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[disaster] Normalization of Deviance … a fascinating look at why disasters happen.

Because here’s the thing: most of the time when there’s a Serious Problem™, it’s not just one event. Disasters aren’t caused by one small event: it’s an avalanche of problems that we survived up until now until they all happen at once.

Like, the Titanic disaster didn’t kill 1,500 people because they had a one-in-a-million chance of hitting an iceberg. Yeah, the iceberg was the linchpin in that disaster, but it’s just the final piece in that jigsaw.

If they hadn’t been going so fast, if the radio operator hadn’t been preoccupied, if the lookout’s binoculars hadn’t been missing, if it hadn’t been a moonless night, if they’d not had rivet problems, if the bulkheads went all the way up, if they had enough lifeboats … It might have been a minor enough incident that you wouldn’t have even heard of it.

Like, in 1907 the SS Kronprinz Wilhelm rammed an iceberg. It was a passenger liner (later a troop transport) and fully loaded would have over a thousand passengers and crew aboard. It survived. It completed its voyage and stayed in service for another 16 years.

You probably haven’t heard of this incident. It’s a single line mention in a wikipedia page. Because they didn’t hit all the failures at once. They rolled the same dice and didn’t come up all 1s.

Normalization of Deviance

This entry was posted on Tuesday, March 26th, 2019 at 2:22 pm and is filed under Life.

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