No-one in safety seems to show much interest in the nature of consciousness or about the unconscious. One thing is for sure, trying to locate the unconscious or consciousness in the brain is a lost cause. The brain-as-computer metaphor doesn’t serve us well in understanding human judgment and decision making. Human decision making is neither like a computer nor any other mechanized metaphor. Consciousness is about ‘being’ and ‘living’ in our full embodied and social state, we are not the sum of behaviors or just the sum of cognitions. If you are interested in human consciousness there is a wealth of reading, some of these may be a good start.
· Ginot, The Neuropsychology of the Unconscious
· Chalmers, The Character of the Unconscious
· Jasanoff, The Biological Mind
· Damasio, The Feeling of What Happens
· Thompson, Mind in Life
The mythologies of Behaviorism and Cognitivism that drive the risk and safety industry simply direct the safety search engine to the wrong place. If one wants to understand why people do what they do neither Behaviorism nor Cognitivism will be of much help. Pursuing this search will generate some neat and tidy answers to the wrong question. Humans are not a computer on top of a body. Safety doesn’t improve by reprogramming the brain nor by moving behaviours.
When an incident happens and someone says ‘I wasn’t thinking’ they are speaking accurately. 95% of all human decisions and actions are made in a semi-conscious or fully unconscious state. We develop heuristics and habits so we don’t have rationally ‘think’. Most of our ‘decisions’ are based on routine and implicit/tacit knowing. This doesn’t mean we are not rational in those decisions nor are we irrational but in a semi-conscious or full unconscious state we are a/Rational. I discuss this in my One Brain Three Minds model (https://vimeo.com/106770292, https://vimeo.com/156926212).
One would think that this industry that has a focus on decisions and behaviors might show some interest in the nature of consciousness but Oh, not safety. Whilst Safety and BBS love to talk about ‘violations’ and ‘errors’ it hasn’t a foggy clue what they mean nor what an error is. This is the BS of BS (https://safetyrisk.net/the-bs-of-bs/) When someone has a ‘lapse’ in concentration what does that mean? More so what does it mean if that person was already in a semi-conscious state undertaking a task by heuristic, implicit knowing? Why is it that we are perfectly safe for most of the time in a completely aRational unconscious state?
These are the questions safety people ought to be asking rather than the dumb stuff about errors and violations. What is an error? Is it a shift from an unconscious to a conscious state? OK, so call it an ‘error’, where did it come from? Especially as safety was the state of play for the last 15 days and most of that time everything was safe in an unconscious state. What state was the person in before that error? What triggers errors? Please explain the change of conscious state. Was the error conscious or unconscious? What is an intention? What is an act of will? This is the kind of language that poses a problem for the courts in proving intent and negligence. Not easy stuff.
So do a search for anything of substance on safety and consciousness and you end up with nonsense like this:
None of this is about consciousness.
I guess it’s little different from other safety language that doesn’t really describe what it does, like human error that is not about humans or error. It’s like saying iCare when you don’t care (https://www.abc.net.au/news/2020-08-24/icare-workers-compensation-insider-speaks-out/12583058). In the end it’s just spin and assumed meaning for the safety club.
However, if one really wants to know about why people do what they do, and about consciousness you have to leave the simplistic safety black and white stuff and start engaging in a wicked problem (https://safetyrisk.net/risk-and-safety-as-a-wicked-problem/) and that’s no BS.