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Poch Peralta

Freelance Writer / Blogger,


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If the Internet is making us dumber, in what ways does it do it?

Technology is making us lazy and forgetful

Pilots Have Become Too Reliant on Computers
Asiana crash proves the point


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    Dec 31 2013: There's certainly something to be said for commercial pilots becoming too reliant on computers. Computers are great for quad-copters and fighter pilots because maneuvering effectively might otherwise be impossible or severely limited. But the lives of commercial flight passengers shouldn't be dependent on a computer system.

    As for the main question, it's somewhat akin to "If television makes us dumber, what ways does it do it?". They're both mediums that can have a profound effect either way. Imagine if instead of partisan politics and Jersey Shore, cable networks syndicated a constant slew of documentaries, inspirational life stories, and news coverage of real issues that the masses may be able to do something about? The internet is possibly a better medium because it gives us a choice over the content we would like to consume. But if people still choose to consume partisan politics and Jersey Shore, then perhaps the downsides of our current cable content are just being accelerated.
    • Dec 31 2013: Why shouldn't people's lives depend on a computer?
      Sure it can have bugs or malfunction, but so can a human pilot.

      Completely ignoring the economic aspect, I feel safer in the hands of an automated system once its been properly tried and tested. Computers don't fall asleep, they don't get sick, don't lapse in attention, and aren't susceptible politics, religion or ideology which may convince them to turn against me.
      Having a human backup is a good idea until the system is declared "properly tried and tested", but if anything, computers are better at this sort of thing then a pilot.
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        Dec 31 2013: That's certainly a good point, and I've never trusted my pilot. I don't like the idea of riding in an air bus piloted by someone I've never met. Trusting a pilot has some of the same implications as trusting a computer - it gives us a single point of failure, for instance.

        Though in the case of the link above, the computer shouldn't have been the single point of failure - the pilots should have been able to fly properly without it if need be.

        But I would worry more about bugs in a program than the mental/physical health of my pilot. Computers do fall asleep, are susceptible to politics, etc. - in a way, at least, because they're designed by people that do. Programs are complex, convoluted structures and the surface area for human errors is vast, as well as the possible attack surface. And experience tells us what to expect from corporate code - bugs, bugs, lack of foresight, bugs and stupidity.

        I would hope that any flight software would be crafted with time, care, intellect, testing, and with all the design decisions aimed at creating the most logical possible solutions. But we know that the real world has deadlines, budgets, and a strict hierarchal institutionalism restricting design decisions to specific individuals.

        An interesting case study here is ADS-B - our next-gen air traffic control system. With ADS-B, planes can emit data packets, messages that identify the plane, where it's going, its GPS, etc. These messages feed the radar screens of other planes and ground stations. It promises to be cheaper than traditional radar systems, though people have increasingly spoken out that it can only be sanely used alongside them. ADS-B is almost 20 years in the making, with some real security concerns. The signals are easy to intercept and easy to spoof. Someone gave a presentation at Defcon about tracking the signals with an old TV antenna.

        Here's a recent article - http://www.scmagazine.com.au/News/367996,flaws-found-in-mandated-aircraft-safety-system.aspx
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        Dec 31 2013: Pilots have become too reliant on computers but it's still the pilots who
        should be responsible for accidents. Computers are not yet controlling pilots.
        So I think I should agree with you Nadav.
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      Dec 31 2013: TV gives us choices as much as the Net does but we learn slower from TV because it's
      visually oriented.

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