The author is the head of the sports team at the JoongAng Ilbo.
In 1934, a plane crashed over the Bass Strait in Australia. David Warren (1925-2010), then nine years old, lost his father in the accident. Upon graduating from college, Warren joined Australia’s Aeronautical Research Laboratory in 1952. The following year, he participated in the investigation team for the crash of the Comet 1, the world’s first commercial jet liner. He thought it would help clarifying the cause of accidents if the voice of pilots or flight records were available. In 1956, he invented a prototype of a black box that could endure fire or explosion. In 2008, Australian airline Qantas named an Airbus A380s after Warren.
A black box is composed of a flight data recorder (FDR) that records a flight’s altitude and speed, and CVR, a cockpit voice recorder that tracks pilots’ conversations and communications. Unlike the name, the device is bright yellow or orange, as it is easier to spot after an accident. First used in airplanes, black boxes are now used in automobiles as well. The device equivalent to the FDR is an EDR, or event data recorder, and a dashboard camera serves as the CVR. Dash cams record video and audio from inside and around the car.
British journalist Matthew Syed proposed the concept of “black box thinking” in his 2015 book “Black Box Thinking: Why Most People Never Learn from Their Mistakes — But Some Do.” As accident preventions can be found by analyzing black boxes, we can learn from our mistakes. The cause of the Comet 1’s crash, which led to the invention of the black box, was cracks on the corner of the windows. The shape of airplane windows was changed from rectangular to oval. Capt. Chesley Sullenberger, whose story was made into the movie “Sully: Miracle on the Hudson,” wrote in his autobiography that all knowledge, rules and procedures in aeronautics exist because someone crashed somewhere. Accidents of the past become the foundations of safe flight today.
Vice Justice Minister Lee Yong-gu’s use of violence against a taxi driver under the influence of alcohol is getting attention again. Prosecutors’ investigations found that the police ignored and covered up the dash cam footage the taxi driver restored and submitted to the police. If an incident is to become a foundation for a better world, we need “black box thinking” to learn from past mistakes.