Maurizio – Omnologos

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Petroski’s Cycle or Humanity’s Oblivion Spell

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History will never teach us anything

This is a rather sad characteristic of Humanity, not just Engineering as identified by Henry Petroski in Success Through Failure (reviewed by Steven Cass in "Learning from Failure", IEEE's Spectrum, June 2006)

[…] a sequence of significant bridge failures […] have occurred at roughly 30-year intervals since 1847, when metal began replacing stone as the material of choice for crossing spans.

And it's not just bridges that exhibit cycles consisting of long periods of success punctuated by disaster: spacecraft, nuclear power plants, and other highly engineered artifacts have followed a similar pattern.

In his latest engaging and readable book, Success Through Failure, design guru Henry Petroski analyzes this cycle and other flaws in the things around us to show that the old truism "nothing succeeds like success" is in fact a recipe for doom.[…]

I do agree it’s a matter of memory. 30 years or so is less than a generation nowadays.

Look outside design and engineering, for example at the mostly manufactured Gulf of Tonkin Incident that escalated the Vietnam War in 1964 and the mostly manufactured evidence of WMDs in Iraq culminating in the invasion in 2003.

What's apparent is that despite the lengthening of the human life, nobody seems to recall the mistakes of the past

And so avoidable calamities, wars, genocides are bound to stay with us

Nothing new under the sun, until we will free ourselves from this evil spell

Written by omnologos

2006/Jun/05 at 22:41:45

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