Tuesday, July 28, 2009

FMEA for I-phones

No, I'm not a bit surprised to learn the hottest selling app is one that gives info on convicted sex offenders living in the area.

In Failure Mode Effect Analysis, a bunch of people sit around in a room. Admittedly, at least half are really thinking about what they'll have for lunch, but what they're supposed to be thinking about? Some new product or process is about to be launched. In this phase you mostly brainstorm what's the worst that could happen, and how bad would it be?

By numerical rating, an outcome that'd be very unlikely but horrible if it happened can rise to the top of the list for attention.

People really don't need bald hillbillys to impose the structure on them; we do FMEA informally all the time in our lives. This very popular I-phone app demonstrates that.

About three things are working here. First, it's statistically very unlikely any one child will ever be scooped up by a stranger, tortured and killed. Second, to the parent who loses a child like that, it ain't really 1 in 179,000 really, is it? More along the lines of 100% from their perspective. Third, we parents realize the world we raise our kids in is vastly changed from the world where we grew up, and we've a lot more media now, hammering that point.

So yeah, FMEA happens inside the head. Maybe the media hypes what are really rare cases, but the horror of the cases has numerical weight too. One can argue about the percentages, but it's pretty clear some percent of our population have no shame, no inhibitions, and very little ability to disobey their inner demons.

One of the most chilling stories I ever heard about the very hard job of catching child molesters? Yeah Dave, I know the technical term is pederasty, now shut the hell up? A police run internet sting. A cop arrives at a park at night, spots the van described by the middle aged man who thinks he's waiting to have sex with an adolescent boy. Walks up and arrests his son's Little League coach.

I'm not the only person in America who read that story. Yeah, maybe it's 1 in 179,000, so how many kids do you have? It's FMEA, this hot selling I-phone app. It's a crazy, strange world in many ways. It's changed, this world, but the job of being a parent hasn't changed. We're supposed to protect them from all monsters, and get them to the age where they tell us we're wrong about everything. This is the circle of Life. (Cue Elton John song)

So sure, people do FMEA in their heads, and want to know if there are dangers to the kiddos living just down the street. Again, this is a substitute for community. There was a time when tech fixes weren't required. People knew who lived in their neighborhoods. Yeah, you can call it gossip, but everybody's biz was everybody's biz. We don't have that anymore. So we have I-phone apps.

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