Recent dramatic events — which are of course utterly predictable recurrences of similar past events — have provoked the usual post-traumatic feeding-frenzy in the press and over the airwaves:

  • "Who's to blame?"
  • "Why wasn't this anticipated?"
  • "How can this be prevented from ever happening again?"
    ... and so forth.

We'll get the usual governmental investigations, technical fact-finding committees, and bureaucratic "solutions". Ho-hum ...

The question that doesn't get asked remains:

How much are you willing to pay?

Cost is key, and hardly anybody wants to discuss it ... since there's no fun in thinking about higher taxes, greater inconveniences, and lost opportunities. (Cost isn't just measured in dollars or euros or ...) Much more exciting to point fingers and scold!

An honest analysis of cost also requires a wee bit of mathematics — elementary probability, some statistics, maybe even a derivative or two — which unfortunately rules out >99% of the producers and audiences for "news". A simple answer makes a good headline; a multidimensional trade-off curve doesn't.

So whether the dramatic event is a natural disaster, a technological collapse, an act of terrorism, or whatever, we can expect the same result: blamestorming, political posturing, eye-candy magazine cover stories ... and perhaps, in a few years when the media have moved on to another fad, the gradual implementation of improved engineering standards and practices — at least, to the extent that customers are willing to pay for.

Until the next catastrophe ...

(see also RetrospectiveHistory (7 Mar 2003), ProbabilisticTragedy (12 Mar 2003), ...)

TopicSociety - TopicOrganizations - 2003-08-16

(correlates: DetectiveWork, FeedingFrenzy, FragileBeauty, ...)