To Err is Human….

…but to really foul things up, you need a computer.

The Affordable Care Act sign-up website has proven once again that controversial ecologist Paul Ehrlich was correct with his comment made in the 1978 Farmers Almanac.

Thousands of Missourians had trouble last week when they tried to tap into the Affordable Care Act computer system—because thousands of Missourians (and people from the other states) tried to tap into the Affordable Care Act computer system. 

Why was that unexpected? 

For some, especially those politicians who hold up their fingers in the sign of a cross anytime somebody else mentions the words “Obamacare” or “Affordable Care Act,” last week’s computer problems are signs that this is truly a train wreck of biblical proportions. The program is not ready for prime time, they say,  The computer system wasn’t adequately tested.  Obama has fumbled again.  

Or was it just another proof of Ehrlich’s observation?  

No matter how long we have these things; no matter how much we use them; no matter how many gee-whiz stuff we can do with devices in the palms of our hands, we’ll never 100% trust them.  They do too many things to us when we most need them to work flawlessly.  Do not believe those who say computers can only do what we tell them to do or give us what we specifically ask for.  We know better.  We long ago decided the greatest contribution computers make to our society is that they promote creative swearing.  

Remember HAL, the computer from “2001” and his malevolent assurance? “The 9000 series is the most reliable computer ever made. No 9000 computer has never made a mistake or distorted information. We are all, by any practical definition of the words, foolproof and incapable of error.”

Yeah, right.

What are the first words most often spoken during a Power Point presentation at meetings?

“Oops.”

“Uh-oh”

“Uhhhh…”

“Looks like we have a little problem here..”

Dollars to doughnuts, all of us have heard words similar to those far too many times and we might even have spoken them—while thinking things much more potent. 

And that’s with just one person trying to access the information in one program on a laptop. 

OF COURSE there were going to be problems on the first day of enrollment for the ACA; computers were involved.  Heck, folks, revolving doors jam when stores start selling the latest Apple gadget at midnight.  Traffic lights quit working and humans immediately lose all capabilities to think about how to get through the intersection. The lawn mower won’t start and the person pulling the cord doesn’t think to check the gas tank.

Things go wrong all the time.  Just be glad you didn’t have Congress discussing whose fault it was that the mower’s gas tank was empty or how to get cars through intersections without lights. 

So when we hear somebody in Washington bloviate about the problems of the ACA computer system, we should summon HAL*, who can ask them to say with him in his calm and soothing voice, “I know I’ve made some very poor decisions recently, but I can give you my complete assurance that my work will be back to normal. I’ve still got the greatest enthusiasm and confidence in the mission. And I want to help you.”

The person who suggested this issue to us says HAL is every bit as altruistic and mistake-proof as Congress. He suggests Congressional criticism of the ACA enrollment computers is in the same vein as conversations between pots and kettles.

 *The calm, soothing voice of HAL is that of Canadian Actor Douglas Rains. We don’t know what value that has for this entry but there it is.

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One thought on “To Err is Human….

  1. “Stay calm and carry on.”
    “Apple had a glitch a few weeks ago, too.”
    “There is nothing to see here, folks, just move along and go about your business.”
    “There are several over the counter sleep aids available.”
    “Our IT guy will be here in just a few minutes to fix that computer problem for you.”
    and,
    “Chief, this treaty between your tribe and the Great White Father in Washington will last as long as the wind blows and the grass grows. You can trust us to keep our word.”

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