Caffeine and Error Rates

I work in IT. Over the years, I have noticed how expensive it can be to find the smallest of errors in code. At times variables that have 1 character different in their names are interchanged inappropriately.

Finding such an error can at times be very expensive. It perhaps costs pennies for the second it took for the developer to type the wrong character, but the process of tracing backwards from the end result to locate the mistake can literally be hundreds of hours.

I don’t know that there is a study of some kind which connects costs to error rates for various activities, but such a study may be illuminating.

Rest is Required

As a society, we recognize error rates in certain functions are very expensive, and so we regulate behaviors to reduce those error rates. In transportation, rest is regulated, for truck drivers, and airline pilots. I’m certain people involved in nuclear power generation has similar controls, as should the military.

(It’s interesting to consider our typical perception of the medical field involving long periods of sleep deprivation, and the resulting impacts in patient care.)

Our regulation of those industries raises the question why don’t we simply allow these people to self medicate with caffeine to avoid fatigue?

I’m not a medical professional, but it seems to me the likely answer is that caffeine does not reduce error rates. Only rest does that. Only rest eliminates the making of new mistakes.

Caffeine Perpetuates the Ability to Make Mistakes

If that is true, then one could draw the conclusion that one possible effect of caffeine is to perpetuate one’s abilities to make mistakes.

Put that way, it begs the question of cost. We regulate behaviors which result in violent death, but what is the cost of ill-chosen words in an important discussion? A lost job opportunity? A broken relationship? Damaged self-image to young children?

The effect of caffeine, in increasing quantities and accessibility, on society should be discussed more openly, particularly with youth.

The highest levels of performance require rest. There is no substitution for it.

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