Boy, am I glad I wasn’t traveling yesterday. Thankfully, I’m in Switzerland this week on business and some vacation time, enjoying the sight of the Alps and eating European cuisine.
From my vantage point across the ocean, however, I have to admit I was alarmed when the New York Stock Exchange went down because of computer failures at the same time United Airlines and the Wall Street Journal website powered down.
For many of us, I’m sure, the NYSE United glitches made us immediately think of cyber terrorism. It couldn’t be a coincidence, could it?
That’s where we are today and I’m still not entirely convinced that it wasn’t some sort of hacking. I’m not the conspiracy type (I believe Oswald worked alone) but it says something about the world that, despite proclamations from NYSE, United and Homeland Security, I’m not totally bought in.
Where does this fear come from?
As a student of human behavior, I’ve been asking myself where does that belief come from? Is it still the aftershocks of 9/11? For my generation, that tragedy demonstrated that we as a nation are vulnerable, just as the attack on Pearl Harbor was for my parents’ generation.
I think that’s part of it, but I think it goes a little deeper. We are now so intertwined with our technology that the thought that it might harm us is frightening.
The fear is like something out of Black Mirror, a UK anthology series (streaming on Netflix) that feeds on the fear that we’re too dependent on technology.
Now, I say this knowing I am a technology freak. I love technology. It has made my life easier, happier and more fulfilling. Really. I do hold a belief that technology can make the world a better place.
Naïve, I know, because, after yesterday, I know how dangerous that belief can be. If it was cyber terrorism, what if the NYSE was still down? Worldwide economies would be destroyed.
What if United was still down? Well, I’d have to stay in Switzerland longer. That just means more fondue for me.