Instrumentation as Living Documentation: Teaching Humans About Complex Systems


Human intuition about complex systems is pretty abysmal: we have neither the scope of imagination or the experiences necessary to predict the varied behaviors of our creations. Humans operating these systems--in stable and disaster situations--must rely on a combination of faulty intuition, information coming out of the system and static documentation created by the designers of the system to guide them in their actions. In this talk I will focus on the interaction of instrumentation and static documentation on human operators. In particular, I will contend that by insisting on rich instrumentation system designers will gain a deeper intuition of their work, generating better static documentation and more contextual information for use by operators. I will further contend that this environment is conducive to smooth functioning of the system and creates a culture of constant improvement among the operators and the engineers.

I will use historical examples and my professional experience to argue this position.