April 10, 2012
-- Many are not aware that on the day Titanic collided with an iceberg in the North Atlantic, the ship had received no less than six wireless transmissions describing the extent of the dangerous ice fields and bergs, but that not all of these messages made it to the bridge and that the captain therefore had an incorrect mental picture which did not match the reality on the ocean in front of him. Author David Warner Mathisen, a professional analyst and former US Army Infantry officer, observes that this type of failure to “connect the dots” is well known in the Army, and that military concepts such as “situational awareness” and Clausewitz’s phrase “the fog of war” are valuable tools for extracting lessons from the disaster that we can apply today. He points out that in many situations, the information that is needed to enable accurate analysis of the situation is actually available, but overlooked or not placed into the proper framework or context, so that the dots are not connected, something that happens so often that we can conclude that gaining true situational awareness is actually exceedingly difficult, even though it might at first appear to be simple. He then goes on to argue that the data we may be overlooking from a civilizational perspective may be creating a dangerous “false picture” that creates potentially serious danger, which should encourage greater efforts to “connect the dots” using tools that can facilitate better analysis. While many various theories of greater or lesser merit have been put forward to explain the 1912 Titanic disaster, including some recent analysis that the position of the earth in relation to both the moon and the sun may have played a role, ultimately the sinking and the tragic loss of life were the result of a lack of situational awareness – not just prior to the collision but in the fatal aftermath as well.
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David Warner Mathisen is a professional analyst and former US Army officer, and the author of the book "The Mathisen Corollary" and of the recently-released essay "Titanic and the Fall of Civilizations."