“Wim, will you put a coat on?”
“Why Carla?” says Wim.
“It is raining outside.” Carla responds.
“Of course not, according to my app it won’t start raining till 2 hours and 12 minutes.” Carla gives Wim a glum look. “Wim,”
“look out the window; it is raining cats and dogs!”
Every day new techniques arise; apps, applications and other stuff that intend to make our daily lives 'easier'. And every day we put a little more faith in these techniques. The point of no return to live without them has long been passed. But will it ever come to a moment when the technique co do without us?
That technology is inextricably linked with our society is clear. In the early 60s George W. Beadle already wrote:
"That does not mean that the applications of science are unimportant. They have in fact changed the world so thoroughly, that without them, it wouldn’t be possible for man to continue his current way of living and in such large numbers."
And that was well before the computer was a predominant factor for mankind. But how far goes the influence of the computer? Doomsayers base themselves on the 'Technological singularity’. In short, this tells that if man ever can make a computer that is smarter than man himself, this computer can build a computer that is smarter than the computer itself. There follows an exponential growth of computer intelligence, where at the end man becomes insignificant. (Which of course then leads to the question, will we be eradicated like mice or simple ignored? Something that, in my opinion, all depends if we program the last computer we build ourselves with or without our human urge to dominate.)
The future of the ‘Technological singularity’ is still faraway, but we do are regularly confronted with situations where our lives get disrupted because the computer fails. At the turn of the century, everyone was terrified that every system on earth would crash. This inspired the huge effort which made sure nu problems occurred. And at midnight I and many colleagues on standby had a quit new year. Partly because we forgot to patch our own mail server. Unfortunately there are also examples where it did go wrong. On 20 August 2008, a technician reported that there was a problem with the aircraft for flight JK 5022. There were already several known problems and the system should have given a warning to prevent the flight from leaving. But a malware infection blocked the warning. A paper control was not in place. A few seconds after leaving, the plane crashed. The computer was not the cause, but because the safety procedures completely relied on it; the problems went unnoticed. The fatal consequence: 154 deaths.
The essence of my argument is: let us not lose ourselves in computer systems.
We are becoming more accustomed to computers and machines taking over tasks and responsibilities from us man. And although we can still wash our pants by hand (if really, really needed) we are incapable of transferring money without the help of the computer. To prevent computers from failing more and more computers are chained together to create resiliency. But at the same time, constantly reducing man.
Than how should we use computer and the related technologies? Give automation and computerization the place it deserved. A tool for man. Any activity that a computer is taken over where there is no physical backup is a potential risk. Every process that is no longer controlled by man is a big risk.
Know the risks and accept them (or not).