I have an engineer friend. He is originally German, but he has been in USA for a while. I think there is something in German blood that makes them give a lot of attention to minor details.
Sometime back, he visited India for a business trip. In Mumbai, he received an invitation for home cooked dinner. He enjoys Indian food, so needless to say, he obliged.
When he finished his meal and made a quick trip to the wash basin, he saw the washing machine. He observed that the water was running even though the spinning tub was full. When he pointed out, the lady of the house quickly ran and switched off the water tap and started the machine.
This scenario might be familiar to many of us Indians. Our washing machines, come in mostly two types, semi automatic and automatic. The semi automatic ones are cheaper and more common.
One big flaw in the semi-automatic type machines is that they have no inbuilt mechanism to stop water flow when the tub is full. So unless a human is attending it, the water keeps on running in tub, and when tub is full, it overflows into the drain pipe and goes waste.
We had one of those machines. I remember incidents similar to the above one happening in my family. I remember family members getting irritated at mom because she was not standing there providing attention and thus water was being wasted. I remember implying that she needs to do better job.
Thus when I heard my friends reaction, it got me thinking.
He said “There are so many people without clean water in India. Still how come the washing machine was designed without water level sensor? The engineer who designed that must be shot dead.”
What got me thinking was the fact that he was not blaming the woman for not providing attention. He was blaming the washing process and in turn the machine and in turn the designer of the machine. The user was not expected to be attentive and vigilant. It was machine’s responsibility.
Why inspite of having so many great institutions like IITs, such stupid products are made? Why there is such a gross disconnect between the problems of society and the tasks carried out by individuals in the society? Why we continue this pattern of blaming individuals almost in every area of life, without ever accepting that the individuals will always make mistake. It’s the process that needs to be tolerant and resilient. It’s the process engineer that needs to be more vigilant.
Why we keep shooting tne end users? Why don’t we shoot the engineers instead?
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