Beware — Pride Goes Before a Fall

Technological “Hubris” Leads To Disasters, Experts Say.

The AP (7/12, Borenstein) reports on a “familiar” scenario: first there is “a technological disaster, then a presidential commission examining what went wrong,” then “a discovery that while technology marches on, concern for safety lags. Technology isn’t as foolproof as it seemed.” A “common thread” in these disasters, including the explosion of the Deepwater Horizon rig – “which the new presidential oil spill commission will be looking for – often is technological arrogance and hubris…the belief by those in charge that they’re the experts, that they know what they’re doing is safe. Add to that the human weaknesses of avoidance, greed and sloppiness, say academics who study disasters.” Bob Bea, a UC Berkeley engineering professor and disaster expert, “categorizes disasters into four groups.” Bea believes BP falls into a group in which “an organization simply ignores warning signs through overconfidence and incompetence.” The article also quotes analysis by experts from Rutgers, Yale, Carnegie Mellon, Rice and Stanford.

Reposted from ASEE First Bell for July 12, 2010

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