The Disembodied Human and Persons in Safety

The Disembodied Human and Persons in Safety

imageOne of the weaknesses of the positivist ideology (https://safetyrisk.net/the-paradox-of-positivism-for-safety/) that dominates safety is the behaviourist notion that humans are objects that simply respond to inputs and outputs. Wouldn’t it be neat and tidy if humans could be controlled like machines, hence the attractiveness of this ideology to safety. Wouldn’t it make safety so simple if the human was just composed of a computer on top of a body. Unsafety then simply becomes a process of wrong programming. This is the seduction of the new fad of safety flocking to neuroscience for answers to the fallibility conundrum.

The seduction of neuroscience as a source of new controls over fallible humans:

(https://www.ausimmbulletin.com/feature/neuroscience-personal-safety/;

https://www.ausimmbulletin.com/feature/social-neuroscience-the-brains-behind-positive-safety-culture/;

http://www.safetydimensions.com.au/whats-the-neuroscience-behind-safe-behaviour/;

https://www.engineersaustralia.org.au/portal/event/neuroscience-safety-toward-positive-safety-culture-1;

http://www.safetyandhealthmagazine.com/articles/13159-safety-leadership-neuroscience-and-human-error-reduction;

http://www.nswmining.com.au/getattachment/Events/Health-Safety-Conference/Conference-Downloads/Cristian-Sylvestre-Managing-Director,-Safestart.pdf).

However, the assumptions of those who seek answers and ‘fixes’ in neuroscience premise their approach on a limited understanding of fallibility and human ‘being’. The idea that a human is an object is premised on positivist and materialist assumptions of ‘being’. Many who find this seduction attractive simply dismiss the nature of the unconscious or wrongly name the non-material human as ‘subconscious’ with little understanding of the difference. When people interchange both it is a good indicator that they don’t know much of what they are talking about (https://themindunleashed.com/2014/03/conscious-subconscious-unconscious-mind-work.html). Still, its all very attractive when the fallible human is explained mathematically or mechanically.

The trouble is, positivism and neuroscience are a construct placed upon human ‘being’ which is far more complex and messy than is proposed by simple models about inputs and outputs. A classic example of this is the recently released book by Birbaumer – your brain knows more than you think, new frontiers in neuroplasticity. Unfortunately, human ‘being’ is not rational, predictable or mechanical as these models suppose. Humans are social beings and cannot be considered in isolation from the social-psychological context nor the many ways in which social-psychological context influences (https://safetyrisk.net/mapping-social-influence-strategies/) thinking, decision making and judgment.

The seduction of mechanistic and positivist ‘solutions’ is so attractive to the assumptions and mis-education of safety. If only there was an easy fix for fallibility and error! With the right method safety can easily get to zero! Perfection is in sight! It’s all just a matter of a malfunctioning computer!

Unfortunately for all of this, ‘personhood’ gets in the way of a neat and tidy theory, so too does the paradox of ‘being’, suffering and learning. See further:

https://philpapers.org/archive/DENCOP.pdf

http://cw.routledge.com/textbooks/alevelphilosophy/data/AS/Persons/Characteristicspersonhood.pdf

A good read on personhood is: J. Martin et al., Persons: Understanding Psychological Selfhood and Agency but that is just a start. I also wrote about The Fear of ‘Being’ in the World at pp.30ff in my latest book (https://www.humandymensions.com/product/fallibility-risk-living-uncertainty/ ).

It is only when we understand humans in persons in personhood and social-psychological community that we realize that the quest for controls and fixing formulas are a delusion. It is only then that we can be freed to really ‘meet’ people and not fear fallible ‘being’ in the world. It is only then that we can move from ‘controlling’ and ‘fixing’, to helping, mutuality and be-friending others in how they tackle risk.

Dr Rob Long

Dr Rob Long

Expert in Social Psychology, Principal & Trainer at Human Dymensions
Dr Rob Long

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Dr Rob Long
PhD., MEd., MOH., BEd., BTh., Dip T., Dip Min., Cert IV TAA, MRMIA Rob is the founder of Human Dymensions and has extensive experience, qualifications and expertise across a range of sectors including government, education, corporate, industry and community sectors over 30 years. Rob has worked at all levels of the education and training sector including serving on various post graduate executive, post graduate supervision, post graduate course design and implementation programs.

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