Tuesday, October 11, 2005

Assumptions

On various levels we all sleepwalk through the day making assumptions about things. As an engineer I may make a few less than other people, but I still make quite a few.

There is a sort of physical "shock" when our assumptions are proven wrong. Blood pressure, heart beat, general mental well being that day; all of these can change in a flash when one of our assumptions bites us.

Here's a "starter" basic everyday assumption list:

- We assume flipping a swich will produce light. There's many possible reasons I can think of instantly why a light might NOT go on. OK, you change the bulb, still no-go. Go see that all the breakers are on - still no-go. NOW WHAT? Your starting to get a sinking feeling in the pit of your stomach because this isn't something trivial. Its starting to look like a real problem. Which leads to a second "Assumption"

- We assume the electric in our house will continue to work tomorrow as it does today. Is this a valid assumption? Not really. Systems degrade and wear. Switches fail, wall recepticals fail, breakers occasionally fail etc.

- We assume the brakes in your car will stop us. Its a real bummer when the pedal plunges to the floor and the car keeps going. There's so many ways a brake system can fail that people really shouldn't assume its going to work. If you are prone to tailgating people, this is something to ponder.

- We assume water will come out of the faucet.

- We assume our shoes won't fall apart out on the street.

- We assume our keys will work in locks

- We assume the spare tire is present and inflated

- We assume the pathetic little kit the auto maker provided will be sufficient to change a tire.

- We assume when winter comes the furnace will work.

- We assume there will always be food at the store.

- We assume there will always be gas at the gas station

- We assume the roof will get through another year OK.

- We assume the other drivers on the road will behave somewhat sanely. This can be a fatal assumption. I always assume everyone is trying to kill me.

- We assume that our own reckless behaviors will be non-fatal, when the experiences of others proves otherwise.

- We assume the coffee cup doesn't leak.

- We assume that food isn't poisoned.

- We assume the toilet will flush down a bowl full of crap and make it go away.

- We go to bed at night assuming our neighbors aren't Ted Bundy.

- We assume that little used cabinet over the fridge isn't hiding a monstrous nest of spiders.

- We assume the water will continue to flow after soaping up in the shower.

- We assume the power will stay on long enough to take that shower without being in the dark.

- We assume a book we buy will have all its pages and in the correct sequence.

2 comments:

Libertas said...

I assume you have a point here but I'm not sure what it is.

Purple Avenger said...

The "point" is about planning and preparation so you've got a fallback position in case one of your common, but erroneous, assumptions is violated.

Take car brakes for example - do you drive defensively enough to handle such a situation or will you just become another fatality statistic if it happens at an inconvenient time?

A little bit of forsight is all it takes to change a lot of traumatic events into routine annoyance.

ex. Do you take a look at the brake fluid resevoir when adding windshield washer fluid?

Breezing through life blindly ignoring all the little status feedbacks our support systems give everyday is costly to you wallet or life.