Thanks to a Bell technician fixing a problem on a cable on Saturday, we now have consistent telephone and Internet service. It seems it was a more complicated problem than originally thought.
As irritating as the intermittent service was, it was neither life-threatening nor a major hindrance to my business. It was however a good reminder of how reliant we have become on technology. Not just for communication and entertainment but in ways that most of us do not think about.
In our cars for example.
I see a parallel between the increased dependability of modern vehicles on computerised systems and the huge number of recalls for defects that have been announced this year alone. Millions in the first 7 months of 2014, more I believe than in the whole of 2013.
Prior to coming to Canada in 2004, I had never heard of a widespread vehicle recall in South Africa and the only one I had read about was the Ford Explorer / General tyre vehicle roll over problem in the USA.
A recent article in a national newspaper listed the most easily hackable cars. Some of the easiest to sabotage electronically and remotely, were the more expensive models with the most sophisticated and integrated electronics. Those with communication and vehicle management controls running on the same computer system were the most vulnerable to hackers. It appears that it would be relatively simple for a skilled hacker to gain entry to your car’s systems and activate your brakes, immobilize your engine or cause similar mischief.
Just imagine if China with its armies of hackers wanted to paralyse North America, all it would need to do would be to cause a continent-wide gridlock by immobilizing every motor vehicle built in the last few years on the highway system. Chaos without a shot being fired or a missile launched.
The article noted that Audi with its separate systems for communication, vehicle management and security was much more difficult to hack and the Dodge Viper, impossible because of its lack of computerised systems.
This concern certainly makes a case for hanging on to your old carburetor and distributor ignition system pre 1990 vehicle as a backup immune to hacking.
Will this cause a boost to older car values?
Speculation along these lines certainly raise concerns about becoming overly dependent on electronic technology and the Internet.
Before the days of computerised vehicles, most people with a little mechanical knowledge and a smattering of common sense could fix a minor engine problem well enough to get out of trouble. If not, it was relatively easy to discern what the problem might be and seek the appropriate help. Now that is almost impossible without the right diagnostic tools and enough technical skill to use them.
Back in Zimbabwe when it was self-destructing, power failures were a daily occurrence. Land line telephone service became steadily worse until all the copper cables had been stolen when it disappeared completely. Fuel became impossible to obtain for days at a time.
People had to have back up plans to survive. Generators were purchased to power fridges, lights and farm cold storage facilities. Cell phones were connected to large outdoor antennae to increase range. Fuel was bought when available and stored in bulk tanks. Farmers formed syndicates to import fuel and other farming consumables directly.
It is relatively easy to make those plans when space and financial resources are available, more difficult for city dwellers and those with limited resources.
Technology is wonderful. The Internet, smart phones, smart cars and many other innovations have made our lives easier and more enjoyable.
But they have also made us more dependent on factors outside our control and that is where the danger lies.They have removed the need for self-sufficiency and the importance of practical skills in many areas of life.
I sincerely hope that there will not be a major cyber war that cripples society, but given the state of the world today, I fear there may be. It is those of us who can add and subtract without calculators, write by hand and figure things out ourselves who will survive and prosper.
Not those with the latest smart phones connected to a world-wide web that no longer works.
How dependent are you on technology? Could you survive without it?
image from dreamstime.com