B-17 Throttles (Photo credit: rkbentley)
On Sunday I gave a capstone talk at the Production & Operations Society meeting in Denver. I oriented my talk toward a comparison of health care now, with aviation’s transition to Standard Procedure Flying in the 1940s and 50s. BOHN POMS Standard procedure flying 2013e
As in medicine now, experienced expert flyers who did not use standard procedures were still better than newly trained pilots who did. And there was resistance to the changes. But aviation had a couple of advantages in making the transition: New pilots who did not learn SPF died quickly, usually in accidents. And the old experts got rotated out of combat positions (United States Army Air Force), or eventually got shot down no matter how good they were. (Germany)
It’s a very hot summer, and that brings babies dying of heatstroke after they are accidentally left in a parent’s car. Years ago I thought “I could never make such a stupid mistake,” but after the research I’ve been doing on aviation safety, I no longer believe it. My own children are grown up, but many of my former students have small children, and it’s a terrible tragedy for anyone. So I’ve been thinking about how to reduce the incidence, using ideas from aviation.
<rant> One quick pet peeve: if you see someone’s kid in a back seat looking unconscious, don’t stand around calling 911. Break the damned window and get them out! Yell at someone else to call 911. I’ve seen multiple articles about people standing around in parking lots! </rant>
Most of my research right now is about the evolution of technologies. They go from crafts, requiring skilled experts, to “engineering science,” i.e. mostly automated and very precise. For example, firearms manufacturing took 200 years to undergo this shift. Flying took about 100 years to go from the Wright Brothers, to autonomous aircraft (not just unmanned, but self-directed). How does this happen? Is it a good thing?
Here is a talk I gave on this topic. (Caution: 5 MB PDF file) The subtitle is Why old tasks get easier, but everything gets more complex.
Bohn knowledge evolution 2007
I’m working on a book on this subject, which does side-by-side comparisons of:
- Medical care – several kinds
- Firearms manufacturing (from Napoleon to 1980)
- Semiconductor manufacturing
Each of them has undergone major transformations, with similar patterns.