In June 2009, the veteran lead pilot of Air France 447 was awoken from his scheduled nap to find his junior crew in trouble. Wiping the sleep from his eyes, he had three minutes to determine which of the conflicting alerts from the plane’s automated system to respond to, and what were false alarms.
He failed. Nearly 250 crew and passengers died in the Atlantic Ocean.
That’s from the easily most gripping chapter in economics journalist Tim Harford’s 2016 book Messy: The Power of Disorder to Transform Our Lives. That tragic story is a cautionary tale for our age, demonstrating the paradox of automation: “The better the automatic systems, the more out of practice human operators will be, and the more unusual will be the situations they face.”
How quickly could you look up from your smartphone if your autonomous vehicle alerted you that it had disengaged? Software, like many managers and orderly obsessives, wants a tidy world but the world is actually quite messy. That’s Harford’s message: Embrace the mess.
Below are my notes from the book for my future reference.Continue reading Creativity is ‘Messy,’ notes on Tim Harford’s 2016 book