Tuesday, September 20, 2011

The Bond Market

Goldfinger is one of the better James Bond movies.1 To aid in the assault on Goldfinger's headquarters, Her Majesty's Secret Service issues Bond a sports car, an Aston Martin DB5, with a slew of special gadgets and features. These include: a slide-up rear bullet-proof shield, front-mounted machine guns and rear-mounted smoke screen, oil sprayers and nail spreaders to thwart pursuers. The pièce de résistance is an ejection seat to launch unwelcome passengers through the roof of the car.

Bond uses every one of these gadgets in a single 5-minute chase scene during the movie. But despite all this high-tech weaponry, he's captured anyway! That's because the British Secret Service's gadget group, headed by Q, has designed and built the whole thing without doing any user studies.

As presented in the Bond films, Q and his department dream up all kinds of exotic weaponry, and then build it and test it in the lab on wooden dummies, ersatz espionage agents and pseudo-supervillains. Then these gadgets are issued to field agents like James Bond, with no more instruction than a quick demo. The agents are expected to rely on this equipment in life-threatening situations. It's no wonder Bond always has to fall back on his sex appeal in a pinch.

A more effective head, lets call him R, would have field agents involved from the concept stage. Bond and his colleagues would be specifying what devices they need, and how they should work. R would then bring the agents back in for prototype testing, which might require multiple iterations. Only when these gizmos have been thoroughly tested and approved would they be put to work in real assignments.

Then maybe 007 wouldn't wind up strapped to a table with a laser beam aimed at his groin.

1From Russia With Love is the best one.

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