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Oscar error

Although I cannot claim to be in the mainstream of contemporary culture, even I have heard of the Oscar error. I should immediately state that I have no specialist knowledge about Oscar ceremonies, because I have never watched one, though I have seen many brief highlights of acceptance speeches (a maudlin art form in their own right), and have no opinion about the actual movies, because I have not seen them. So, this is blank state stuff.

However, procedural errors are a very interesting matter, in that they involve intelligence at two stages. First, a person carrying out a procedure has to think through what they are doing. Second, that person, or preferably others, have to look through the procedures and think about the errors which may arise, and how to avoid them.

The airline industry has done that very well. Plane crashes cause many deaths in one go, which certainly draws public attention. The industry has worked hard to avoid errors because frightened customers are less likely to fly. Most improvements have been technological, in the sense of making instruments and controls easy and intuitive to use, but there is careful screening of pilots (with some glaring exceptions) and standard checklists to overcome forgetting of important matters. There is training to recover from errors and infrequently encountered hazards.

Try putting “Germanwings” in my search bar for some comments on the monitoring of pilots. For an attempt to make sense of the then recent loss of a plane, see:

Surgical teams have been slower to learn, but have now cleaned up their act by following airline industry procedures. All major industries attempt to reduce errors. Motorola led the way in manufacturing, and Toyota and many others all have their systems.

My guide to errors is James Reason “Human Error” 1991.

Just to show how everything links to intelligence and intelligence researchers, that book begins with Spearman (1928) who complained “crammed as psychological writings are, and must needs be, with allusions to errors in an incidental manner, they hardly ever arrive at considering these profoundly, or even systematically”.

James Reason has a good classificatory system, and a set of explanations which link up with well-known psychological findings, namely that despite the capacity to take in many sensory messages, people have limited channel capacity. The multitude of inputs has to get through the bottleneck of working memory, and some inputs never make it, and are lost. Operators also have to remember what they intend to do, and the steps they have to take, the sequence being triggered by the correctly remembered completion of the previous step in the grand plan. In complex cases the grand plan has to be dropped in favour of a new plan, as when engines fail and a plane must find a place to land in the next few minutes.

The Oscar error was an unintentional error, a slip or lapse, probably caused by distraction, maybe because of the operator tweeting pictures from backstage, not part of his key duties. The procedural error was apparently not having a systematic way of cancelling (discarding) an unused envelope. It is a traditional “place-losing” sequence error, with the added piquancy that the “double envelopes” routine is itself intended to be a safety routine. Safety sometimes creates danger. Fixes are easy to suggest: giving the envelopes numbers in sequence, having the name of the prize in very big letters on both sides of the envelope so that announcers know what they are announcing, having the latest discarded envelope showing at the top of a transparent trash can so that the person handing them out can see them, and so on. There are several thousand operators who can suggest improvements.

The fascination for researchers is that each step in an intentional sequence has several consequences, not all of which are easy to predict. As a general rule, failure to predict is an indicator of low ability, but that must be considered in terms of the complexity of the operations being undertaken. One systematic problem is the inability to imagine improbable scenarios until they happen. Incomplete fault trees are legion, and often undetectable on close inspection. If you present a fault tree with sections missing, even skilled operators rarely notice the omissions. In theory, safety systems should catch these errors. James Reason describes each set of safety systems as slices of Emmental cheese intended to stop errors having fatal consequences, until by chance all of the holes in the cheese line up. Bhopal had three systems, none of which operated properly. His analysis of the Chernobyl explosion is fascinating, particularly piquant because it was caused by a badly planned test of a safety system.

In the case of the Oscar ceremony, having the stars come out onstage from two wings rather than one is an obvious procedural hazard. Cutting that out would be a prudent step. In that way you halve the number of envelopes. The Rocket Sled engineers would have spotted anything comparable in the 1950s, and Motorola would have had the stats in their Six Sigma project in 1986.

You might be tempted to say that Chernobyl, Bhopal, plane crashes and industrial accidents are more important than a movie awards ceremony. I could not possibly comment, since I am not among the millions who regard the latter as interesting, but they illustrate an important limitation of human operators. All of us sometimes misperceive reality, and lose our place in a sequence.

I am available for Oscar ceremony interviews next year. For those of you very interested in such matters, I will be wearing an old dinner jacket and a weary expression.



• Category: Ideology • Tags: Academy Awards, Mental Traits 
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  1. dearieme says:

    I’d have thought that accountants, of all people, would be well versed in executing tedious, unthinking, repetitive jobs well. Unless one of them had the flu: that could explain all.

  2. Dumbo says:

    I am not sure it was an error, it could have been on purpose to ridicule a mostly white movie and give the award to the black one. Paranoid? Maybe, but we’ve seen worse things. Also, imagine it it had been the opposite: prize goes first to black movie and then it is taken away and given to the white movie. There would be riots on the streets and #Oscarsowhite would never end. 😀

    Then again, I am not sure most blacks will watch or like this movie, as it is also gay.

    • Replies: @Robert Dunn
    , @Syren
  3. I’d look forward to the day when blacks, gays, trannies, women and Martians each has their very own special snowflake awards ceremony, except that I figure pretty soon the animosity leading to this will be so great that no one will go to movies anyway, they’ll be too busy trying to stay alive.

    Truly, we live in the days of candy-crapping Unicorns and the people who follow them with mouths open.

  4. Maybe Group IQ does exist and in the case of the Academy of Motion Pictures Arts and Sciences in severely diminished form. Either that or they were so distracted in their plans to insult the POTUS that the more mundane tasks of declaring the correct winners or not mourning associates that are still alive slipped their minds.

  5. @Dumbo

    Not only gay but (to the best of my knowledge) not too many explosions, gun battles, dumb white characters, or basketball.

  6. The Trump bashing came off without a hitch. I have turned against Hollywood and Pop Music. All of it. I used to have favorites but in the course of the recent election I discovered that they all hate me. It’s just not the same when you discover that your favorite actor or singer thinks you suck.

  7. vetran says:

    What error? This was merely a diversion for keeping quiet about the one given to al-qaeda/ISIS for its “White Helmets” documentary.

    • Replies: @RobinG
  8. Dr Thompson, you may be amused to know that Germanwings is no more. They are now Eurowings ! If nothing succeeds like success, nothing fails like failure, especially if you smash into the Alps.
    I wish you a long and informative stint at unz review.

    • Replies: @James Thompson
  9. @Verymuchalive

    A name change usually works, particularly for nuclear power plants. I hope German society can now accept that there are moments when the mental health of an individual can be disclosed to the appropriate safety regulators.

    • Replies: @James Thompson
  10. @James Thompson

    I have now got more “data” on the Oscar ceremony. It was more of a mess than I could have imagined, with the PwC man photographed with a clutch of envelopes in his hand while he took pictures of actresses. Blatant distraction, haphazard systems, not proper controls. The one thing that fault trees always underestimate is the foolishness and delinquency of operators.

    • Replies: @Kiza
    , @David
  11. Forgive me for tossing in an unbearable pop-cultural reference, but I think the Oscar error is more akin to the situation in The Sixth Sense. The Oscar people were laboring under the delusion that their (our) civil society was still alive and functioning, only it isn’t. The long neglect of details and fundamentals is starting to catch up with them. When and if they ever wake up from their enveloping fog, they’ll find that none of their assumption are valid anymore and they are already in some kind of hell.

  12. Kiza says:
    @James Thompson

    Finally, you are onto something. As someone who designs software to be used securely by the not very bright operators I have established a principle that it is impossible to predict all the decision branches that you talk about. Simply put, the intelligent can only predict what intelligent mistakes will look like and a limited number of the unintelligent mistakes. The valuations of the unintelligent escapes analysis, for example, who could have predicted that an accountant would prioritise taking & twitting photos of stars to doing his job. To cater for the unintelligent users, the only approach possible is a close observation of risky behaviors after a system is completed, followed by immediate building-in of safety guards. Even then, 100% safety is impossible, because there are too many possible branches.

    • Replies: @James Thompson
  13. RobinG says:

    Geez, you’re right! Too bad there’s no Oscar for Propaganda, but maybe they all are.

    Plenty of revealing photos here:
    And the Oscar for Best Documentary Short goes to…”ISIS – Al Qaeda”

  14. David says:
    @James Thompson

    I’ve always liked the line, “People who try to idiot proof systems usually under estimate the ingenuity of idiots.”

    • Replies: @James Thompson
  15. It sounds like the awards system came from the Department of Redundancy Department. As Steve Sailor has pointed out, people assume redundancy always creates safety, even though it sometimes just multiplies chances for error.

    Many of us with mediocre college educations took classes in film history. There we learned that the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences is, and was from the beginning created to be, nothing more than a censorship and propaganda tool. Filmmakers were getting a little too free in the 1920s, so something had to be done. How about an “academy” that ostensibly gives awards of merit? Sure, but let’s have that “academy” only award those works that conform to the norms we want.

    A documentary supporting the Zionist/Globalist/Neocon efforts to take down threats to Israel and the global order? Even one that uses Radical Islamic Terrorists to do it? That absolutely has to receive an award!

    And the mooks who watch and care about Hollywood movies and Oscars lap this crap up!

  16. alexander says:

    Here are a few movie titles that should have won Oscar’s…….

    ” From 9-11 to the present La la Land , the great age of Fraud, Empire and Insolvency”

    ” Get Out…… you Duplicitous Lying Curs. What have you done to our Nation ?”

    “From “Saddam’s Anthrax in New York”…to “Assad’s Sarin in Aleppo”….a Tale of Two Cities under Siege of Terror Fraud.

    ” A Million and one Dead Iraqi Dalmatians. ”

    “Invisible Man…the Gazan Fighter Jet Pilot That Never Was”

    ” Good Bye Palestine….it was nice to know ya !”

    ” From SISI to ISIS ,and back again , Oy Vey!”

    “From Here to Eternity…the endless wars we are never supposed to win ”

    ” James Bond-ed , Building Number oo7 ”

    ” Chaching Unchained, how they overspent 14 trillion in 16 years.

    “The Pipes Still Leak….. Tale of a DHS Plumber”

    ” A Passport to Nowhere, the True Story of the Underpants Bomber”

    ” The Color of …..Baloney…..How they triple A rated worthless subprime bundles and got away with it.

  17. @Kiza

    Error analysis enthralls me. In 1983 I let departmental colleagues try out the Apple Lisa, and after sitting for several hours with 6 subjects understood that the thing would never sell. It wasn’t the graphical interface per se that was the problem, it was that the perceptions of the users were totally unconnected with the inner logic of the branching choices, so users went wrong not only quickly but very deeply. Call it a mis-match in theories of mind. I had already come across the issue on visits to the MRC Applied Psychology Unit at Cambridge University some years before.They were looking at naval control on nuclear subs, among other things. And, in another sense, I had seen it about 600 times before after 7 years of face to face intelligence testing.
    Unless intentions are in some user/system synchrony then smooth operation isn’t possible.

    The iPhone works well because it does what a naive operator wants. That was Steve Job’s contribution. Users are now self-trained in moves which a more sophisticated programmer would probably not have thought possible, or even desirable.

    As to whether it is better to wait for the mistakes to happen rather than dream up fault trees, I still assume if time is spent watching operators operate on similar systems, and talking aloud about their intentions, then mistakes could be avoided in the first place. Mostly, software developers don’t do that.

    Thanks for your comments.

    • Replies: @Sparkon
  18. Although I cannot claim to be in the mainstream of contemporary culture, even I have heard of the Oscar error.

    I sheete you not…until this article I never even heard of the “Oscar error”, and although I’ve always been a person full of curiosity, I don’t even care!

    Interesting stuff about errors though.

    • Replies: @RobinG
  19. Agent76 says:

    Tinsel town is losing its overall luster in America and with Americans!

    February 25, 2017 Hollywood Horror: Biggest Worldwide Box Office Releases So Far This Year Come From China, Japan

    The worldwide box office is hot so far this year. But so far this year, the movie with the largest worldwide box office is one you’ve never heard of and hasn’t been released here: “Your Name,” a Japanese animated film, has made $327 million. Almost all of that was earned in Japan, with China as a runner up.

    Feb 26, 2017 Oscars stage prop comes crashing down during rehearsals just hours before Academy Awards ceremony starts

    A huge prop, which appeared to be shaped like a sky scraper, toppled over on stage at the Dolby Theatre

  20. The world becomes a shittier place every moment spent talking about this.

  21. Wally says:

    It’s revealing that Hollywood supports Israeli immigration laws which specify JEWS ONLY, while Hollywood demands massive 3rd world immigration into the US & Europe.

    It’s also revealing that we don’t see Hollywood criticizing Israel’s very real WALL.

  22. Anon • Disclaimer says:

    Amazing. This post has nothing to do with Israel or Jews. You’re fucking obsessed. Seek help.

    • Replies: @Anonymous
  23. Canute says:

    I remain puzzled that everyone, even apparently at a place like UR where reason and sobriety of judgement prevail more times than not, seem to accept that this entire event was somehow an “error” or a “mistake.” If Hollywood is a master of anything, it is illusion. This event had all of the necessary ingredients to fit the prevailing political agenda – an unforeseen and overlooked negro winner, a faux-benevolent Jewish producer giving of himself and a stupefied, irrelevant and bumbling white man.
    Anyone who did not promptly see through this canard, or at least question the validity of this “performance,” is simply not paying attention. This was a propaganda effort from top to bottom and I do not believe there could be much question about such a conclusion. The only way it could have had more impact value on an increasingly ignorant population is if La La Land hand been about the holocaust and Moonlight had been about transgendered negroes in the antebellum South. I think Mr. Thompson should put away the treatises on “error” and take a harder look at disinformation techniques, impacts and applications.

    • Replies: @skrik
    , @utu
  24. RobinG says:
    @jacques sheete

    Well, you were obviously not following the Oscar buzz to see whether the terrorist-made NATO propaganda op “White Helmets” would win an Oscar……which it did.

    • Replies: @jacques sheete
  25. skrik says:

    take a harder look at disinformation techniques

    OK; perhaps you could give us some pointers? Recall Rove’s “the reality-based community?” That might fit many unz-ers; the ‘great unwashed’ are more or mostly less consciously cocooned within the ‘lie-cloud’ spun by the [predominately US/Z] MMH = corrupt&venal Media (aka press, radio + TV, incl. PFBCs = publicly financed broadcasters), Madison Ave., Hollywood etc.. Now those hapless lie-cloud denizens are the prime or even only target for propaganda, the best of which ‘goes over’ mostly unnoticed by those same targets. Ever heard of Bernays? He wrote: “The conscious and intelligent manipulation of the organized habits and opinions of the masses is an important element in democratic society.” What he actually meant was, an effective way of crippling democracy [a manipulated voter is *not* freely, fairly and fully informed]. Those of us with eyes to see may detect the worst and most obvious, like the ‘containers of Viagra’ to assist Libyan soldiers to rape their own women, say. But a lot of the psychological manipulation is designed to be effectively transparent; it would be nice to expose such when/wherever possible. IMHO. Sooo, pointers please; the more detailed the better. Thanks in advance & rgds

  26. annamaria says:

    “Hollywood Honors Terrorism. “And The Winner is ISIS- Al Qaeda…” by Stephen Lendman
    “Far from a humanitarian organisation, the White Helmets are an Al Qaeda staffed propaganda group that is embedded with brutal jihadists looking to overthrow the sovereign government of Syria.”
    The Hollywood “thinkers” do not understand that there is Reality beyond their make-beleif mise-en-scènes. Clooney and such have become a conduit between the deep state desires and glitzy propaganda.
    Vanessa Beeley reveals the truth on the White Helmets:

  27. annamaria says:

    “Fact-sheet on the White Helmets,” by Simon Wood:
    “The White Helmets, also called Syria Civil Defence, are not who they claim to be. The group is not Syrian; it was created with USA/UK funding under the supervision of a British military contractor in 2013 in Turkey…. The NATO White Helmets are primarily a media campaign to support the ‘regime change’ goals of the USA and allies. After being founded by security contractor James LeMesurier, the group was “branded” as the White Helmets in 2014 by a marketing company called “The Syria Campaign” managed out of New York by non-Syrians such as Anna Nolan.”

    “Inside the Shadowy PR Firm That’s Lobbying for Regime Change in Syria,”
    by Max Blumenthal:
    “USAID is the White Helmets’ principal funder, committing at least $23 million to the group since 2013. This money was part of $339.6 million budgeted by USAID for “supporting activities that pursue a peaceful transition to a democratic and stable Syria” — or establishing a parallel governing structure that could fill the power vacuum once Bashar Al-Assad was removed… According to Anna Nolan’s listing, her firm was seeking: “two interns to join the team at Purpose to help launch a new movement for Syria.”
    Should we say more? – Regime changers met and embraced the pliable and eager for-sale “activists” like Nolan and Cloonye.

  28. @RobinG

    Well, you were obviously not following the Oscar buzz to see whether the terrorist-made NATO propaganda op “White Helmets” would win an Oscar……which it did.

    You are obviously correct!

    For decades I’ve made a point of ignoring anything and everything out of Hollywood, Disneyland, the corporate media, and the rest of the popular “culture.” The stuff disgusts me beyond description.

    • Replies: @OutWest
  29. OutWest says:
    @jacques sheete

    You’re missing out on pretend people acting as pretend –but noble- examples for us lesser beings.

  30. annamaria says:

    “An Oscar for a Propaganda Flick,” by Patrick Hennigsen.
    Painful to read about the level of indecency exhibited by these opportunistic scoundrels – Clooney, Einsiedel, and Natasegara – war criminals by their actions

    “Vanessa Beeley’s investigation eventually took her to Syria, where she was able to track down the REAL Syria Civil Defense organization. The U.S. and U.K. creation of the “White Helmets” required that they steal the name “Syria Civil Defense” from a real existing civil defense group based in Syria. Unlike the fraudulent Western construct, the real Syria Civil Defense was founded 63 years ago and is a registered member of the International Civil Defense Organization (ICDO) based in Geneva. For the real Syria Civil Defense you dial “113” inside Syria. The White Helmets have no such number because they are not a real “search and rescue” organization. Their whole existence is a fraudulent construct.
    Beeley spoke at length to the real Syria Civil Defense and what the crew told her was shocking. During the “rebel” (terrorist) invasion in 2012 of East Aleppo, future members of the White Helmets arrived accompanied by armed terrorists to attack the real Syria Civil Defense headquarters. They stole equipment, killed and kidnapped real civil defense volunteers as part of their operation to loot and destroy the existing institution.”

    Clooney: “As a member of the Council on Foreign Relations, Clooney seems to relish his role of celebrity humanitarian.Unfortunately, fellow members of the Council include an impressive line-up of war criminals and other dignitaries, like former Vice President Dick Cheney and former Secretary of State Henry Kissinger, as well as a chief architect of the collapse of Libya and the dirty war in Syria, Hillary Rodham Clinton. However, judging by Clooney’s devotion to the White Helmets, it’s pretty clear that he is either ignorant of what he is supporting or worse – he is using his public profile to push a Deep State agenda.”

    Einsiedel and Natasegara: “Despite the claims by Netflix producers, Natasegara and Von Einsiedel, the purpose was to reinforce the U.S.-led Coalition’s fake Syrian narrative, which has never resembled the facts on the ground. The U.S.-U.K. establishment could not have hand-picked better tools for this job than Natasegara and Von Einsiedel. If they were real filmmakers interested in the truth, they would have paused to question why this group was founded by a senior British Military intelligence officer, James Le Mesurier; why it is based in Turkey and not Syria; and why the group only operated exclusively in Al Nusra (Al Qaeda in Syria), Ahrar al Sham (another Al Qaeda affiliate) and ISIS-held areas in Syria; why are White Helmets members routinely pictured with weapons and with terrorists. The answer is simple to anyone with half a brain and who is being honest: the White Helmets are composed mainly of partisan extremists.”

  31. utu says:

    I like your take. Obviously we can’t verify it.

    • Replies: @RobinG
  32. annamaria says:

    The White Helmets: “This is an alleged “non-governmental” organization that thus far has received funding from at least three major NATO governments, including $23 million from the US Government and $29 million (£19.7 million) from the UK Government, $4.5 million (€4 million) from the Dutch Government. In addition, it receives material assistance and training funded and run by a variety of other EU Nations.” In short, this is a front of an intelligence agency.

  33. Anonymous • Disclaimer says:

    This is Given sufficient time, ANY article becomes a discussion of jews and isreal 🙂

    …although i do agree this one was a bit forced

  34. RobinG says:

    Yes, perceptive take. (Vetran and Buzz Mohawk also.)

    Natasegara and Von Einsiedel never set foot in Syria. Their movie-making was done at Gaziantep, Turkey. The WH themselves did shaky, hand-held shots – without supervision or corroboration.

    • Replies: @utu
  35. utu says:

    Agree about Veteran and Buzz Mohawk. I would add also skirt and Agent76 Japanese movies…

    White Helmets are as fake as this clip from Iraq:

  36. Delmas says:

    I don’t think this was an error. Hollywood was sending out a message with the announcement of Lalaland before correcting the aim to that Moonlight movie.

  37. Kiza says:

    Ben Affleck and George Clooney are the two Deep State characters of Hollywood. Both have CIA doors open at any time, a CIA money often underwrites their productions. Simply put, two characters with zero character.

  38. Sparkon says:
    @James Thompson

    I‘ve heard any number of theories about why the Lisa failed, which are usually given as high price, slow speed, unreliable floppy drives, but yours is the first I’ve seen to blame “the perceptions of the users with the inner logic of the branching choices”:

    In 1983 I let departmental colleagues try out the Apple Lisa, and after sitting for several hours with 6 subjects understood that the thing would never sell. It wasn’t the graphical interface per se that was the problem, it was that the perceptions of the users were totally unconnected with the inner logic of the branching choices, so users went wrong not only quickly but very deeply. Call it a mis-match in theories of mind.

    ‘Too many unknown variables in your example–like, who was their teacher, and what were his qualifications–for me to say much more, but it should not be overlooked in this example that the Lisa introduced that popular, nay indispensable function on all modern computers known as undo, which is there precisely to prevent the kinds of difficulties your subjects seemed to have had.

    Never let a simple explanation get in the way of a complicated one.

    • Replies: @James Thompson
  39. @Sparkon

    The plan was to test how easy it was to use by untrained members of the department. They were not being taught to use the system. They had to work it out by looking at the screen and, if they wanted, looking at the instruction manual.

    • Replies: @Sparkon
  40. Anon • Disclaimer says:

    I found this account of intelligence & genes not perfect but better than it was to be expected from a .gov site.

    50 nature-50 nurture, they say. And they say this has resulted from, among other things, studies on twins. I had different memories of said studies.. 😀 (it was 77% nature, if memory serves).

    But, again, it could have been much worse.

  41. Syren says:

    But it also might have been a slam in that it prevented the real “winners” from having their glittering, mass-attention moment of hugs and high fives and running up to the stage…Sure, you won, but the other guys got to give their speeches and stand on the stage. Haha.

  42. Sparkon says:
    @James Thompson

    The crucial piece of missing information for me here is the objective or task of your untrained departmental members. What were they trying to do as they shuffled into the room with the Lisa? Turn it on, write a short machine-languge “hello” program, even run payroll? The possibilities are numerous.

    Did you test also with, say, an IBM XT or Apple II of the day, to establish some precedent, or control?

    In other words, “easy to use” compared to what, in order to do what?

  43. They were naive users running through the introductory teaching program so as to learn how to use the machine.

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