Jurassic World is like every CEO-CIO conflict, where growth plans and marketing desires run up against technical realities. Except they don’t usually involve dinosaurs.
On the one hand, we’ve got the CEO, who is constantly pushing for “bigger, louder, more teeth.” It’s an encouraging sign that the organization recognizes the value of innovation, and the head scientist even says at one point that if he didn’t innovate, someone else would. (Perhaps there’s a rival “Triassic Park” on the next island?)
On the other hand, several scientists and animal experts mutter direly throughout the picture about the risk they’re taking. One wonders, why are they bringing this up now, when the horse has left the stable, so to speak? Or have they been bringing up these technical issues all along, only to have them ignored in favor of trying to bring in more business?
Just goes to show that CEOs need to listen to the techies more often.
By the way, both this film and the first one, Jurassic Park, feature techies going rogue and selling corporate secrets to some sort of amorphous military-industrial complex—which is presumably laying the groundwork for a sequel, Jurassic Army or some such.
What is it that gives screenwriters the idea that techies are amoral wretches only out for money? As more than one review pointed out, the head scientist in Jurassic World already has an amazing lab where he gets to create new life forms. Why in the world would he be selling out? And for mere money, when all sorts of studies have demonstrated that techies are motivated most by solving problems?
Ultimately, the film boils down to something we’ve written about before: The “high reliability” theory—that with enough design and management, high-risk technologies can work without mistakes, despite human frailty. That’s as opposed to the “normal accident” theory—that as a system gets more complex, the chances of failure increase, no matter how careful you are with all the requisite components, because of unexpected interactions between them. Even putting in checks and balances looking for failure adds complexity and makes the system more prone to failure.
That comes up in the film as well. The dangerous dinosaurs are put behind mechanical fences, watched via thermal signatures, and monitored by tracking devices. But dinosaurs use the fences to plan an escape, find ways to evade the thermal signatures, and remove the tracking devices—even, it’s implied, using the tracking device to lure the humans to a particular spot.
Not to mention, the dangerous dinosaurs themselves are created by a complex gene-splicing process because regular live dinosaurs aren’t exciting enough. Scientists need to use genes from other species because some of the genetic material from the dinosaurs is missing. Which goes to show how important maintaining data is and how much risk you take plugging in information you get from somewhere else.
At the same time, the fences can be opened and closed remotely by a single guy in a control room, without any sort of oversight or fail-safe. There isn’t even any indication that the system tracks that the fences were opened or by whom. And yet the system does track security team deaths, as if they were tributes in the Hunger Games.
NASA actually found, in its study of systems that are inherently complex (it’s kind of hard to design a simple spaceship), that the most important factor in preventing failure was communication. Ironically, communication is the one thing that seems to break down the most in Jurassic World.
Cellphones don’t work, get lost, get broken, or just plain aren’t answered, over and over again. This means all sorts of people have to, as the reviews describe it, race from set piece to set piece. (When even Disney is starting to add RFID tags to its wristbands, wouldn’t it make sense to do that in a park populated by giant wild animals?)
Chances are, when things go pear-shaped in one of your work projects, you don’t have to worry about rampaging dinosaurs being let loose. But even so, designing for simplicity and improving communication are wise bets to make.
Simplicity 2.0 is where we examine the intricate and transitory world of technology—through a Laserfiche lens. By keeping an eye on larger trends, we aim to make software that’s relevant to modern day workers, rather than build technology for technology’s sake.
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