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What could go wrong?

Updated: 12/15/2022
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8y ago

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This is an important question for all scientists, planners, and politicians. Before any experiment, change, or important decision, it is VERY IMPORTANT to consider all the possible ramifications.

For scientists, safety should be paramount in any experiment, so known risks should be considered, as well as normal safety precautions in case of unforeseen mishaps. As Madame Curie discovered (fatally), it is dangerous to work with things you don't fully understand. And there are many engineers who overlook crucial aspects of their work. So we get car recalls, asbestos-inhalation deaths, design-flaw plane crashes, and catastrophic bridge failures.

For planners, there is often little consideration of the ill effects of an intended change, with too much focus on the positive and beneficial results and too little on potentially severe, even disastrous side effects. Establishing a hurricane evacuation plan is a fine idea, but unless the roads can handle the traffic, it becomes a counterproductive nightmare. Having a new universal medical plan is fine, but if its computer systems are not robust enough, millions will experience frustration and hardship.

For politicians eager to please their electorates, yielding to public pressure without considering the consequences is both stupid and short-sighted. Huge state expenditures on welfare, public employment, and capital expenses (without new revenue) can result in long-term financial instability and even default. Even when you please the public, you can go wrong, as was clearly demonstrated in the 1920's when Prohibition led to the enrichment of gangster bootleggers, and alcohol remained in wide demand.

When in doubt, remember Murphy's Law: Whatever can go wrong will go wrong, with the corollary that it will always go wrong at the worst possible time.

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