Wednesday, January 09, 2008

We don’t want technology because it’s not perfect

A quick post about cricket and using technology to help umpires make correct decisions. If you don't follow the game then this post will be a little discombobulating.

Nearly all the commentators say that the umpires get decisions wrong, and agree that we know this because we can check using technology. But some then go onto argue because the technology is not perfect, we ought to not use it to help umpires make decisions? Anyone else see the obvious "does not compute" here? Here's the executive sports producer from Channel Nine (cricket broadcaster):

"I'd hate us to be involved in the judicial system of cricket," Crawley told the Sydney Morning Herald. "We've only got one thing 100% backed up by science and that's Hot Spot; the others aren't 100%.

"Snicko is very well informed but it's not 100%, and Hawk-Eye's not 100%. And also there's the time-frame. Yesterday, with one of the decisions, Snicko, like all computer systems, went down and it had to be rebooted and it was four minutes before we got it up. Mostly, it's only a couple of deliveries but those sorts of things can happen."

Ignoring the fact they are already in the judicial system of cricket (for run outs, stumpings, etc.), if the technology helps by adding more concrete evidence (or more uncertainty, this is a help in that it raises doubt, and doubt means a batter is to be given not out) then it should be used. To say we shouldn't use it because it's not 100% "proven" to work, or it is occasionally unavailable is to invoke the Perfect Solution fallacy. Moreover, human senses are deeply flawed, which is why we invented measuring instruments to overcome this. It's the use of such inventions that has improved everything.

I'll use two apt analogies to finish. It's bizarre to rule out technology to keep the human element (read mistakes); the "mistakes are a part of the game" argument. Who insists their doctor doesn't use technology to improve his/her decision making? That'd be potentially fatal. However, I wouldn't let technology "make" my decisions for me. Anyone blindly drive their car following the instructions of a GPS? Potentially fatal too I'd assume (keep your eyes open). Having a working GPS (and being competent in its use) sure does make navigating easier though.