Over the past few years, there have been some really great technologies that have changed the way we live our lives. Smartphones are the easiest example. Life would be a lot different if I didn’t have instant access to my e-mail, the weather, the spinning schedule at my gym, or Fruit Ninja. While many technology advancements have certainly improved the way we live our lives, there are some that may be technology overkill. Like a washing machine or dryer that you can remotely monitor and control from your PC, or a Mercedes Benz that can shift the direction of your headlights away from the oncoming traffic. A washing machine that you turn on yourself, or headlights that point straight ahead are alternative options that accomplish the same end goal, they just do it much more cost-effectively than the high-tech ways. Don’t get me wrong, the development and engineering that went behind these things is super impressive, but sometimes, the bang is just not worth the buck.
Several years ago a good friend who knows my interest in human factors and engineering psychology gave me a book called Set Phasers on Stun and Other True Tales of Design, Technology, and Human Error, by Steven Casey. I started to read it again recently and wanted to share it with you because the book demonstrates, according to the message on the jacket, “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 think and use.” In the book Casey relates quite a few real-life stories about the interactions of people with modern technology and discusses the what caused the resulting human error. So if you need some new reading material, I encourage you to pick up a copy – I think you’ll find it fascinating!