The Swiss Cheese Addiction and Covid Delusion
Symbols say much more than themselves just as intuition is more than we can say (Polanyi). However, when it comes to safety that deems symbols to be truth and metaphors to be reality we have addictions to models and symbols that are neither truthful nor real.
It seems that Safety likes wrong models that are easy to understand than complex models that are difficult to understand. It seems that Safety loves things that are conveniently wrong rather than right things that are complex. It doesn’t matter that meerkats are vicious and brutal, let’s declare them furry heros and make them the model for safety (https://safetyrisk.net/meerkat-mythology-in-safety/ ).
Even though the swiss cheese model has been smashed by the research , Safety always goes back to the wrong model in seeking to explain its own reality. There are more holes in the swiss cheese model of causality than there are holes in swiss cheese.
The trouble is with metaphors and models that look good, they attract people by principles of design and likeability rather than an accurate reflection of causality. Who wants a model of swiss cheese that looks like Figure 1. Messy Causality Cheese? No, it’s much easier to impose an unreal model on reality and make alternative facts the new truth.
Figure 1. Messy Causality Cheese
The trouble is, life and risk are not neat, tidy or linear. Causality is never linear, singular or well defined. Moreso, if one takes the linear model of causality seriously it shapes the way one undertakes activity as if reality is an iCam post it note activity. How annoying that real life doesn’t fit the model we want to impose on it.
Causation and correlation are constructions not realities. The construction of correlation to causation in Safety is at best an entertaining showtime of making patterns fit preconceived definitions of reality, usually a behaviourist reality.
What Safety does is find the model that best suits its assumptions of reality and then makes it fit, such are the delusions of being anchored to the paradigm of choice – behaviourism. Of course, the majority rule in the behaviourist club then declare the alternative reality to be truth and such is the construction of ‘alternate facts’.
I was recently posted this model below of the swiss cheese applied to Covid19, what a very dangerous construct. I’m so glad that Covid19 is paying attention and hopefully will comply with this mechanistic construct of reality that Safety deems to be reality. See Figure 2. The Covid Swiss Cheese.
Figure 2. The Covid Swiss Cheese.
The trouble is with models and symbols of false-reality is that they are constructs not reality. As models they distract people from being open to critical thinking and shape everything from expectations to adaptability to context. When we live in a random world with fallible people and fallible systems the idea of imposing some neat and tidy linear model on a pandemic is a recipe for lunacy.
One of the greatest strengths of the human response to Covid has NOT been fixation with systems but adaptability and bricolage. Adaptability, critical thinking, Transdisciplinarity and bricolage are the necessities of response to wicked problems.
As much as we might like to line up ducks in a row and feel good about it, this has absolutely no relationship to reality or the chaotic ways that ecological reality emerges and unfolds. The swiss cheese is of course the opposite of ‘readiness’ and ‘adaptability’. The swiss cheese model confuses wishing for reality. It imposes the nonsense of predictability (https://safetyrisk.net/radical-uncertainty/) from behavioural economics as if viruses don’t adapt and conform their own view of the world. How strange that we should think a virus must conform to some abstract idea of probabalistic reasoning. Kay and King’s book Radical Uncertainty smashes such nonsense.
The models and metaphors we chose to explain our worldview matter to how we tackle risk (https://safetyrisk.net/visual-perception-and-the-camera-metaphor/ ; https://safetyrisk.net/why-metaphors-matter-in-risk/ ). Neither language, metaphors or symbolic models are objective but are rather an interpretation of reality.
One may like the Bow-Tie, risk matrix, swiss cheese or fish bone understanding of risk but Risk doesn’t work like that. Causality doesn’t think like that. Risk is not about certainty or predictability, but the opposite. How dare Risk not conform to our alternate reality and probabilistic reasoning. How dare Risk not conform to our prevention designs for certainty. How dare Covid not conform to Safety’s model of conformity.