Human Error

Human error is only the symptom,

Never the cause

From over-cooking dinner and forgetting anniversaries, to car accidents and global disasters, as a species we are engineered to make errors.

We make mistakes because of flawed information going into the brain rather than because of miscalculations by the brain itself.

Our Brains

Our brains can process data received correctly but struggles if input has errors. The internal mental processes we use are silent unflawed.

It is down to human design, not personality or intelligence; the very way we think, see and remember sets us up for mistakes. We are subconsciously biased, quick to judge by appearances and overconfident of our own abilities. Most of us believe we are above average at everything – a statistical impossibility that leads to slip-ups.

Great human errors through the ages

The Titanic

In 1912 Captain Edward Smith crashed the ‘unsinkable boat’ into an iceberg; 1503 lives were lost and $7.5 million in shipbuilding costs sunk.

The Leaning Tower

It took 177 years to build, but Pisa’s famous tower began to lean less than a decade after construction began. The enormous project was planned on unstable soil, and the foundations couldn’t support its weight. After extensive renovations, the tower has stopped moving for the first time in history.

Just the ticket

A woman in England who played the lottery every week picked the correct numbers to win the Euromillions, but her husband (unknowingly) threw the ticket away losing her £118 million.

Houston, we
have a problem

When building a satellite together, NASA used the metric system while Lockheed Martin used the English system, The cost of the lost orbiter? $125 million.

Listen to your wife

After a bad dream the night before his murder, Julius Caesar’s wife warned her husband not to go to the Senate.

The Millenium Dome, London

“We have a creation that, I believe, will truly be a beacon to the world,” declared Tony Blair in ‘98. The dome ended up costing nearly £800 million, only attracted half the number of people it aimed, and sat empty
for years before conversion.

But its not all bad news

Some mistakes are good

Alexander Fleming discovered Penicillin when he mistakenly left a petri dish open. The mould which grew in the dish had released a substance which killed the bacteria around it!

By the 1940s Penicillin was being mass-produced by the American drugs industry and is estimated to have saved over 80,000,000 lives since its accidental discovery in 1928.