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Economist Tim Harford challenges the typical way people utilize automated systems. He warns about the dangers of relying too much on automation and suggests ways in which people can benefit from automation without surrendering human judgment. getAbstract recommends this article to anyone who works with automated systems on a regular basis – and anyone who depends on those people’s skills.

In this summary, you will learn

  • Why Air France Flight 447 from Rio de Janeiro crashed in 2009 although it was in good working order,
  • How automation breeds incompetence and
  • How to counter that effect.

About the Author

Tim Harford is an economist and journalist from England. He is a senior editor at the Financial Times and has authored multiple books, including Messy and The Undercover Economist.



In 2009, during a trip from Rio de Janeiro to Paris, Air France Flight 447 plummeted into the Atlantic Ocean killing the 228 people on board. The plane was in good working order at the time of the crash. However, during a thunderstorm, ice on one of the aircraft’s airspeed sensors had temporarily disabled the automatic fly-by-wire system, which had relegated the plane to manual control. The unexperienced pilot in the cockpit didn’t realize that he was now in charge. He panicked and inadvertently stalled the aircraft – a fundamental and avoidable mistake – and the plane crashed.


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