Wednesday, January 21, 2015

Tech Mishaps

Photo: katzarella on Flickr (CC-BY-NC)
Technology is great! It makes our lives easier and more efficient and safer. We can whip out a cell phone to call for emergency help when we break down on the highway, take pictures or video of our cats being adorable and share them with the world, keep up with news as events unfold, and instantly chat with friends and family. Sometimes, technology is not so great…it goes wrong. Very wrong. And stays wrong for longer than you might expect. You may have felt the effects of such a wrong if you visited the library in late December. We had a technology failure with our catalog servers that could not have been predicted and, unfortunately, was not a simple fix. It is a dreaded event for any organization to have key components of the technology they depend on suddenly stop working. Events like that always make me reflect on the technologies we now take for granted in our daily lives—lights, automobiles, and cell phone service among others. (I also start reflecting every time the aging elevator in my condo building breaks down and I have to take the stairs to or from my 12th floor home.)

As a reader of dystopian fiction, techno-thrillers and science fiction, I get glimpses of the very wide range of possibilities that could happen when technology goes wrong and the future it could mean for humanity. It is all great escapist fun…except that much of it seems well within the realm of possibly happening. Try these titles to explore the possibilities:

The Circle by Dave Eggars: a very familiar-seeming global technology company wants to “complete the circle” by having all of humanity hyper-connected via the internet, including not just your typical daily posts on social media but also to the extent of requiring all children to be microchip tagged so parents can better track them and keep them from harm. Politicians elect to wear chest cameras (similar to what some police forces are currently using) to broadcast their daily lives and all meetings in real time with the idea that constituents can hold them responsible for their actions. The main character’s naivet√© and buy-in to this whole scenario is chilling.

Kill Decision by Daniel Suarez: once unleashed, militarized swarms of drones are empowered to make autonomous choices to kill targets. Ant scientist and scholar Linda McKinney is shocked to find out her research is the basis for the drone behavior and fights along with a government black ops team to find a way to stop the technology before the people behind the swarm dominate the world.

Michael Crichton’s Prey: a predatory nanobot swarm escapes the lab and terrorizes the locals.

Robopocalypse by Daniel H. Wilson: artificial intelligence (AI) runs amok and takes control over
machines and devices in a violent rebellion against humans and human control.

Douglas Preston’s The Kraken Project: AI developed to run a deep space exploration capsule escapes into the internet and eventually into a child’s toy to elude capture by her creators.

On the plus side, the library can also help you find ways to cope and survive if any of these disastrous situations ever *do* come to pass.

When Technology Fails by Matthew Stein: covers a wide range of survival skills from building fires to sustainable energy sources.

When All Hell Breaks Loose by Cody Lundin: evaluate your mindset for survival and learn tips for the urban and suburban “jungle.”

How to Survive Anywhere by Christopher Nyerges: information on survival in all types of environments, including urban and suburban areas. Also useful if you just want to get away from modern systems for a few days (i.e., go camping).

Hopefully, my technological dystopian disaster reading suggestions won’t send you into survival mode for real. Maybe next time I should write about warm fuzzy fiction and gentle romances

Tina R.

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