A hat-tip to the great Rory Sutherland for this very fine, fluent 30-minute talk by Blay Whitby -- "a philosopher and ethicist concerned with the social impact of new and emerging technologies" -- about the confluence of psychology, UX, cultural factors and technology, and how all of these things collectively play their part in the immense challenge of piloting commercial planes safely.
As Whitby states at the outset, the phrase "not quite right" is used in aviation. "Not quite right" is what leads to planes flying into mountains.
"If you're working in a discipline where 'not quite right' is acceptable, then you're very lucky; because aviation is a discipline where 'not quite right' is not considered acceptable."
We also learn about CFIT: controlled flight into terrain which "describes an accident in which an airworthy aircraft, under pilot control, is unintentionally flown into the ground, a mountain, water, or an obstacle."
Whitby's exploration of the influence of cultural factors in serious incidents (and "compliant co-pilot accidents") is especially fascinating. While Malcolm Gladwell wrongly claims in his book Outliers that these factors are solely responsible for serious incidents, their influence is nonetheless arresting. National cultures possess a power difference index or power distance index (PDI)...
"Power distance is the extent to which the less powerful members of organizations and institutions accept and expect that power is distributed unequally." Individuals in a society that exhibits a high degree of power distance accept hierarchies in which everyone has a place without the need for justification. Societies with low power distance seek to have equal distribution of power."
As Whitby states, the countries with the lowest PDI -- Australia and New Zealand -- also fly the safest ... "It's deep in their culture, not to have a power difference index."