Automation and the Boeing 737 Max

I’m not a big podcast person, but I’ve found myself consistently wowed by The Daily, by the New YorK Times. Actually, I’m not even sure if this is technically a podcast, is it? Whatever it is, it’s fantastic.

My commute is short enough that I don’t really listen to much audio while I’m on the train. So the few times I catch any radio or news is either in the mornings (NPR while preparing breakfast). Or in the evenings, when I’m preparing dinner (for the bunnies or for us humans).

Recently, I found their story on the potential causes for the two recent Boeing airline crashes to be absolutely fascinating. There was a great deal of research that went into the piece, and I was awed at what the journalists uncovered.

I liked the audio so much, I’m including it here:

From a developer’s perspective, I’ve found myself thinking a lot about the work I do on a day to day basis. I write code that’s included in an application that a lot of people use. And those people, in turn, use that application to assist a lot of customers.

While lives are not at risk in the work that I do, there are still parallels that I see when it comes to software development. What assumptions are being made about the users? When we design features, we make certain assumptions about how a user will interact that new feature (but we’re sometimes surprised by how they’re used).

I was also thinking a lot about automation, and was reminded of Nicholas Carr’s article on automation. Which, interestingly enough, also involves a story about two airplane crashes that resulted in fatalities.

The Allure of Automation in an Imperfect World

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