Why do humans err?

Essay by webprodCollege, UndergraduateA-, March 1997

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In today's pop culture, there is one very popular view of the future. All humans will be free to do as they wish, because robots and computers will work for us. Computers are viewed as the ideal slaves. They work non-stop, never complain, and above all, never make mistakes. It is often said that computers don't make mistakes, that it is the person using the computer who commits errors. What is it that makes humans err, but not computers? I will prove that it is simply the way humans are built that makes us commit errors. Unlike computers, built of mechanical or electronic parts, humans are made of organic matter and nerve pathways. These same pathways, with the help of the brain are responsible for all the decision making. I shall demonstrate why humans err, despite the fact that we have eyes and ears to sense with.

Before I can establish causes for error, I shall define the terms 'error' and 'mistake'.

In the context of this essay, they will simply mean that a human obtained a result different from the expected, correct one. Whether it in be adding two numbers, or calling someone by the wrong name, these are all errors that a computer would not make. An error can also be interpreted as being a wrong physical move. If a person is walking in the woods and trips on a branch, it is because the person erred in the sense of watching the path followed.

There is no doubt in anyone's mind that humans make mistakes all the time. Let us simply analyze any process in which there is a chance for someone to commit an error. Take for example a cashier in a grocery store. The cashier obtains the total on the cash register, and receives a...