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The Multitasking Myth: Handling Complexity in Real-World Operations (Ashgate Studies in Human Factors for Flight Operations) New edition Edition
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In modern technical society, pilots, doctors, nuclear plant operators - as well as automobile drivers, cell phone callers, and listeners to recorded music - spend much of their time managing complex user interfaces, displays, controls, and automation systems. Information bombards the person at the controls or keyboard. We are often trying to do more than one thing at a time (multitasking) because there are so many controls, devices, and information streams at our disposal and demanding our attention. In most domains and activities the high-tech equipment helps us to be more productive. In those having extremely adverse consequences for errors and failures, such as commercial aviation and medicine, the equipment has generally allowed us to operate more safely, as well.
That's the good news. However, The Multitasking Myth brings us the difficult news that goes along with it: the complexity of today's tasks and devices also introduce new sources of error and failure when they conflict with the inherent ways in which the human mind processes information. Indeed, we cannot change human cognitive limitations and vulnerabilities, so when our machines - and the procedures we use to operate them - don't match our minds, it is the machines and procedures that have to change. When the consequences of failure are severe, performance must be nearly perfect and the tasks absolutely have to match what the human can reliably do.Read more ›
The book is divided into four main parts:
The first, titled The Ideal, shows how manuals and simulator training can back up everything. In an ideal word everything is under control; as stated in the book, "tasks are linear, predictable and controllable".
The second part, The Real, illustrates how different the real world is. A reader, such as I, has the chance to see, with the aid of jump seat observations, how complex flight operations are and how pilots manage this complex environment. In their normal day-to-day work, pilots have to deal with interruptions, unexpected tasks and many other factors.
The third part, Analysis of Concurrent Task Demands and Crew Responses, highlights why mistakes are made. It gives the background leading up to these situations and explains how crews manage them, for the most part successfully. In most of the accident investigations in which I have taken part I could see each of the four typical situations detailed in the book.
The authors go beyond mere theory and in the final part, The Research Applied, make proposals for improving the safety of flight operations. (I particularly identified with this section as it is the area I work in, namely flight operation safety). Their work involved lengthy and detailed research and collaboration with operators, manufacturers, engineering department, etc...Read more ›