How interested we are in applying human factors depends on several cost and benefit factors. These include 1) the complexity of the technology itself, 2) the user, 3) the role of people in the system, 4) the cost of human labor, 5) the cost of human error, and 6) the competitiveness of the market.
When a tool is simple, easy to design, and has few parts and a single function, then the engineering of the tool is often close to the needs of the human. A pencil is relatively easy to design, and relatively easy to make usable. With more complicated technology, the engineering of the technology becomes more complicated. This results in designs that optimize the technology, often at the expense of the humans. In his book, The Inmates Are Running the Asylum, Alan Cooper (1999) describes his run-in with a camera. All the features and functions built into the camera result in a design that makes it hard for the human to take a picture.
There is not a direct relationship between the complexity of technology and the amount of attention paid to human factors.
As technology gets more complicated and sophisticated, the gulf between the needs of the technology and the needs of the humans widens. As technology gets more complicated, the attention to human factors should increase. More time and energy should be put into designing it so it will work well for humans—the human factors question. However, there is not a direct relationship ...