Service of Technology II

August 15th, 2012

Categories: Safety, Security, Technology


New York Congressman Peter King, who chairs the House Homeland Security Committee, said during a radio interview yesterday that the Port of Authority of New York and New Jersey put its money–$100 million–behind technology to handle airport security because “technology does not make an error.” Staff also thought it would save money over the cost of human patrols.

jetskiHe was referring to the jet skier who ran out of fuel and trotted up and past Kennedy Airport’s cutting edge defense system to get help. [Along with Kennedy, the $100 million also covers the systems at Teterboro, LaGuardia and Newark airports.]

verizonvan44thst1Meanwhile, an office mate in our midtown Manhattan offices has been without phone service for almost a month. This major vendor’s repair staff wanders in and out of his office every few days and there’s a crew-or at least a van–planted outside the building. With all the bundling and high tech combos fighting for space underground and the complicated nature of the wiring and computer programming, I can only assume that MIT grad students may need to be called in on the case because it’s over the heads of ordinary repair people. Another reason: The best have been fired because their salaries are too high.

Simultaneously, I tried to help a friend whose new accounting program-a well known brand-was causing fits. The default type on the invoice template was tiny. I found where I could click “12 PT” and followed all the prompts, dutifully hitting “next” and performing each step as told. I finished by assuring the program that this was what I wanted. When we returned to the template, nothing had changed: Miniscule type all ’round.

I could go on but you get the point: In this environment, how could Port Authority gurus think that “Technology doesn’t make errors?” Don’t people program, oversee and repair these high and low tech systems? Like everything else, couldn’t they break down on occasion? Do we need to learn how to use and fix what we have before leaping forward at warp speed to launch new systems?


4 Responses to “Service of Technology II”

  1. GBS Said:

    I’m of the opinion that we each show up on earth with a package of skills, ranging from being able to think clearly to being adept at mechanical tasks. Good mechanics do not always make good visionary thinkers and vice versa. Even Einstein was reportedly dyslectic and did not do well in school. Can you imagine how he would have fared in a world where his life depended upon always getting “press one, press two” right quickly?

    There’s no doubt that Marshall McLuhan’s communications revolution is alive and well and thriving in an electronically dominated world. More stuff is put out there on the Web for us to read, hear and absorb than ever before, but the quality of it reminds me of the kind of drivel that the post-World War I dictatorships put out. Worse, like then, far too many of us are far too dim or dumb to question the accuracy or validity of what we read or hear. Yet worse, such zombie-like consumers may well be the very ones who are most adept at getting machines to work efficiently. I believe society is putting a dangerously great premium on our having increasing mechanical skills over nurturing our ability to reason.

    Lastly, too much technology can be downright lethal for the innocent. A couple of years ago, I was driving along minding my own business in my new car when it suddenly barked out in a loud voice an unprovoked, unwanted sales pitch all on its own. I was so startled and frightened that I impulsively swerved into the opposite lane and narrowly missed an oncoming pickup truck. When I went to the dealer to get the damn thing disabled, he told me that it couldn’t be, but fortunately the car hasn’t spoken to me since. However, I do remain terrified that it will blurt out again one of these days when I least expect it, and this time technology will succeed in killing me.

  2. Jeanne Byington Said:

    Golly, GBS, I hope what you predict doesn’t happen!

    I used the least tech method of letting the UPS store know about an email headquarters didn’t send that sported their logo–it was poorly written and obviously up to no good. Had I clicked to get the “return label” I was told I needed for a package they were holding–that I never sent–goodness knows what would have happened. The man in the UPS store said he’d let headquarters know. By the way…I used my feet to walk over to the store.

    I chose this method because the high speed internet service the office uses was down–everyone was off line.

  3. Lucrezia Said:

    Rep. King is wrong, since everything created by humans is subject to error. Despite all the horror stories we hear, and at are at times subjected to, technology can’t be beat. Sorry about the person without phone service for a month, but fortunately this is the exception rather than the rule. My suggestion is to stop complaining about the setbacks and enjoy the advantages technology brings……and if something really bad happens, sue!

  4. Jeanne Byington Said:


    I’d say a month without a phone–today, two more trucks from the company appeared on the street–is as bad as it gets for anyone trying to conduct business. It sure doesn’t make the man who owns the company look on top of his game. It’s a disgrace. People should not do this to a client.

    Nobody said that technology doesn’t have advantages, but it hasn’t figured out how to use and fix these advantages and should take a deep dish breath, mop up the mess made and then go on.

    If I get one more call from the company in question urging me to use its high speed connection–when it can’t fix my colleague’s phone [and by the way, the three trucks are not there just for him, there must be many others on the street without service] I’ll spit. Why would I–or anyone else–put all eggs in this single basket?

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