking impaired people out of their cars, is because a lot of smart and not so smart people made a lot of errors while improving the processing of stacks of Cray computers in a cold room in California.

As one of David Deutsch's mentors said: "We should error faster". Respect the errors and learn from them.

On Point:

Skeptical Scalpel said...

Dear Anonymous

In the interest of free speech I allowed your comment to appear. I do not understand the first sentence of the first paragraph.

Re the second paragraph. Failure of an insulin pump would lead to hyperglycemia, not hypo, unless it failed in an unlikely way. That is, it gave too much insulin. I don't understand the last sentence of that paragraph.

The link is also a bit random and not on point.

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