Wednesday, June 17, 2015

USAF Drone Pilots Probably need a Union:

Slashdot points to a NYTimes article about how the airforce people who pilot drones in our theaters of war are burning out. They are probably being overworked, but in addition: the stress of switching back and forth between being a killer pilot and a family person, every day, is horribly wearing. See: http://tech.slashdot.org/story/15/06/17/0315219/usaf-cuts-drone-flights-as-stress-drives-off-operators

This story reminds me of a Phil Ochs song about the Thresher submarine, a US nuclear submarine that vanished under water, taking its entire crew with it, before it ever saw battle. Ochs' song says:
Oh, can't you see the wrong?
She was a death ship all along
Died before she had a chance to kill

Read more: Phil Ochs - The Thresher Lyrics | MetroLyrics
http://www.metrolyrics.com/the-thresher-lyrics-phil-ochs.html

Here's a quote from the NYT article:
“Having our folks make that mental shift every day, driving into the gate and thinking, ‘All right, I’ve got my war face on, and I’m going to the fight,’ and then driving out of the gate and stopping at Walmart to pick up a carton of milk or going to the soccer game on the way home — and the fact that you can’t talk about most of what you do at home — all those stressors together are what is putting pressure on the family, putting pressure on the airman,” Colonel Cluff said.

And that reminds me of a fine Shel Silverstein cartoon that shows a manager leaving work to go home, looking incredibly angry. Once out of the office, he opens a box he's carrying and switches heads, putting on his "nice" face.

Bottom line? When you create a new kind of workplace, maybe you want human factors people and psychologists to study it before you do too much damage to the workers.
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