Saturday, May 16, 2009

Regional airlines, emergent fraud and enlightenment 2.0

When Salon's Patrick Smith says there's a cultural problem with the regional airline industry, I take his word for it ...
Ask the pilot | Patrick Smith | Salon Technology
... In the end, this is a terrible black mark for the regional airline industry, and it is liable to become a litigation nightmare for Colgan, the airplane manufacturer, and other parties as well.
Though, to some extent, the regionals had it coming. Traveling aboard regional aircraft remains extraordinarily safe, and I am not disparaging the thousands of professional, fully competent pilots out there who fly them for a living. Further, there is no need or reason for the public to be fearful or apprehensive about flying on a regional aircraft. Nevertheless, as highlighted here a few weeks ago, there is something dysfunctional in the cultures at these companies. There will be a lot of focus on pilot training in the weeks and months ahead, and good for that -- but the problem runs deeper. Between the lousy pay, the high-stress working conditions and the often hostile management under which regional pilots work ... all of this, on some level, is a potential risk to safety. And it needs to change.
I don't think this class of problem is unique to the regional airlines. I think it's one aspect of a culture of emergent fraud that's grown up in America over the past twenty to thirty years.

This morning I can't find a recent article I read on the gap between how people think they'll behave in ethically challenging circumstances and how they really do behave (much worse, as you might guess), but we do have lots of examples of how physicians are much more corruptible than they imagine. Astoundingly, even most politicians think they're not particularly corrupted by their donors. In the right economic and cultural climate fraud is as inevitable as the sunset.

Fraud will always be with us. Anthropologists and evolutionary biologists speculate that "fraud wars" drove the evolution of sentience. Fraud made us human, but life on a small, crowded, high tech planet means we have to beat it back to the low end of the historic range. That's a core part of the enlightenment 2.0 agenda.

Cheney/Bush and the GOP were fertilizers for fraud and deception. We're only starting to recover. The Colgan story will be soon forgotten, but it's a small marker of a much bigger problem.

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