As someone with a lifelong involvement in problem-solving and IT, I see a trend that gives me pause. It concerns users who, overwhelmed by the increasing complexity of their work, employ ever more sophisticated computing tools and technology in haphazard fashion, often lacking the know how to be able to gauge the validity, usefulness, or limits of applicability of a given answer or result. Many are left with one option, to simply believe what the tool tells them and accept it as fact, a reluctance to ask questions coming both from a sheer inability to do it as well as from the sizable capital investment often made.
The 1960s classic Fail Safe, with Henry Fonda as the US president and Walter Matthau as a gung-ho political adviser, presents the viewer with a hypothetical but convincing account of the handling of a global crisis situation. Here, a flawed decision-making process built on the premise that letting technology lock humans out represents the most fail-safe path in a dangerous situation — in this case, for national security reasons — ends up boxing everybody in and being extremely costly for all concerned.
Consider a simple example from an everyday domain that many of us may be familiar with. Say there are two ways to connect a kitchen appliance’s AC power cord and plug to a wall socket, but only one is correct. What to do?