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Megan McArdle

Blame the Machines

Automation fixes small mistakes. And creates some truly epic ones.
Take 39 of these and call me in the ... Oops, never mind.

Take 39 of these and call me in the ... Oops, never mind.

Photographer: Dhiraj Singh/Bloomberg

In late July 2013, 16-year-old Pablo Garcia, who was in the hospital for a routine colonoscopy to check on his congenital gastrointestinal condition, began complaining of numbness and tingling all over his body. Soon he was having seizures. What caused this strange condition? His medication, it turned out: He'd been given 39 times too much antibiotic. How this occurred is the subject of a fascinating piece on Medium, which I urge you all to read. But if I had to condense its five parts' worth of fascinating insights into one sentence, here's how it would read: "Machines make us stupid."

For example, I spent three months traveling last fall, with only a few weekends in the District of Columbia. By the time I returned, I had forgotten the number of our landline. To be sure, we don't use it very often. Still. We've had that number for five years. I forgot it in less than one football season.