Inderscience Publishers

Chapter 7 - lessons learned from the case studies of technological failure

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Having just presented our 12 exemplary cases of technological failure, a startling fact emerges: many of the cases of technological failure considered in Chapter 6 could have actually been prevented. In fact, an argument can be made that ten out of the 12 case studies of technological failure could have been anticipated on the basis of what was well known by experts and executives in the various industries involved. The question then arises: why were the known hazards associated with the various technologies not adequately taken into account and steps taken to prevent them? Part of the answer to this question may involve determining who is responsible for safeguarding the public's interests when dangerous technologies are developed and implemented. Included among relevant watchdogs are Government agencies, as well as various professional societies that are responsible for setting safety standards. There are indeed a variety of Government agencies with a mandate to protect the public against harms produced by different industries. The same can be said for professional and educational organisations. However, the diffusion of responsibilities among the multiple agencies all too often results in the actual neglect of responsibility for the social and economic harms caused by failures of technology. These questions will be considered further in this chapter and in chapter 8.

Keywords: technological failure, case studies

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