Human Error Can’t Be Avoided, but Only Limited

Harris describes three ways of countering an author or text. One of these ways is arguing the other side. Arguing the other side is, “Showing the usefulness of a term or idea that a writer has criticized or noting problems with one that she or he has argued for” (57). This method just looks at the other side of the argument that the author has come up with. This allows you to input your own opinion on an issue and hear the other side which the author chose not to include.

Giddens presents many authors previous work before he agrees with their ideas or completely shuts them down. Even the arguments that Giddens makes though can be argued as he does not always include the full picture. A lot of his arguments only relate to Western Europe or the United States. Although this is where most of his readers would be from, the times have changed. Now china and other parts of Asia as well as more places around the world are more developed from when he wrote his book. This allows for disagreements in Giddens ideas that he excluded or that are now past his time. Giddens says that, “Any abstract system, no matter how well designed it is, can fail to work as it is supposed to do because those who operate it make mistakes” (152). Any machine can break or a worker can screw up fixing something, but does that mean all abstract systems will fail? Even if they all have a chance of failure, it’s not like the pre-modern era was mistake free without abstract systems.

Giddens brings up the idea that no one is perfect so an abstract system can always fail with humans involved. Although I would love to disagree with Giddens here, he is right. There is always a chance of human error or just a complete fluke that causes something to go wrong. But Giddens does not take into account that this has always been the case without abstract systems as well. Abstract systems of modernity aren’t the cause of error as error occurred in pre modern times before these systems were even created. The dependency on other people may not have been as big, but the failure was still the same. The introduction of abstract systems has created specialization so there are less mistakes in the long run. Instead of being mediocre at all things now people are experts in a specific field. Experts have less mistakes than someone who has a general idea of what’s happening in that area of study. We need to realize that we will never be able to get rid of the error that Giddens talks about, but we are trying to minimalize it as we move toward the future with these abstract systems. We just have to have faith in the people around us to get the job done. With the amount of people trusting the electric company to turn on the lights or air-conditioning and the amount of people flying across the country of world each day, I think the people of this world have plenty of trust in the abstracts systems of today to run safely and not have that mistake of human error although the possibility is always there.

Stephen

4 thoughts on “Human Error Can’t Be Avoided, but Only Limited

  1. I found myself agreeing with basically everything you said in your blog post. I found it extremely insightful when you talked about how the world that we live in today has changed a lot since Giddens has wrote this book and how this calls for a lot of disagreements with him. “This allows for disagreements in Giddens ideas that he excluded or that are now past his time.” I completely agree with you that with abstract systems comes specialization in a specific field. In your post you talk about how avoiding error is impossible, our goal is to simply minimize error. Can you think of some efficient ways that society can try and minimize the error in abstract systems?

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  2. Reading your blog post and this chapter made me think of the movie “The Matrix”. The machines overpower and out think the humans once they became advanced enough that they didn’t need a human operator. Giddens says that because humans aren’t perfect the abstract system that they are operating will fail. I believe that if a human is trained enough to use the system, then the likelihood of failure diminishes. Humans may not be perfect but they can be trained to function at the best of their ability, especially if they specialize in something, like you said. Can you think of some professions that may require extra training in order for the human to not commit an error?

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  3. The adaption of experts in abstract systems has certainly removed a massive amount of potential human error in society and this is, without a doubt, a great thing for society. In your mention about trust, you said “We just have to have faith in the people around us to get the job done”. Does this make society weak in a sense because we have to trust specific groups of people, such as electric companies as you mentioned? Giddens wrote, “so long as human beings are involved, the risk must be there (Giddens, 152). Even with our experts in abstract systems we as a society need to know that things will shut down, like the electricity grid and when that happens, we can only rely on those that know how to handle and fix that system. Even though we do our best to minimize things that can go wrong, something will always go wrong. How close to perfection do you think humans can reach in our abstract systems?

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  4. Stephen,

    You engage in this post with an important theme that runs throughout Giddens, the increasing need to trust in abstract systems. As you point out, “Instead of being mediocre at all things now people are experts in a specific field. Experts have less mistakes than someone who has a general idea of what’s happening in that area of study.” I wonder what you make of the part when Giddens discusses lay people’s knowledge of other fields? For example, some people outside the medical community are questioning the wisdom behind some rather lax rules for dealing with Ebola in the US that were established by doctors and experts. How do you see this entering the conversation?

    ~DM

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