Like all the new updates offered constantly for all the machinery of life, it seemed at first like such a good idea: using the technology of “smart” phones to provide an instant, universal warning of impending nuclear attack. What a great idea! A lifesaver, as long as you make several unwarranted assumptions about the size and target of the nuclear strike, and ignore all the questions that arise, such as what do people actually do when they’re been warned, and if you save their lives just so they can crawl out of a shelter onto a radioactive rubble heap, what have you accomplished? Never mind. Great idea.
That’s what Hawaii thought. So they spent a lot of money on a marvelously advanced, dare I say “smart,” system capable of providing instant warning of attack to every cell phone in the state (yes, I know, Hawaii is still on the Republican Party’s list of foreign countries, but trust me on this, it’s a state). Unfortunately, the system, smart as it is, still requires human supervision, someone to receive and evaluate the threat, then activate the alarm. For this purpose a highly trained staff hovers, 24-7.
At every shift change, the people coming on duty check to make sure the machine is on and working. Last Saturday, someone using human intelligence, not the artificial kind, said or thought something like, “Hey, I forget what this button does,” and before the screams of everyone else in room could register, pushed the little bugger. And everyone in Hawaii got a message on their cell phone saying, in effect, Doomsday is at hand, have a nice day.
Okay, I made up those particulars, but they were inspired by real events. That warning of an incoming ICBM went out, with the baleful addendum, “This is not a drill.” People on the streets and beaches ran frantically in all directions at once; sobbing children asked their parents, “are we going to die?” Panic ensued for 38 minutes before the “just kidding” message appeared.
Couple of things. A significant number of “smart” phones in Hawaii did NOT get the warning. Why? Um, something to do with the carriers, mumbled the governor, we’re going to look into that. You might also want to look into that 38-minute thing, governor. Obviously, the people in the room knew instantly that a terrible mistake had been made, and it took them 38 minutes to figure out how to send a correction? That’s not even artificial intelligence.
This pubic-service-by-the-Keystone-Kops routine took place the day after the closing of the massive annual consumer electronics show in Las Vegas, where the Masters of the Tech World gather every year to demonstrate how much more they can and will screw up our lives. This year, they put on display the following products:
- A massive, $650 robot clothes folder that requires more time and effort to mount the clothes on the machine for folding than it would have taken to fold the clothes. Oh, and it doesn’t do sweatshirts, socks, underwear, outerwear, towels, etc., etc.
- A self-propelled luggage cart designed to follow you through the airport on its little Segway wheels like an obedient service dog. As demonstrated at CES 2018, however, it looked more like a drunken donkey, falling on its face every few feet, wandering off by itself and refusing to hurry.
- A booth hawking companion robots for children and old people had three different robots on display. They were all broken. All they could do for a child or an old person was stare in baleful, accusing silence….
- Something called an “Amigo Drone” buzzed passers by, offering to be anyone’s BFF, to go wheresoever thou goest, forever. Really? I’m headed for the airport now…..
“A Better Life, A Better World,” proclaimed the big banner over the CES 2018 show. You know, like they had in Hawaii before everyone’s hair turned white and they began suffering from PTSD .
There is no doubt now, technology oncology has metastasized. Antidotes are not working. The only thing to do is to administer palliative care and wait for the end.