padThe Logic of Failure               Recognizing and Avoiding Error in               Complex Situation

by Dietrich Dorner

Why do trains crash when the signals are working? Why does a nuclear reactor melt down with all operators alert at their posts? Why do so many of our best-laid professional and personal plans so often go awry?

Dietrich Dorner, winner of Germany's highest science prize, considers why -- given all our intelligence, experience, and information -- we make mistakes, sometimes with catastrophic consequences. Surprisingly, he finds the answer not in negligence or carelessness, but in what he calls the "logic of failure": certain tendencies in our patterns of thought -- such as taking one thing at a time, cause and effect, and linear thinking -- that while appropriate in an older simpler world, prove disastrous for the complex world we live in now.

Dorner finds no lack of examples. Why did the Aswan Dam planners who brought the blessings of cheap electricity to Egypt not realize they would also interrupt the annual floods that for a millenium had kept the Nile rich and fertile? Why do planners of Third World health programs not realize that increased life expectancy requires increased food and thereby inadvertently end up contributing to starvation? Working with intriguing computer simulations of his own invention, Dorner exposes the flaws in our thinking. His examples -- sometimes hilarious, sometimes horrifying -- and brain-teasing thought experiments teach us how to solve complex problems. Together they make The Logic of Failure a corrective tool, a guide for intelligent planning and decision making.

-from Metropolitan Books

Logic of Failure, The
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