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Golden Gate Benchmark: “one life lost for every million dollars spent”

“Not everything that counts can be counted, and not everything that can be counted counts.”

– From a sign hanging in Albert Einstein’s office at Princeton.

The famous Golden Gate Bridge was the largest suspension bridge in the world at the time of its completion in 1937. Joseph Strauss, the chief engineer who designed the bridge, demanded extremely rigorous safety precautions that were not normally used in those times.  Some of these, like using a safety net, are now amongst today’s most basic safety standards.

During those times, “one life lost for every million dollars spent” was considered normal and acceptable. Since the bridge cost $35 million dollars, the fact that only 11 people died during its construction was hailed as an all-time record, and a magnificent achievement.

Indeed, 11 deaths resulting from the project instead of 35 could be considered a good reduction. Does this achievement matter to the families and friends of those 11 people?  What might have been done differently if the accepted standard was (like today) that nobody should die?

(From http://fridayreflections.typepad.com/weblog/2007/10/not-everything-.html)

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