“Computers will do whatever you tell them to do”

One of the key themes I investigate on this blog is how what is commonly reported as a “computer glitch” or “technical glitch” should be more correctly blamed on “human error”. I used to have a manager that frequently stated that, in response to even unreasonable requests from his clients, “computers will do whatever you tell them to do”.

Bearing that in mind, it’s quite likely that many issues blamed on computers could be, if investigated properly, be better blamed on computers being incorrectly told what, or how, to do something.

Based on my own experiences, many human errors can be put down to people just doing something stupid, or being careless, or not truly understanding what they’re doing.

However, this quote from Ben Goldacre does highlight something that I try to focus on in my own job as a business analyst:

It’s possible for good people, in perversely designed systems, to casually perpetrate acts of great harm on strangers, sometimes without ever realising it.

A properly designed computer system or application should prevent people from doing stupid things – more particularly, it should guide its users to doing only the right thing, at the right time.

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