Saturday, March 28, 2015

Germanwings vs Linus's Law

Context

It's Saturday morning.  My gf, who's a therapist, is sitting on the toilet while I'm sitting on the couch.  To get an idea of the distance between our locations... if she says something like, "The cat's in the tub... why are you in the tub?"... then I can just barely hear what she's saying.  Sometimes, rather than shout back and forth, she'll call me and we'll talk on the phone.  For some reason it seems nicely absurd to talk on the phone with somebody in the same house.

So this morning I pick up my phone and learn that my gf wants to talk about the Germanwings co-pilot seeing a therapist for depression.  What's my response?  To push my gf's buttons of course.  What can I say?  I'm only human.  I blame the pilot's therapist.  We end up have a loud debate/discussion about who's to blame.

My arguments are thrown off by the fact that she's got me on speaker phone with the volume turned all the way up.  So I can clearly hear what I'm saying being broadcast in the bathroom... with a slight delay.

/Context

What do you think?  Too much context?

Linus's Law:  given enough eyeballs, all bugs are shallow

Here's the Wikipedia entry... Linus's Law... and here's my recent blog entry... Linus's Law: Narrowly vs Broadly Defined.

If we narrowly define Linus's Law... then it's only relevant to computer programming.  You write a program and it doesn't work like it's supposed to.  Why?  Because there's a "bug" in your code.

If we broadly define Linus's Law... then it's relevant to anything that doesn't work like it's supposed to.  A pilot intentionally crashes a plane full of people into a mountain.  Why?  Because there was a "bug" in his thinking.

For too many people... the "solution" to pretty much every problem is more government regulation.  But for anybody who understands Linus's Law... the solution to pretty much every problem is more eyeballs.

To be clear... there's a fundamental difference between the general solution (more eyeballs) and the specific solution.  To expect me to come up with the best specific solution for every situation where the general solution is applicable... is to really miss the point of Linus's Law!  There are a gazillion different ways to add more eyeballs... and no two ways are equally effective for every situation.

So I really don't know the best way to add more eyeballs to flying.  It just seems like a given that it's a generally good idea.

If we're going to put a lot of lives in somebody's hands... then it stands to reason that we want more, rather than less, eyeballs scrutinizing the hands in question.  We want more, rather than less, eyeballs poking and prodding hands to determine their capability.

If the passengers of the Germanwings flight had known that the pilot had just broken up with his girlfriend... and had been seeing a therapist for depression... then perhaps some of them would have thought twice about putting their lives in his hands.  And what if it was ridiculously easy for them to bring these details to the attention of other potential passengers?

Would pilots welcome all this additional scrutiny?  Would they really want to have their lives under a microscope?  The fact of the matter is that they wouldn't all mind the scrutiny equally.

Imagine you're interviewing a potential babysitter.  You ask, "would you mind if I ran a background check on you?"  If the babysitter replies that she would mind... then chances are pretty good that you'd cross her from the list.

When you're watching a crime show and the suspect isn't willing to submit a DNA sample... what do you think?

My gf argued that it's the company's responsibility to effectively screen its pilots.  Yes...but a truly effective screening process should have absolutely no problem with independent verification.

If a pilot is mentally and physically sound... then generally speaking there shouldn't be a problem with putting him under the public's microscope.

If a plane is physically sound... then generally speaking there shouldn't be a problem with putting it under the public's microscope.  

If a plan is sound... then generally speaking there shouldn't be a problem with putting it under the public's microscope.

If a program is sound... then generally speaking there shouldn't be a problem with putting it under the public's microscope.

Right now if you search google for Germanwings "Linus's Law" you'll only find four results... none of which are relevant.  This is a "bug" in our society.  And this is me pointing it out.  Given enough eyeballs, all bugs are shallow.

A couple relevant passages...
The technology for reducing the number of plane crashes in this country is available.  All we have to do is to treat every plane as though it were Air Force One.  But, if we did, how many would be willing to pay the prices to fly from their hometown to Chicago? - Richard B. McKenzie, Bound to Be Free
If anyone insisted on deliberating with maximum scrupulousness every one of the economic acts he undertakes every day, if he insisted on rendering a judgment of value throughout to the last detail concerning the most trifling good that he has to deal with by way of receipt or expenditure , by utilization or consumption, such a person would be too much occupied with reckoning and deliberating to call his life his own. The correct maxim and the one which would be observed in economic life is "Be no more accurate than it pays to be." In really important things, be really exact; in moderately important things be moderately exact; in the myriad trifles of everyday economic life, just make the roughest sort of valuation. - Eugen Böhm-Bawerk, Capital and Interest 

No comments:

Post a Comment