Set Phasers on Stun: And Other True Tales of Design, Technology, and Human Error

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9780963617880: Set Phasers on Stun: And Other True Tales of Design, Technology, and Human Error

A disturbing share of technological disasters are caused by incompatibilities between the way things are designed and the way people actually perceive, think, and act. Structurally sound aircraft plummet to the earth, supertankers run aground in calm weather, and the machines of medical science maim unsuspecting patients - - all because designers sometimes fail to reflect the characteristics of the user in their designs.

Designers and the public alike are realizing that many human' errors are more aptly named designed-induced' errors. Most consumers experience the frustration of using many new products; amusing stories about programming a VCR, operating a personal computer, or finding the headlight switch on a rental car are heard in everyday conversation. The problems consumers experience with modern everyday things are shared by the users of large-scale technologies where the consequences of design can go well beyond simple matters of inconvenience or amusement.

In the new second edition of Set Phasers on Stun' and Other True Tales of Design, Technology, and Human Error, noted designer and author Steven Casey has assembled 20 factual and arresting stories about people and their attempts to use modern technological creations. Although the operator or pilot usually gets blamed for a big disaster, the root cause can frequently be found in subtle characteristics of the device's human interface.' Technological disasters can often be traced directly to the interplay between people and the design of a device - - be it an airliner cockpit, the controls in an industrial plant, a spacecraft's instruments, a medical system, a nuclear reactor, or even a commercial dishwashing machine.

The most effective way to convey the consequences of design-induced human error is with a good story and just the right level of technical detail, and this is what Casey has done in his new book. As stated by Alphonse Chapanis, one of the founders of the human factors engineering discipline, Set Phasers on Stun is A tour de force. A collection of gripping and often alarming true stories meticulously documented and skillfully told about design-induced human errors. It should be required reading for all engineers and designers, and everyone else concerned about the ways our modern technological creations can affect our everyday lives. Skylab-4 astronaut Gerald Carr agrees: The book is ...an engrossing tour through the world of human susceptibility to subtle variations in environment and in design.

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From the Inside Flap:

In the new and expanded Second Edition of 'Set Phasers on Stun' and Other True Tales of Design, Technology, and Human Error, noted designer and author Steven Casey presents 20 factual and arresting stories about people and their attempts to use modern technological creations. Set Phasers on Stun demonstrates - - with shocking and graphic candor - - how technological failures result from the incompatibilities between the way things are designed and the way people actually perceive, think, and act. New technologies will succeed or fail based on our ability to minimize these incompatibilities between the characteristics of people and the characteristics of the things we create and use.

Two new chapters, as well as a new introduction, have been added to this Second Edition. In Murphy's Law and Newton's Law', listen in as a team of Swedish rocket technicians prepare to launch a payload into space above the arctic circle, and learn how the user interface on a simple device resulted in one of the most horrific but least publicized accidents in the history of rocketry. In The Price of the Amagasaki', accompany British Navy diver James Kull as he attempts a night-time attack on a Japanese warship off Singapore while using a new and poorly understood oxygen rebreather. Read the gripping stories of a tragic air show demonstration in France involving a new computer-controlled cockpit, the disaster of the supertanker Torrey Canyon, the human factors at play in the runaway chemical reaction that we have come to know as Bhopal, and, last but not least, Set Phasers on Stun, the tragic tale of a medical patient who meets his fate beneath a poorly designed radiotherapy machine in Texas.

From space above Russia, an island in the South Pacific, the hustle and bustle of Wall Street, remote Newfoundland, a bar in Topeka, northern Iraq, and the Pacific Northwest, Steven Casey lets the reader understand first hand how the combination of technology and human limitations can go wrong.

Set Phasers on Stun' and Other True Tales of Design, Technology, and Human Error affirms the harsh consequences of designing things that are incompatible with the characteristics of the people who will use them.

About the Author:

Steven M. Casey, Ph.D., is President and Principal Scientist at Ergonomic Systems Design, Inc., a human factors research and design firm in Santa Barbara, California. He received his formal education in psychology and engineering from the University of California and North Carolina State University. His work has covered a range of products, systems, and settings, including industrial control centers, nuclear power plants, oil-field machinery, materials handling vehicles, portable electronic devices and computers, medical and environmental test equipment, automobile controls, agricultural and construction machinery, entertainment operations, and recreation and retail facilities. He travels extensively in his work, and has completed projects for clients in the United States, Canada, the United Kingdom, France, Germany, Belgium, Denmark, Finland, and Japan. The objective of his work is to help make things, especially things involving advanced technology, easier and safer for people to use. In 1987 he was presented the Alexander C. Williams, Jr. Award for outstanding human factors design contributions.

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