It is an interesting question. When a bridge fails – who is responsible? The designer, the people who constructed it, shoddy materials that are out of spec? It is often a subject that the public demands answers to. How about that failed chip? Was it the designer’s fault who let a bug creep into the design, or perhaps it is the fabrication process that allowed something to get out of spec, the EDA vendor whose tool did not flag an error, or even the verification engineer who failed to find the bug? Responsibility is rarely placed in our industry because there is almost an acceptance that mistakes will happen. We try to learn from them and improve the processes such that similar errors do not happen in the future. Those who take the time to learn are likely to make the most improvements and become more competitive as a result, unless the process put in place add undue time and cost to the process.
Occasionally, when a large and embarrassing problem happens in a company, a fall guy is identified and he is fired. Many times that person is not the person really responsible, but it seems to make the outside world feel better when the guilty party has been identified and punished.
Earlier this week I read a disturbing article from Italy. Six Italian scientists and an ex-government official have been sentenced to six years in prison over the 2009 deadly earthquake in L'Aquila. That’s right – they failed to predict the earthquake and as a result will spent time in prison on a charge of manslaughter. While scientists around the world know it is impossible to predict earthquakes, the Italian authorities argued that they provided an inadequate characterization of the risks; of being misleadingly reassuring about the dangers that faced their city.
Would you now want to be a scientist in Italy? What kind of precedence does this set? I can just imagine in the U.S. that every weather forecast would now come with a legal disclaimer, just in case someone got sunburned and later died of skin cancer, or a farmer lost his crop because they failed to characterize the risks of a frost.
I would love to hear your views on this.Brian Bailey
– keeping you covered
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