Do you ever wonder who the first kid was who managed to be so obnoxious with his cell phone while in class at school, that the school finally banned the phones altogether? Talk about ruining it for everyone; it’s probably best that he remains anonymous! Still, I think it’s for the best. When you’re in school, you should pay attention. You should pay attention to the schoolwork, NOT to your cell phone.
What has modern technology done for our attention span? People talk about “Attention Deficit Disorder,” well, haven’t we brought that upon ourselves? We’re all about INSTANT gratification these days. If we miss an episode of our favorite TV show, we can instantly watch it again online somewhere. When we hear a song on the radio, we can instantly purchase and download it to our own MP3 players. In the last ten to twenty five years, Drive-through coffee shops have appeared, overnight shipping deliveries have skyrocketed, Movies on Demand is in full swing, and online banking and bill paying have become quite commonplace.
So, what’s the down-side? The downside is we’re slowly growing less and less capable of concentrating on any one particular task for any significant period of time. I think everyone on the planet should be required to work a 1,000 piece jigsaw puzzle, once every three months; just to keep themselves honest.
Now, put yourself into the cockpit of an airplane. The reality is these airplanes can takeoff, level themselves at a pre-programmed altitude, navigate, fly to a programmed destination, and land, without any intervention from the pilots, whatsoever. I’m sure someone is very close to building a computerized system that will taxi the plane all the way to gate, too. Pilots are obviously necessary to change the routing in case of bad weather, or to intervene should the computer malfunction, but how hard is that job now that all they really do is sit still and concentrate on the instruments for 3-5 hours? Seriously?
I think it’s one of the hardest jobs in the world. If you weight the responsibility they carry, with the actual tasks they need to perform, you get a lopsided ratio that’s like 10,000:1. Consider the pilots who recently allowed their plane to fly right past their Minneapolis destination and almost into Canada before they snapped out of their conversation. The recent plane crash in Buffalo produced evidence on the flight recorder that both pilots were talking away about issues that had nothing at all to do with their flight or with the plane.
Recently, the FAA has announced that they want airlines to “re-visit and re-emphasize” their policies and training procedures governing cockpit behavior. This doesn’t mean that any mandate is being set forward to “ban all laptops in the cockpit” or anything. My take on this is that the FAA simply wants to put a fresh emphasis on the notion that pilots in cockpits should pay attention to their instruments, flight data, logs, etc. Is that so bad?
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