Monday, October 29, 2007

Safety Last: The network means common sense will eventually prevail

Try to do something too corporately, too completey, too centrally-controlled and you often end up creating the opposite effect. Perhaps this is because you are running contrary to common sense - the networked intelligence of us all.

Two examples occurred to me recently.

1) My daughter had been over-sucking her thumb. It ended up red raw and as she picked at it in the car on the way to nursery, it started bleeding, just a little. I asked at nursery if they'd put a plaster on for her. "Can't do that," I'm told. "In case of allergies". Health & (f**king) Safety madness. "Should I take her home instead then?"

Result: Open wounds, open to infection? Is this risk smaller than the allergy one?

2) Bonfire parties. November 5 is coming soon so that means fireworks in the UK. Years ago I recall almost everyone in the small town where I grew up trudging up to the 'Sand Hills' where the scouts would organise a firework display and bonfire. Roundtables, scouts, local rugby clubs etc etc organised events for years. But they seem to be dieing out. The reason - cost of meeting all the increasingly ludicrous health and safety rules - and the challenge of getting insurance. Result: a BOOM in home (completely unregulated, inexpert) displays. Every supermarket has racks of explosives pushed at customers as they come through the door.
All the rules were about reducing risk - but the result has been to wildly increase the risk.

Trust. We trust our nurseries to care for our children, with common sense. Externally applied rules prevent this.
We trust our community organisations to put on a good firework show, consider our safety, and provide a communal event. With common sense. Externally applied (centrally-derived) rules prevent this.

The network wants more and can deliver more. Common sense was once allowed to prevail. It is the natural state of humans. Now rules from the centre seek to over rule it.

The network will disrupt this. Common sense will re-establish itself as the edge-in model of distributed intelligence it always was. The centralised rule makers have to become part of the network or they will simply be replaced.

Legislators would do well to pay attention.

1 comment:

  1. How about the ban on eggs and flour at Halloween?

    I'd rather have a car egged than hit by rocks!

    Isn't there a hypothesis than the more we become protected, the more likely we are to compensate by seeking out risks - parachuting, bungee jumping, motorcycle riding etc?


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