Anti static precautions are a bit like washing your hands.
You can't see static (well apart from when it is enough to spark), and the damage is usually latent - at the microscopic level but causing things to fail days or months later. The failure cannot always be linked to the cause because of the time gap, and people are bad at large scale statistical analysis in their head.
So, in many ways just like germs. When they were first suggested people dismissed it. You can't see germs. The damage caused by germs (infection, etc) is usually later: days, weeks, in some cases like AIDS, years later. The cause cannot easily be linked to the effect in your head.
As you may imagine, you don't need anything like the levels
necessary to see a spark in order to damage components on a chip a few
nanometers wide. Just as you do not need to see food rotting to know it may be "off" and be bad for you.
It is only because we have science that we can see the actual problem in both cases. Using microscopes. Analysing data over large scales and time periods. Doing controlled tests. By scientific methods we can see the problem and the cause and effect. We can provide guidance to reduce the risks.
For germs, we all know them - we wash our hands. We keep food in the fridge. We learn to tackle the invisible threat from an early age and then we don't question it. We trust the science is right.
What is strange is that there are people out there who (like early surgeons when germs were first discovered) do not believe or, more surprisingly, do not care!
Seems there is no telling some people. Maybe the germs analogy will help some understand though. I hope so.
Thanks to Olorin on A&A irc for the inspiration on this.
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