We Are Living In A House Of Cards That Is Getting More Fragile Every Day

The more complex the system, the more points of failure. Southwest Airlines’ meltdown is just a harbinger of things to come


Created by Dall-e — One failed link dooms the entire chain

By David Grace (Amazon PageDavid Grace Website)

— — — — A Chain Is Only As Reliable As Its Weakest Link — — — —

My High-Tech Odyssey

I was on the internet and clicked on a text box. I typed a few characters and nothing happened.

What? Oh, crap, the battery in the wireless keyboard is dead. Well, that’s no problem. I’ll just put in a new battery.

That’s when I remembered that my wireless keyboard does not use a replaceable AAA battery. It has a built-in battery. You have to plug it in to a USB port in order to charge it.

OK, that won’t be a problem. I reached into my pile of various USB cables.

None of my seven different USB cables, which all seemed to have different connectors on the end, would fit into the socket on the keyboard. Yes, I know, they weren’t all actually different, but I can’t identify them just by looking at them.

OK, fine. I’ll just run down to the CVS and buy a new cable that will fit, but which one? A USB B, C, nano, micro? I don’t know, but I can ask Google what kind of cable my keyboard takes.

But wait, I need a working keyboard in order to type the question into Google.

OK, fine. I have two old wireless keyboards in a drawer.

I take them out, and they both accept AAA batteries. I find a couple of Duracell AAA batteries and insert them into one of the keyboards, then I plug one of the two Bluetooth transmitters from the drawer into the USB port and hit a few keys.


I plug in the second transmitter. Nothing. You see where this is going.

I try the second spare keyboard. Same thing. Zilch.

But then I notice that there’s a red light next to the keyboard’s battery symbol. Oh, OK, the Duracell batteries are dead.

OK, fine. I have a pile of rechargeable AAA batteries. But they are all flat too. No problem. I’ll charge a couple of them.

Half and hour later I have two fully-charged AAA batteries. I stick them into one of the keyboards and insert the transmitter.

Nothing. Fine, I’ll insert the other transmitter. My God, letters appear on the screen. It works!

Now that I’ve got a working keyboard, I go to Google and I find out that the keyboard with the built-in battery has a USB Type B, known as a micro-USB, connector. But before I go to CVS to buy a cable I make one more attempt to find a cable that will fit.

I recall that I have an old cable that I once used to charge an ancient flip phone. Will that work?

No, it won’t.

I return to my pile of other cables. Maybe I was just hasty. Maybe I wasn’t careful when trying to insert the connectors into the keyboard.

One-by-one I try each of the cables, carefully flipping them over just to make sure that I wasn’t trying to insert the connector upside down.

None of them fit.

Then I notice that at the very back of the shelf, half tucked under the organizer (well, not a really well-organized organizer) I see the end of a black wire. It’s an eighth cable. Anxiously, I try to plug it into the keyboard port.

It fits!

I begin to charge the keyboard’s internal battery. An hour later it is fully charged. I insert what I hope is the correct transmitter for the newly-charged keyboard.

It works! I’m right back to where I started two hours ago.

Isn’t technology wonderful?

The Lesson To Be Learned From This

This has led me to the following thoughts.

Mission Impossible Was Too Complicated To Have Worked

Have you seen any of those old Mission Impossible TV episodes where their incredibly complicated plots always seemed to perfectly succeed?

Did you ever see the flaw in that? Did you ever realize that in the real world 50% or more of those impossible missions would have totally crashed and burned because the longer the series of fragile and human-dependent events that are needed to reach a goal, the more likely it is, actually inevitable really, that something — a flat tire, a cancelled flight, a crash on the freeway, a temper tantrum, a case of food poisoning — is going to break one of the vital links in that highly complicated chain.

Do you remember when Jimmy Carter tried to rescue the Americans held hostage in Iran and the mission failed because one of the helicopters broke down on the way there?

How about the mission to capture Osama Bin Laden. A helicopter crash there too, but, luckily, they had included extra capacity in the remaining choppers to handle just such a failure.

Recently people were surprised when some wrenches and rocks in the gears of the supply chain just about brought the world-wide economy to its knees. When you think about it, how could it be otherwise?

In a high-tech world based on just-in-time manufacturing and schedules engineered by greedy executives determined to squeeze every last penny out the production process and trim every last possible unit out of inventory supply, everything has to work perfectly for ANYTHING to work at all.

And nothing always works perfectly for very long. The only mystery here is why the economy didn’t blow up sooner.

And Then There Were The Genius Executives At Southwest Airlines

I’m talking to you, Southwest Airline executives. You should have known better.

And Mr. Bob Jordan, President of Southwest Airlines, you can stuff your apologies. Back to the drawing board guys.

Any halfway competent board of directors would have fired the lot of you weeks ago.

— David Grace (Amazon PageDavid Grace Website)

If you would like to know about David Grace’s new, always free, columns, click this LINK and then fill in your email address. When a new David Grace column is published, Medium (not David Grace!) will send you the new column as an email.

CLICK HERE to see some topic lists (Racism, Humorous Short Stories, etc.) and links in each topic list to some of my favorite columns on that topic.

To see a searchable list of all David Grace’s columns in chronological order, CLICK HERE

To see a list of all of David Grace’s columns sorted by topic/subject matter, CLICK HERE

To see David Grace’s Medium Home Page, CLICK HERE

Follow David Grace on Twitter at: https://twitter.com/davidgraceauth



David Grace

Graduate of Stanford University & U.C. Berkeley Law School. Author of 16 novels and over 400 Medium columns on Economics, Politics, Law, Humor & Satire.