The Atomic Chef: And Other True Tales of Design, Technology, and Human Error.

Author:Mitchell, Rob
Position:Book review

Work Title: The Atomic Chef: And Other True Tales of Design, Technology, and Human Error

Work Author(s): Steven Casey

Aegean Publishing

288 pages, Hardcover $29.00


ISBN: 0963617869

Reviewer: Rob Mitchell

Two women are undergoing in vitro fertilization. The embryologist whose job it is to sort and prepare the embryos for implantation mixes them up. Nine months later one of the women gives birth to the other woman's baby. Is it human error?

Responding to a 911 call, a fire department dispatcher sends a fire-fighting unit to the 3100 block of 9th Street. There's no fire, so the unit returns to the station. Meanwhile, a raging inferno on the 3100 block of 9th Avenue takes the lives of a mother and her three children. Is it human error?

Yes, of course it's human error, but each case is also an example of a flawed system. The author, president and principal scientist at Ergonomic Systems Design, Inc., presents twenty true stories of human error induced by technology and design. His previous collection of such accounts, Set Phasers on Stun, won critical acclaim from science and design publications. In this volume, the stories focus on the plight of the user when faced with a design that is incompatible with the way people perceive, think, and act. Representing different classes and types of human error in a variety of settings---hospitals, airports, amusement parks---the stories are seductive and have the potential to serve as provocative and instructive tools.

Many of the stories are horribly tragic: a hospital's cavalier attitude toward safety results in a boy's death while he's...

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