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Book Review: The Checklist Manifesto

TL;DR: A useful read for the inquirer. Just as good as the summary for the practitioner.

I finally got to read The Checklist Manifesto by Atul Gawande. This is years after I read the CapitolReader summary of the book, which is one of many summaries of this book. I became excited with the idea presented in the book by just reading the summary. The main idea is that the simple mechanism of checklists can be used to improve performance, and safety, in many areas from surgery to construction. Checklists are a useful mechanism to guarantee that known wisdom is put to use when needed, even at times of stress and cognitive overflow. After all, the challenge is often not the know-how we don’t have but the vast amount of know-how we do have but fail to use when needed.

After reading the summary I became an advocate of checklists. I use them wherever I can. I even wrote my own software that generates different instances from master checklists for different uses, some as simple as travel packing and preparations.

The book by Atul Gawande is interesting and well-written. Slightly to my disappointment, however, reading the book does not add much on the pragmatic creation and use of checklists. It mostly covers the experiences and evidence of the uses of checklists in different areas, as well as research into their usefulness. It is an educating read on the study of the merits of checklists, but perhaps less of a guide for checklists practitioners.

Pausing AI development? As if we could...

When we hear of a new way in which artificial intelligence (AI) can risk humanity, or even just move someone’s cheese, the debate often changes to whether or not we should pause AI development until some impact analysis is carried out, or some regulation kicks in.

I do not think that pausing AI development is even a plausible option to be considered. History has shown that technology never stops. We have tried this in areas that are much riskier for humanity, and without much success. We should accept that Humanity is insufficiently consensus-driven, and the stakeholders in AI technologies have too many easy ways to bypass bans, and too many good reasons to do so. Yes, there is serious lobbying promoting this pausing option, but I would argue that most is for pausing productization, rather than development, and is, to a notable extent, led by players who are just late in the market and need some time to catch up.