My God I must be getting old! I watched the morning news on a 52 inch TV and it occurred to me that when I was a kid, we had a similar size television and right in the middle of it was a 12 inch screen. Kind of like an Ipad mounted on a refrigerator. When I started driving, all the cars had am radios, no air conditioning, and straight shift transmissions. What a wonderful time to be alive and witness the evolution of technology. However, some things never change. The morning news is still about the human condition and the dumb things that people do. Air conditioned automobiles with satellite radios have not reduced the number of people who run into each other or try to occupy the same space as a telephone pole. For you youngsters, telephone poles are those things along the highway that allow land lines for those less fortunate who don’t have cell phones.
I’ve also experienced the evolution of technology in aviation. Incredible! I was there for the birth of the jet age and all the accidents that occurred due to high sink rates. It took a while for pilots to realize that jet engines don’t respond instantly like props do. The first passenger jets (707s and DC-8s) were considered modern marvels, but the technology was pretty basic. There were no flight directors, only raw data information. There was no emergency lighting system and cables connected the controls in the cockpit to the ailerons, rudder, and elevator. Literally fly by wire.
I’m sitting here looking at the TV screen and a huge cruise ship lying on its side in shallow water off Giglio (I thought that was an occupation, not an island). That ship is equipped with millions of dollars worth of useless technology—computer screens that show every land mass ahead and every rock below. A thousand years ago, some guy stood on the bow of a sailing ship with a rock tied to a rope and sounded the depth of the water below the keel. They didn’t hit the rocks and sailed safely on. Where is the guy with a rock and a rope when you need him?
We’re all tired of hearing shrinks talk about, “Automation complacency,” but once again we’re scratching our heads and wondering what went wrong. At the risk of repeating myself and continuing to beat a boring drum, we’ve become very good at programming computers, but we just can’t seem to program humans. Whatever happened to Crew Resource Management? Did the helmsman blindly take orders from the captain and steer for the rocks? Would it not be appropriate to say something like, “Captain, sir, there’s a rock ahead,” followed by, “Captain, sir, we’re all gonna die.” Of course there’s always the old standby and usually the last words on the recording, “OH S…” The more macho and laidback participants sometimes express the sentiment as, “AW S…” Same result.
You can dress a guy up in an Admiral’s suit with gold accessories, a cumber bund, and a ceremonial sword, but that doesn’t make him a captain of ships or airplanes. Perhaps the acronym CRM should stand for Character, Responsibility, and Manning up, instead of Crew Resource Management. Any shrinks out there with a viewpoint?