From Kirkus Reviews
Dumas (Political Economy/Univ. of Texas) sorts and classifies hundreds of past human errors and machine glitches that have led to death and disaster, then considers, much more briefly, what can be done to prevent them in the future. The chilling answer is not much. All but the final slim chapter of this compendium of case histories proclaims the inevitable fallibility of men and machines and the near-certain occurrence of rare events, given enough time. Dumas recounts the well-reported mistakes at Chernobyl and Three Mile Island; the terrorism of Aum Shinrikyo, Timothy McVeigh, and the World Trade Center bombers, and the cult suicides of Heavenly Gate and Jim Jones followers. But the sheer weight of other less well-known destructive events is compelling: so many terrible hits, so many near catastrophes. Dumas's forte is in analyzing how and why mistakes are made, whether accidental or deliberate, and to what extent technologies like hazardous chemicals and nuclear power are inherently dangerous. Where will the next hot spot arise? Dumas points to the boredom, repetition, and isolation of jobs monitoring dangerous equipment or safeguarding missile sites. He talks of bureaucratic mindsets that deny or avoid dealing with new information or changes in routine. And perhaps most tellingly, he describes the arrogant groupthink that promotes a dangerous belief in the groups infallibility. Dismissing technological fixes to problems of human error, he notes the fallibility of computers whose programs are still written by humans. What to do? Dumas recommends that we abolish and destroy existing nuclear, chemical, and biological weapons, enforce inspection, employ economic sanctions, seek alternative forms of energy, encourage international interdependenceall admirable goals unlikely to happen. When youre done with your copy, send it to some member of Congress, the military, or other organization concerned with national defense, so that they can all learn just how easy it is to make fatal mistakes. -- Copyright ©1999, Kirkus Associates, LP. All rights reserved.
An encyclopedic catalog of truly frightening stories, statistics, and analysis, presented in a surprisingly accessible form... -- Bombs Away