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Do you trust your life to technology?

Jared Heng | Sept. 30, 2008
I never seriously considered flight safety as an issue when travelling, because most passengers, including myself, have come to trust modern technology with our lives.

Thanks to modern technology, travelling on a commercial plane today is much more comfortable and safe compared to the early years of flight. In fact, it is now commonly accepted that flight disasters are less likely than car accidents.

I never seriously considered flight safety as an issue when travelling, because most passengers, including myself, have come to trust modern technology with our lives.

During the few 16 20 hour flights I have taken so far, my only concerns were meals, comfort and in-flight entertainment.

However, flight accidents continue to be reported even in recent years. For example, Aeroflot Flight 593, en route from Moscow to Hong Kong, crashed in 1994, leaving no survivors.

The flight recorder revealed that a pilot apparently allowed his teenage son to play with the controls for entertainment, as the plane was under autopilot then. Somehow, the boy unknowingly disconnected parts of the autopilot.

Despite the technology, no audible alarm was present to immediately alert the pilots and the plane gradually went out of control. It was too late by the time the pilots discovered the problem and the plane crashed.

While the pilot may be held partially responsible for the disaster, technology failed to compensate for human error or neglect in this case. It took incidents like these for airlines to tighten flight safety rules.

This tells us that despite its advances, technology alone cannot fully ensure safety. Rather, technology must complement safety rules and staff expertise to successfully protect human lives.

Technology however, must still be adequate to the extent where it can at least alert human operators to safety compromises through all possible means. For example, blinking alarm lights may not be enough, and must complement audible alerts to ensure problems are not missed.

Jared Heng is staff writer for Fairfax Business Media, where he covers hot topics in the IT industry such as green computing, unified communications and software as a service.

 

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