Radiation Treatment Errors and Bad Design

The New York Times has an excellent investigative report into radiation treatment errors. They tell the story of two patients who died due to errors, and report on the frequency of these events. Sadly the errors usually look preventable in hindsight. And predictably, manufacturers of the machines blame the technicians who operate the machines, when in truth a main cause is bad software design without proper attention to safety and usability practices.

Link: Radiation Offers New Cures, and Ways to do Harm.

The article is the first in a series called The Radiation Boom. This kind of deep reporting is what makes the NYT and organizations like it so valuable.

Wisdom 2.0 Conference

If you're in the bay area you may be interested in the Wisdom 2.0 conference coming up at the end of April at the Computer History Museum in Mountain View. It promises to be

"a one-of-a-kind event that brings together
people from a variety of disciplines, including technology leaders, Zen
teachers, neuroscientists, and academics to explore how we can live
with deeper meaning and wisdom in our technology-rich age."

I've written a bit before about Buddhist approaches to technology and I think it can be an interesting area of thought (as it's been explored by philosopher David Loy, for example). On the other hand there's a lot of crap out there in the form of spiritual workshops, etc.

Some of the speakers for this do sound interesting…

It's $200 if you register early.

Why some people don’t care about information overload

A post by business writer Tom Davenport at a Harvard Business Review blog explains it all for us:

I gave a presentation this week on decision-making, and someone in the
audience asked me if I thought information overload was an impediment
to effective decision-making. "Information overload…yes, I remember
that concept. But no one cares about it anymore," I replied. In fact,
nobody ever did.

He offers a few shaky reasons for why information overload is not a problem, then concludes:

So the next time you hear someone talking or read someone writing about
information overload, save your own attention and tune that person out.
Nobody's ever going to do anything about this so-called problem, so
don't overload your own brain by wrestling with the issue.

Link: Why we don't care about information overload.

Wow. It's the kind of inane, superficial article I'd expect from somebody trying to write with one eye on their blackberry.

For some intelligent material on the topic, I recommend the Information Overload Research Group and Nathan Zeldes's blog Challenge Information Overload.

Relying on Google a little too much

Michael Zimmer has an amusing/scary story about a student's unquestioning use of Google: it's reported at Crooked Timber and Michael's blog (which appears to be down).

Speaking of Google, I just learned of Google's holiday card offer. If you can't be bothered to send a snail mail card to your pathetic relatives who are "stuck in the pre-digital age" then Google will do it for you (except that they've run out already). And, yes, that's just the way they describe it.

In privacy news, Eric Schmidt apparently forgot his talking points and said this in an interview: "If you have something that you don't want anyone to know, maybe you shouldn't be doing it in the first place." (quoted at Gawker; here's a response from security expert Bruce Schneier.)