I’ve been harping on the importance of applying fault-tolerance to the design of programs and policies for some time now. Really ever since reading about the informal proposal for a new ‘science of design’ as part of the social science’s toolkit of academic disciplines.
We can blame human error for the world’s tragedies forever; we can even try to train and educate errors out of people, but people will always make mistakes no matter how much skill they have or how much they’ve been trained. It is time to really start applying some energy and resources into the ergonomics of policies. It is time to consider how people behave within a given (policy influenced) environment. Most of the time I’ve been pointing to the gains of this mode of thinking when considering problems, programs, and policies in the developing world, but there are also HUGE reasons to think this way in the developed world as well.
Just listen to the stories in this video:
See how important and tricky this stuff is for engineers who spend their lives thinking about complex systems and how to prevent mistakes. Now consider how much more complex the economies and financial systems of the world are compared to these (relatively) piddly oil rigs or nuclear power plants. The terrifying reality is those who are responsible for ‘designing’ our economies and financial systems (i.e. economists, accountants, bankers, and policy makers) do not yet take design as seriously as (perhaps) they should.
Ergonomics is not just about making you feel comfortable, it is about preventing costly (and deadly) mistakes.