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    Re: A credible AIS track for the Costa Concordia
    From: Patrick Goold
    Date: 2012 Jan 25, 10:00 -0500
    Frank,
    Isn't there a tension here?  You write that the ship knew things and should have saved itself, by which I take you to mean that the ship should have been engineered automatically to evade obstacles like the one it hit.  But you also put part of the of blame for the accident on
    a "carefree" attitude towards the navigation of the vessel. It worked before; it will work again. What can go wrong when sailing such a modern vessel? It's all "so easy". 
    Wouldn't more automation deepen the tendencies to develop such an attitude?  Until we can be certain our devices are infallible (Is that even imaginable?), someone (or better, several someones) will have to be paying attention.  More automation would no doubt steer us around a number of accidents.  Lazy thinkers and creatures of habit that we are, wouldn't it also unavoidably lull us into a new level of carelessness?

    One earlier point at which rationality might have intervened here would have been to limit the size of vessels.  The reliability of human beings and their safety devices is limited.  So too should be the size of their machines.

    Patrick


    On Wed, Jan 25, 2012 at 12:06 AM, Frank Reed <FrankReed@historicalatlas.com> wrote:

    Geoffrey, you wrote:
    "Historically, there never was a backup to the captain on the bridge. He was God, his word was law and if you questioned it, then it was mutiny. How is that different today?"

    That's a good question. In commercial aviation, as I understand it, there was a major push starting a few decades ago to give the copilot more authority to question the captain in the cockpit. Not just by rules and regulation, but by training. A number of deadly accidents were blamed in part on crew members too timid or too respectful to speak up to the captain.

    And you wrote:
    "And reading between the lines, this captain had probably done this dozens of times before. It sounds like it was a macho thing."

    I think it's being portrayed in the media as a macho thing, but I am not convinced. There's no question that the cruise line knew about these detours and left them up to the captain's discretion. His job, in part, was to entertain the passengers with a beautiful cruise (obviously within limits, which he tragically exceeded this time). What I see here is a "carefree" attitude towards the navigation of the vessel. It worked before; it will work again. What can go wrong when sailing such a modern vessel? It's all "so easy".

    And:


    "The other officers on the bridge were probably quite relaxed about it until about 30 seconds before the crunch. Not much time to do anything about it then..."

    Yes, I would imagine so. People get careless. But were there no automated systems? This was one hundred percent detectable by simple software. The ship knew exactly where it was. The ship had extensive databases available to it showing exactly where the shallows were. The ship knew how long it would take to decelerate or make a safe (and comfortable) turn. The ship should have saved itself.

    I watched an hour of the old Kubrick movie "2001" last night, and I had in my head an image of the "Hal 9000" computer installed aboard the Costa Concordia suggesting in that sinister, comforting voice to the captain, "Francesco, perhaps you should have a glass of wine and let me steer for a while. You know how concerned I am about the success of our mission" ...as a computer-driven arm swings out and shoves him over the side. More seriously, these huge ships and their thousands of passengers are too valuable and too easily damaged to leave it all in the hands of human judgement. Surely there are alarm systems that can calculate the minimum safe distance no matter who is "driving" the vessel.

    -FER

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    --
    Dr. Patrick Goold
    Department of Philosophy
    Virginia Wesleyan College
    Norfolk, VA 23502
    757 455 3357


       
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