Saturday, December 4, 2010
A couple of weeks ago it was revealed that typesetters had accidentally opened the wrong file for the British edition of John Franzen’s thick new novel, “Freedom.” As a result, 80,000 copies of the wrong draft were printed, and needed to be pulped. These may seem unrelated, but a recent study of data compiled in Oklahoma has revealed that surgical errors may be on the increase, despite detailed protocols aimed at avoiding them (and related malpractice lawsuits). In recent years, these have included things like operating on the wrong patient, organ, side of the brain, etc. – sometimes with lethal consequences. And the BBC web site still has a “Skillwise Factsheet” posted providing instructions on how to construct a good paragraph – and it contains the following gem: “What does the topic sentence do? It introduces the main idea of the sentence.” It has been maybe two years since I first saw it, and it is still there, unchanged. I would be curious to what extent this apparent difficulty to stay focused and pay attention to detail might make engineering errors (and even friendly fire accidents ) more common than they would normally be. But there must be a away to dispel the mental fog induced by an increasingly complex, fast-paced and technologically saturated social environment – yes, you guessed it, by applying even more innovative and immersive technologies.