Automation Technology and Human Performance: Current Research and Trends

By Mark W. Scerbo | Go to book overview

extravagance; and superstitious faith in materialism and technology. "(p. 323).

But she was a deceitful mistress and she turned our vanity against us. Like a Greek siren, beckoning sailors to certain doom, she filled our ears with a song of self-indulgence so captivating that we chose not to hear the warnings. This siren of technology lulled us into believing we could create something mightier than Mother Nature herself and that we had dominion over the sea. And then, with an icy touch, she hardened a handful of that sea and smacked us back into reality taking our carelessness as well as our pride back with her to the very depths of the ocean.

The sinking of the Titanic was a wake-up call for the 20th century. We would learn tragic lessons about the short comings of technology. For a while, we would approach technology with guarded enthusiasm and place supreme emphasis on issues of safety, but the lessons would soon fade into the background of the Siren's song because the Siren of Technology has never been silenced. She could be heard singing at the nuclear mishaps at Three Mile Island and Chernobly. She could be heard on the space shuttle, Challenger. In fact, if one listens carefully, one can hear her singing at every human factors case study and accident we are called upon to investigate.

When James Cameron accepted the academy award for his film, he asked everyone to remember the victims of the Titanic tragedy. Likewise, it is imperative that we as human factors researchers, designers, and practitioners remember that the work we do has a direct and genuine impact on peoples' lives. We may take a modicum of comfort in knowing that there was no human factors profession when Titanic was built, but that only places a greater burden upon us to avert such disasters now and in the future. For if we do not champion the crusade for safety, efficiency, and usability for the consumers and users of technology then who will?


ACKNOWLEDGMENTS

I would like to thank P. A. Hancock, C. A. Haas, and J. P. Eaton for their inspiration, encouragement, and guidance on this manuscript.


BIBLIOGRAPHY

Eaton J. P., & Haas C. A. ( 1996). Titanic: destination disaster. New York: W. W. Norton.

Foecke T. ( 1998). Metallurgy of the RMS Titanic (Report No. NIST-IR-6118). National Institute of Standards and Technology Gaithersburg, MD.

Hancock P. A. ( 1996, May). Directly perceiving disaster. Paper presented at the Festschrift for William N. Dember, Cincinnati, OH.

Heyer P. ( 1995). Titanic legacy: Disaster as media event and myth. Westport, CN: Praeger Publishers.

Lord W. ( 1986). The night lives on. New York: Avon books.

Lord W. ( 1955). A night to remember. New York: Holt, Rinehart, & Winston.

Lynch D., & Marschall K. ( 1992). Titanic: An illustrated history. Ontario, Canada: Madison Press.

Peltier M. J. ( 1994a). Titanic: Death of a dream. C. Haffner & D. E. Lusitana (Producers). A&E Productions.

Peltier M. J. ( 1994b). Titanic: The legend lives on. C. Haffner & D. E. Lusitana (Producers). A&E Productions.

Reason J. ( 1990). Human error. New York: Cambridge University Press.

Wade W. C. ( 1986). The Titanic: End of a dream. New York: Penguin Books.

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