Code Overload Part 2 by Ron Steinman

Code Overload Part 2 – Technological Wizards (A continuation of Part 1, a recent post.)

There is a new class of technological wizards who have gone beyond where anyone thought they could in the pursuit of what each considers the eventual easing of doing what once seemed impossible. These innovators are important, but we should learn to control how we use what they create for the sake of preserving the once important individual. Understand that when I say individual, I mean a person true to who they are, rather than a person who wants to take over the world because he/she believes they will make the world a better place. I think of the individual in context as part of the whole but not wanting to dominate or control the world.
Where are we now and why this essay? The problem is that technocrats bear gifts that are very heady and difficult to ignore. Almost no one has the strength to turn away from them or turn them away. Some recent advances in the use of computers and code writing caught my eye. They have not been as widely reported, as they should have been. They worry me because they are extreme. Programmers in a hurry to create something new, now go where at one time we and maybe even they thought were places where no one could ever tread. It means the writers of code are winning. But in this uber-technological age in which we live, most people are unaware of what is going on around them. Are they better off living in ignorance? Perhaps. Then again, if they did know what was taking place, could they do anything about it? That answer is easy – probably not.
Drones in war are now a ubiquitous presence. They have a permanent place in warfare. That role will only grow. Drones are destroyers. They cost money but not American or as in Afghanistan and Pakistan, allied, that is NATO lives. However, their use is not perfect. Missing a target is commonplace. More to the point, those killed at a chosen target are sometimes innocent civilians. Intelligence about the target and the instantaneous choice made by a technician is not always the right choice. This is to a degree due to information overload. More simply put, it is the inability of the drone master to properly guide the weapon to a clean kill because – pause – there was too much information to deal with or two many drones to manipulate. Despite live video images transmitted to the command center from the drone itself and often very good intelligence, it has become increasingly difficult for the technician to sort good from bad information. To some extent, this has to do with multi-tasking.

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