Monday, January 28th, 2008

Twenty-two years ago — wow — the space shuttle Challenger blew up. Five years ago — again, wow — I cited Malcolm Gladwell’s already-old Blowup, which looks at the inherent dangers of complex systems:

But what if the assumptions that underlie our disaster rituals aren’t true? What if these public post mortems don’t help us avoid future accidents? Over the past few years, a group of scholars has begun making the unsettling argument that the rituals that follow things like plane crashes or the Three Mile Island crisis are as much exercises in self-deception as they are genuine opportunities for reassurance. For these revisionists, high-technology accidents may not have clear causes at all. They may be inherent in the complexity of the technological systems we have created.

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