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On Technology and the Human Factor


John Lyman, Ph.D.

Measurement Units Breakdown

The Mars mapping vehicle error goes back to the earliest days of the kind of human initiated operational error that triggered off the whole emphasis on the psychological aspects of design induced system failures. Separation of controls by assuring position, shape and operational distinctions was easy compared to assuring "mental separations" of conflicting information. The mapping vehicle incident will probably become a teaching "classic" as an example of what can happen at the cognitive (as contrasted with motor) level of action decision. The huge economic cost of the error should help trigger additional resources for human factors and ergonomics education. I hope the lesson will "take" in engineering education circles.

© 1999 John Lyman

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