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Inviting Disaster: Lessons From the Edge of Technology
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Inviting Disaster: Lessons From the Edge of Technology

3.97  ·  Rating Details  ·  275 Ratings  ·  25 Reviews
Combining captivating storytelling with eye-opening findings, Inviting Disaster delves inside some of history's worst catastrophes in order to show how increasingly "smart" systems leave us wide open to human tragedy.Weaving a dramatic narrative that explains how breakdowns in these systems result in such disasters as the chain reaction crash of the Air France Concorde to ...more
Paperback, 368 pages
Published August 20th 2002 by HarperBusiness (first published 2001)
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Bob Mayer
Nov 14, 2014 Bob Mayer rated it really liked it
The author does a good job mixing older disasters with newer ones. He covers a lot of ground and a lot of disasters. The insights are powerful as are the stories told around each disaster. The focus is often the integration of man and machine, and the flaws inherent.

I found this book after watching Seconds From Disaster on the National Geographic channel due to my own interest in preventing catastrophe. When I was in the Special Forces (the Green Berets) a key component of our planning was antic
Apr 12, 2009 Eric_W rated it it was amazing
Recommends it for: anyone wh o enjoyed Normal Accidents
Accidents and disasters are often caused by simple, random events or the change in a normal sequence of actions, any one of which could affect the outcome. Had the path of the Air France Concorde been slightly different, or the piece of titanium not fallen off a DC-10, or the plane left a tad earlier or later, or a sealant been used in the fuel tanks, or any one of any other seemingly unimportant events taken place, the plane's tire would not have struck the titanium and a piece of tire would no ...more
Will Byrnes
Sep 15, 2008 Will Byrnes rated it it was ok
Shelves: non-fiction
Chiles offers a history of many disasters, accidents, misfortunes, and contends that the increasing complexity of machines in the modern age has raised the likelihood of disasters happening. He provides blow-by-blow descriptions of how the many disasters happened, exactly what went wrong. He notes that much misery might have been avoided by a true focus on safety uber alles, but notes that in most instances other factors were at play. Pushing to meet deadlines results in cutting corners, forcing ...more
Mar 19, 2010 David rated it liked it
You might not want to do what I did and read this on an airline flight. A collection of technological disaster scenarios, Chiles digs down to explore how bad design, unintended consequences, and technology and people set at cross-purposes resulted in disaster. I've read a few technical journal articles on incidents mentioned in the book, and while it's clear it is adapted from a TV series, I wish there was a bit more depth - some of the incidents are described very summarily. That being said, it ...more
Dee Bitner
Oct 14, 2015 Dee Bitner rated it it was amazing
Shelves: science
This is another really interesting book on things we don't like to think about. In this case, it's engineering disasters instead of big weather or earth science - and trust me, if you like Modern Marvels or Seconds From Disaster, you will enjoy this book.

Unlike Megadisasters, Chiles takes the engineering instead of the statistical view of horrible things that happen to modern humans. He argues that there is a system to every disaster, and that certain things happen in common more often than not.
Oct 14, 2012 Zaphoddent rated it liked it
Good read for anyone involved with anything more complex than a basic calculator. Sometimes, the author does seem to go on down unnecessary tangents but overall this raised my awareness of the dangers of complacency, not just in chemical plants where I work, but on the road and in planes. I drove safer the week I read this and was more aware of airplane safety. I loved his suggestion of counting the steps between your seat and the nearest exit whenever you get on the plane, as in an emergency, e ...more
Nov 07, 2009 Mike rated it really liked it
Recommends it for: Anyone
This book is part of a sequence that started with the book, "Build your Own Spaceship". The link, not tenuous, but not the major theme of this book, is the Apollo 1 spacecraft fire in 1967 (killed 3 astronauts: "Gus" Grissom, Ed White, and Roger Chafee). These men died on the ground in the Apollo capsule that was still being developed. Had this not happened (and no further similar accidents), it is possible that Man would have trod on the Moon before 1969 (or earlier that year).

There is also a s
Todd Nemet
May 03, 2009 Todd Nemet rated it really liked it
Shelves: kindle
This excellent book was recommended in the appendix of a book on project management that I am reading, Making Things Happen.

This book recounts disasters and near misses from what the author calls "the machine frontier," that scary space where machines deviate from their intended function, either through malfunction or bad design. The Kindle version starts with a preface that describes step by step how the World Trade Center towers collapsed on 9/11. Then the book starts with a detailed descripti
Tommy Grippe
Jan 06, 2013 Tommy Grippe rated it really liked it
In this book, James R. Chiles rolls out scores of anecdotes whose underlying interest is in why accidents happen and whether we can think our way around them. Mishaps occur, Chiles writes, for many reasons. When the origins are mechanical, it is quite often the case that some simple, inexpensive part has given out, as when, in July 2000, an Air France Concorde jet crashed after a small strip of titanium fell from the engine of a DC-10 that had taken off moments before. Chiles touches on trains, ...more
Aug 10, 2012 Libbabink rated it really liked it
Shelves: kindle
A hair away from 5 stars - the material is well researched and very interesting, but the writing suffers from an occasional lack of organization. Industrial disasters are often namedropped with little introduction, to add support to case studies that didn't need the assistance, then never mentioned again in that chapter. One otherwise solid chapter compares the similar histories and fates of the doomed Challenger launch and the R.101 dirigible 50 years before, but switches between the two with n ...more
May 13, 2011 Gayle rated it really liked it
Shelves: kindle
A hair away from 5 stars - the material is well researched and very interesting, but the writing suffers from an occasional lack of organization. Industrial disasters are often namedropped with little introduction, to add support to case studies that didn't need the assistance, then never mentioned again in that chapter. One otherwise solid chapter compares the similar histories and fates of the doomed Challenger launch and the R.101 dirigible 50 years before, but switches between the two with n ...more
Nov 30, 2012 Patrick rated it really liked it
Inviting Disaster was a good book if you like to read stories of crazy things that have happened in the past and you want to know how they happened.I really enjoyed the story with the new view on September 11th,were he explained how the collapse of the twin towers happened.This book was very interesting in looking at the facts behind some of the more interesting cases in history were things go wrong.

I recommend this book to anyone who wouldn't mind going back and re reading lines a couple of t
Dec 01, 2007 Craigers rated it did not like it
Fell asleep reading this book multiple times on the train. I don't think you go into reading this book from start to finish, but rather find the events in history that you find ambiguous and would like to learn why. Why did this disaster occur? I heard this was actually on the History Channel and probably would be better as a TV series than a book. Every time I finished one of the stories I felt compelled to research the event and what did the after math. I also felt that some of the terminology ...more
Philip Hollenback
Oct 11, 2014 Philip Hollenback rated it it was amazing
Disaster porn at it's finest. This book is certainly not an in depth treatment of the subject, but it does provide an interesting perspectives on the commonalities inherent in the failure of complex machinery.
Mar 08, 2012 Dane rated it really liked it
This is a great read for engineers. Everyone knows the same few engineering disaster stories - the Titanic, Tacoma Narrows Bridge, etc... - but this book covers tons of incidents that you probably have never heard of, with both dramatic flair and solid analysis. It also provides deeper perspective on some well-known disasters, such as the Apollo 13 explosion. My only complaint is that Chiles tries to interweave the telling of some of the stories to highlight parallels between them, but this tend ...more
May 08, 2015 Sol rated it liked it
Not a bad book overall, but I would have liked more of a look at what changes were made to prevent accidents from happening again. For example, after TMI, the nuclear industry underwent massive changes and INPO was created to share operational experience between facilities to help reduce the risk of the same type of accident repeating itself. Also, the author grossly misrepresented the Chernobyl accident; only 31 deaths were directly linked to the accident, as it is unknown how many cancer cases ...more
Jen Thornton
Oct 19, 2015 Jen Thornton rated it it was amazing
Fantastic look at how complex systems fail - how complacency, management separation from the actual work being done and false perceptions of risk contribute to failures. Engaging read that does not turn away from the sometimes heart breaking details.
Jun 24, 2014 Josh rated it liked it
Shelves: culture, social
Breakdown of how things go wrong from plane crashes, to submarine accidents, to building collapses, to NASA accidents, and many, many more. Reinforces "if you see something, say something".

And, as virtually all instances in the book had people seeing and saying, but tragically few instances of anybody actually doing anything to fix the problem, causing a fuss to make people do something about an issue is probably worth the effort. (saving lives in the process)
Nick Searles
May 13, 2009 Nick Searles rated it liked it
If you fly alot this might not be the book for you. This book is a real eye opener to alot of Americas blunders over the last 200 years. It makes you realise even if you feel you have a very small part in something, it could be bigger than you realise.
Jan 21, 2015 Edward rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: nonfic
Great book - well-written, engaging, well-researched, and simply a really interesting topic. I have read articles with similar information on system failures, but this was the most in-depth information I've found concerning how complex systems fail.
Mar 09, 2011 Christopher rated it it was amazing
Excellent book on how little overlooked details can lead to change reactions on epic scales. Fascinating book cover events of the last 150 years that demonstrate man is not always the master of technology.
May 01, 2012 Mir rated it liked it
interesting science and background to several high profile events
Jun 14, 2013 Bob rated it it was amazing
Shelves: math-engineering
A must-read for design engineers. Absolutely essential.
Toesnorth's mom
Dec 03, 2012 Toesnorth's mom added it
Shelves: mom-s
good, technical in places
Amar Pai
Aug 10, 2012 Amar Pai marked it as gave-up-on
A bit too dry
Omar Gonzalez Pena
Omar Gonzalez Pena marked it as to-read
Apr 29, 2016
JenKershaw is currently reading it
Apr 26, 2016
Taylant Taze
Taylant Taze rated it liked it
Apr 26, 2016
Kathy added it
Apr 22, 2016
Torben Helledi
Torben Helledi marked it as to-read
Apr 17, 2016
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“Consistency, say some, is the sign of a small mind, but it’s a real virtue with high-power technology. Having lots of the same devices out in the field lets us compile a record of experience.” 0 likes
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