Sunday, 26 July 2015

Red light for innovation challenges?

Traffic light showing red and raised hand for stop

Walking and waving a red flag in front of a moving car? Preposterous! Yet, the US and the UK had just such a law as a safety precaution in the 19th century.

Driverless cars, drones, unmanned aircraft, space rockets, satellites and probes to Pluto... What on earth would our ancestors think? Technology is moving at a faster pace than the majority of us can take in. Should we rein in our modern day innovators, pioneers and explorers with red and amber flags while we catch up?

Driverless cars
Google reported that its driverless cars keep having accidents. The June 2015 report stated: "Not once was the self-driving car the cause of the accident". Inattentive humans are the problem.

Is the obvious fix to ban all human drivers from the road in future? It's not that simple.

Car hacking
A current Wired article is entitled Hackers remotely kill a jeep on the highway - with me in it. In a test, hackers toyed remotely with the air-conditioning, radio, windscreen wipers and then the accelerator at 70 mph...  Off the road and into a ditch... The manufacturer has issued a recall to prevent the vehicles from being controlled remotely. Recalls don't come cheap.

Accidents on land can be contained. What of the skies?

There is alarm about drone safety - particularly the unregulated use of hobby drones. In late January, Le Monde reported that drones had flown over 17 French nuclear power stations since October 2014

After the Fukushima nuclear accident in 2011, the world is understandably uneasy. A major earthquake followed by a 15-metre tsunami disabled the power supply and cooling of three Fukushima Daiichi reactors. An unpredictable sequence of events?

Unmanned aircraft
Unmanned craft already fly the skies on spying missions. NASA's unmanned Global Hawk can remain aloft for up to 30 hours at high altitudes. It is being used for atmospheric analysis, but was originally developed for military use. 

NASA employs some of the world's most brilliant scientists. They've known both glorious successes and heart-breaking disasters. The Challenger Space Shuttle accident cost 7 lives.  Just 0.678 seconds after lift-off, there was a strong puff of grey smoke. The two cameras that should have reported the precise location were inoperative. A rapid series of events from 72.20 seconds followed. Challenger exploded after 73.137 seconds.

The Presidential Commission's report on the Space Shuttle disaster is full of technical detail. The accident was due to faulty design. A faulty pressure seal caused a major setback in space exploration. In the NASA control room, they knew the astronauts. They knew their voices.

Rockets explode. Satellites and probes malfunction. Space is filling up with junk.

3D printing
Technology is developing at such a pace that it is hard to predict all the challenges in advance.  Some are overstated. When 3D printing came to the fore, people worried that it would be used to make guns.

Today, most geeks content themselves with posting pictures of epic failures or cereal-box-style Star Wars characters online. 3D technology is saving lives in the medical field today.

Hacking inevitable?
Experts treat hacking as inevitable. They seek to minimise risk. Total prevention is not viewed as realistic. The "good guys" play catch up with the "bad guys". Hacking pays well.

Red and amber flags?
Modern technology is exciting. The pace is so fast. There is little time to question if technology is always being used in the best interests of Man. History should teach us caution. Do we need to slow down a bit and take stock? Issue some red and amber flags?

Shared planet
If only the best minds could work on climate change for all Earth's residents. We never get on well with all our neighbours. We just have to find a way to coexist.

Relocation isn't an option. NASA hasn't found another habitable planet for us.

Karen Andrews, content writer
Karen Andrews runs
Anglicity Ltd. She is
an entrepreneurial
French to English
translator, editor,
content writer and
marketing consultant. 

for further information 
on Anglicity's services.

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