One of my favorite 1950s vintage science-fiction movies is “Forbidden Planet.” Some movie critics considered it the very best outerspace Sci-fi movie until “Star Wars” came along. Its plot captivated the imagination; it has a cult-following to this day.
In that movie, a race of beings (the Krell) created a completely self-sustaining technology that made work completely unnecessary. Unfortunately, the systems were keyed to their minds, and their “ids” unconsciously utilized the self-sustaining system to destroy one another. I don’t think we are in danger of such a fate – at least, not soon.
Computers, the internet, and apps have come a long way. We have put our current technology through a major test during the quarantine, and it has generally served us well. We have come a long way from key-punch computers and dreams of a Dick Tracy mini-videophone.
How many of us order online through our computers? We visit our doctors or distant family via video programs. Students take their classes through e-learning. Executives confer together via Zoom.
Despite the marvels of modern technology, our technology is still vulnerable and sometimes iffy. Let me give you an example. Last week, I planned to teach an online Bible study. I tried to do a live stream from my church office. All of a sudden, my social media platform essentially said, “no dice.” My browser needed an update or I needed to use another browser. The precious Sunday with the same program, all was well! Things somehow changed from Sunday to Wednesday.
So I scurried home and tried to live stream from my home computer, using a different browser. The browser worked but, unfortunately, I have been having trouble with the modem. My server promised to send me a new one three weeks ago. I have yet to receive it because COVID has diminished their personnel while needs have escalated.
My wait reminds me of these lyrics from Meredith Wilson’s “Music Man”: “O-ho the Wells Fargo Wagon is a-comin’ down the street, Oh please let it be for me!”
Anyhow, back to my narrative, I began the live stream, but was quickly cut off. My outdated modem decided to throw one of its unpredictable fits. In desperation, I retrieved my cellphone and switched off the wi-fi option. I would do my live video with my cellphone via a satellite connection. It worked like a charm, and I was able to teach my lesson on the Psalms.
The following Sunday, I was doing a live stream from the church, and we were to interview (via a conference video program) a missionary couple who originally hailed from our church. We had anticipated the interview early in the service, but experienced a clinker in the system. We later discovered that the entire conference video network was down. Fortunately, our service streamed well (we use a different program), but some churches were left high and dry. Ouch.
Not only is our technology sometimes undependable, it is under attack. Consider this news from the BBC:
“At least a dozen supercomputers across Europe have shut down after cyber-attacks tried to take control of them. A pan-European super computing group says they seem to have tried to use the machines to mine cryptocurrency.
“A security exploitation disabled access to the Archer supercomputer, at the University of Edinburgh, on 11 May ...
“’We now believe this to be a major issue across the academic community as several computers have been compromised in the UK and elsewhere in Europe’, the team said.
“... Also on 11 May, another attack shut down five supercomputers in Germany. Others followed elsewhere in Germany in the following days, as well as in Switzerland, and reportedly Barcelona.”
Most of us have a deep appreciation for technology (I do), especially during this quarantine. Nonetheless, given the above, I don’t think we will have to worry about a completely computerized, automated society for quite a while.
Our computers and their systems are generally quite reliable, but not always. Maybe that is not such a bad thing? Remember the Krell.