Re: [SystemSafety] Shark!

From: Les Chambers < >
Date: Thu, 9 Jul 2015 10:11:28 +1000


RE your comment:

" Safety is based on maths.

People and films OTOH are emotive. "

This introduces an interesting philosophical point.

My view is that, although the analysis of safety might be based on maths the ultimate decisions to make something safe, or safe - er, or that something is safe enough, are made by human beings and are therefore based on emotion. Mathematical analysis is akin to peeing in your pants. It might give you a warm feeling but it never carries the day on its own. Hence my ongoing campaign to get more study of human emotions injected into engineering education. I think there is general agreement that systems are an integration of hardware, software and fleshware. But we continue to graduate engineers who have no formal training in, or knowledge of, the human condition.

Case study: a university professor who thinks he has solved a well recognised fault in air traffic control voice directives to pilots with a regular expression.

Further, regarding your mention of the phenomena where people mistake movie plots for reality; you are absolutely correct, it's a routine occurrence. And I totally agree with where you're going with this. Hollywood makes billions out of the human need to be fed information through stories. Functional safety engineers can also turn this to their advantage in helping people to make better emotional decisions about safety.

One aspect of story that we can make better use of every day is metaphor. Metaphor is a simplifying tool. Large and complex problems can be explained simply with metaphor. With the classic insight of the poet, Robert Frost once defined metaphor beautifully: "... Metaphor is explaining this in terms of that where this is new and that is familiar".

 One of the classic lines that came out of the movie Jaws - when the boat hunting the shark was attacked by the massive mechanical great white, Bruce - was, "you're going to need a bigger boat". Abstracted and projected onto the functional safety discipline this is a compelling metaphor for convincing management to spend more money on safety subsequent to a major incident or near miss.

The movie Apocalypse Now had another great boat metaphor:

(the back story: on a passage upper a river a decision is made to go ashore and search the jungle for mangoes. In the process they meet a tiger.)

The resulting wisdom, most profound:

"Never get out of the boat." Absolutely goddamn right! Unless you were goin'
all the way... Kurtz got off the boat. He split from the whole fuckin' program."

I'll leave that one for the list to ponder on.



From: systemsafety-bounces_at_xxxxxx [mailto:systemsafety-bounces_at_xxxxxx Chris Hills
Sent: Wednesday, July 8, 2015 9:21 PM
To: systemsafety_at_xxxxxx Subject: Re: [SystemSafety] Shark!  

Safety is based on maths.

People and films OTOH are emotive.  

After 9/11 many Americans would not fly the Atlantic for a while despite the attacks being staged from US domestic flights.  

After the Liam Neeson Film "Taken" (about 2 US students being abducted in Paris) large numbers of US students, or more probably their parents on their behalf, decided not to do a European Trip.  

Films are designed to play on fears and emotions also the suspension of disbelief. The problem is that people often believe films over history. (Saving Private Ryan for example). No matter how many charts and sensible articles you write about sharks "they have seen what a Great White can do to a boat.."  

I am sure that if you got a Hollywood team to do a film you could worry people about chair safety.. Though I am not sure how you would work in the obligatory car chase.    



 Eur Ing Chris Hills BSc CEng MIET MBCS FRGS FRSA Phaedrus Systems Ltd Tel: FREEphone 0808 1800 358 96 Brambling B77 5PG Vat GB860621831 Co Reg #04120771 Http:// <> chills_at_xxxxxx    

From: systemsafety-bounces_at_xxxxxx [mailto:systemsafety-bounces_at_xxxxxx Inge, James Mr
Sent: 08 July 2015 09:43
To: 'systemsafety_at_xxxxxx Subject: Re: [SystemSafety] Shark!  

My local zoo has a poster in its aquarium, quoting a statistic about fatal shark attacks, compared to deaths caused by chairs. I can't remember the precise numbers, but it is something like half a dozen shark related deaths annually, compared to hundreds caused by homicidal furniture. The International Shark Attack File quotes 497 confirmed fatal shark attacks worldwide, over the last 435 years.  

Now that Hollywood has successfully warned the world about sharks, how can we persuade them to do such a sterling effort to get the word out about seating? ;-)  

More fun shark attack statistics at  



From: systemsafety-bounces_at_xxxxxx [mailto:systemsafety-bounces_at_xxxxxx Les Chambers
Sent: 08 July 2015 06:28
To: systemsafety_at_xxxxxx Subject: [SystemSafety] Shark!  

Tis the 40th anniversary of the movie Jaws. The script writer is giving interviews. It turns out the movie made many people shark-risk-aware. Some didn't go near a swimming pool for years after. But one comment resonated. Words to the effect of:

"Why did those victims go into the water? Couldn't they hear the music?"

More support for the fundamental axiom of hazard analysis:

"Some things only become clear, later on."



Les Chambers
Chambers & Associates Pty Ltd


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systemsafety_at_xxxxxx Received on Thu Jul 09 2015 - 02:11:52 CEST

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