Who has shocking, shameless examples of technological overconfidence and complacency?

greenspun.com : LUSENET : TitanicShack : One Thread

"Fate" to me implies forces or conditions over which one has no control, but I don't think that applies to the Titanic. What happened on April 14, 1912 was not the result of uncontrollable forces, but of overconfidence and complacency, or as Walter Lord termed it, "arrogant casualness."
--Kip Henry

Recently, I managed to *totally* "iceberg" two different (Windows and Macintosh) computer systems...I assumed that the SCSI numbers on the external drives were compatible with the internal drives.

Who has other examples?

-- Thomas M. Terashima (tom@nucleus.com), January 28, 1998


Gee, did I say something profound? :-)

One modern example would have to be the explosion of space shuttle Challenger. Defective O-ring seals in the solid rocket boosters, which NASA and the contractor **knew** had leaked super-hot gasses before, coupled with a launch in temperatures which were below NASA's own safety limits, all to placate upper-level bureaucrats who were embarrased because of earlier missed launch dates.


-- Kip Henry (kip-henry@ouhsc.edu), January 28, 1998.

I'd have to agree with Kip that the Space Shuttle is the best example of people acting grossy stupid with fancy technology. With the shuttle, the NASA engineers begged the decision makers not to launch, in effect telling them, "you launch and were will not be responsible for the results." The shuttle technology was, perhaps, flawed (the O-rings), but had the thing not been mis-used it almost certainly would not have exploded.

Similarly with the Titanic, there were flaws in the design, namely the bulkheads only going up to E deck (to allow for the large, unbroken rooms that White Star wanted) and the lack of a double skin that extended above the water line. But the real culprit was not "fate" or bad technology, but rather recklessness and a very cavalier attitude toward possible dangers.

-- Thomas Shoebotham (cathytom@ix.netcom.com), January 29, 1998.

Ironically, ice played a part in both these tragedies.


-- Kip Henry (kip-henry@ouhsc.edu), January 29, 1998.

HAL-2000 in '2001: A Space Odissey' Creation v. Darwinism 'The Planet of the Apes' + sequels The Cold War

-- Dan Draghici (ddraghic@ccs.carleton.ca), January 29, 1998.

Cameron's NEXT movie.

-- Dan Dalton (DDalton2@prodigy.net), April 07, 1998.

I think I have one that hasn't been proved yet. I'm just waiting for the disaster from all the genetic engineering they do on food, animals, plants and us. Time will tell, but Mother Nature will yawn, stretch and knock us on our can again.

-- Lianne (liannegraham@one.net.au), April 07, 1998.

I'll cite this example in case you haven't already seen it in "James Cameron's Titanic" (book): building a nuclear power plant near a fault in southern California. Apparently old Rose alludes to this in one version of the script, saying she knew modern examples of arrogance.

-- BobG (rgregorio@ibm.net), April 26, 1998.

Hmmm, I'd have to say another example would be air bags in cars. The inventors told the car dealers that they needed to be tested more but no one listened and now people are actually dead because the air bags in their car broke their necks when they had a wreck.

-- Miranda Swearingen (Kylen1@hotmail.com), May 03, 1998.

My Sav-On Foods Will Go On

I usually go grocery shopping at the Sav-On-Foods supermarket at Station Square/Metrotown mall in Burnaby, British Columbia (a suburb of Vancouver). Just after the store opened, on April 23rd, 1987, part of the roof-top parking lot collapsed, injuring over 20 people.

It was found that the bottom of the roof's steel support posts were not sufficiently braced against moving laterally. With the weight of all the automobiles on the roof, one of the supports failed, causing a chain reaction. People in the crowded megastore literally had to run for their lives. I remember seeing helicopter news footage showing cars strewn like matchbox toys on top of the flattened roof.

It was later found that the design firm used inexperienced engineers for that part of the design and ignored the concerns of the contractors who actually built the building. Cost was the main reason for cutting corners. Incredibly, no one had their professional certification pulled after the incident.

The store's roof was rebuilt, and I was surprised to learn that my supermarket was *the* Sav-On Foods. A couple of bolts and some under- confidence would have prevented the whole thing.

-- Thomas M. Terashima (titanicshack@yahoo.com), February 12, 1999.

Well, let's see... we are talking two different things here. Was it overconfidence on the human side of both these events (sav-on-foods and Titanic) or mechanical/structural failure? I would bet that the people of Belfast would contend that they built the finest ship with state of the art materials of the time. I would bet that the people of White Star Lines would contend that they employed only the best, most qualified people in the business. I would bet that the store hierarchy would swear that every "t" was crossed and every "i" was dotted before they opened that store. In the store's case, it was oversight or cost cutting and with the influx of an opening day, unusual mechanical stress. In the case of Titanic, it was a case of a set of circumstances that occurs once in a millenium (my estimate). It wasn't mechanical, it was somewhat negligence but mostly it was circumstance. Look at the factors: moonless night, calm sea, lost ice warnings, new ship, makeshift crew, unusual iceberg activity due to a warm winter and on and on. TWA 800 was mechanically caused. Challenger was mechanically caused (although they should have known not to launch with that weather), Andrea Doria was poor navigation. That's just to name a few but the things that came together the night of April 14, 1912 were just very unusual. I don't believe, and never will believe, the "brittle steel" theory. That didn't sink Titanic. An iceberg did. Ship vs Iceberg, the iceberg will win every time!


-- Peter Nivling (pcnivling@capecod.net), February 13, 1999.


I wasn't directly comparing the two events, just illustrating that bad management and communication are still contributing to preventable accidents.

In the case of Titanic, some leadership from the captain would have slowed the ship enough to prevent (or at least mitigate) the collision. As for the store roof collapse, it has been pointed out to me that whenever an engineering firm puts their seal on a blueprint, they are *responsible* for making 100% sure that their design is a good one.

As for brittle steel, I agree that theory did not have much bearing; same with bad rivets. As Walter Lord points out in The Night Lives On in the chapter "Everything Was Against Us", the wonder is that Titanic didn't hit anything sooner.

-- Thomas M. Terashima (titanicshack@yahoo.com), February 13, 1999.

Hello Thomas:

I agree that there was circumstance of poor management and I suppose that could be put on the Captain in that he was the Captain. However, by most accounts, he was being manipulated by Ismay. Too bad that he didn't stand his ground on the speed issue but then again, maybe he was just as anxious to make his final voyage before retirement a memorable one by beating the Olympic's time in to New York. As you know, I am not an Ismay supporter in any sense of the word and have always felt that E.J. Smith was wrongly accused of being the bad guy in all of this. After all, he couldn't defend himself. But, on the other hand, maybe he was. Who knows? Also it was standard operating procedure then to travel as fast as possible during a transatlantic voyage so I assume he was doing what any Captain would have done. It doesn't make it right but I don't think E.J. was acting any more recklessly than anyone else did at the time.


-- Peter Nivling (pcnivling@capecod.net), February 13, 1999.

Moderation questions? read the FAQ