- … should a solar ﬂare happen on the scale of the 1859 Carrington Event now (and there’s a 12 per cent chance of one hitting the Earth before 2022), the eﬀects might have a radically diﬀerent impact on our advanced civilisation. If a CME with the same intensity were to hit the Earth head-on, it could cause catastrophic damage.
- A National Research Council report in 2008 estimated that another Carrington Event could lead to a disruption of US infrastructure that could take between four and 10 years – and trillions of dollars – to recover from. Particularly vulnerable are the massive transformers on which our entire power system relies. Massive ﬂuxes in magnetic energy can easily overload a transformer’s magnetic core, leading to overheating and melting of their copper cores. In the worst-case scenario, a repeat of the Carrington Event would cripple our infrastructure so severely it could lead to an apocalyptic breakdown of society, a threat utterly unknown to our ‘less civilised’ ancestors.
- … the technology that surrounds us is bound to fail, if only because of the fact that it’s made by humans. As Petroski writes: ‘All things, and especially systems in which people interact with things, fail because they are the products of human endeavour, which means that they are naturally, necessarily, and sometimes notoriously ﬂawed.’
- Robots and autopilots might correct for human error, but they cannot compensate for their own designers. Perhaps a brighter technological future lies less in the latest gadgets, and rather in learning to understand ourselves better, particularly our capacity to forget what we’ve already learned. The future of technology is nothing without a long view of the past, and a means to embody history’s mistakes and lessons, as we plough forever forward.
- Sub-title: "We tend to think that technological progress is making us more resilient, but it might be making us more vulnerable."
- For the full text, see Aeon: Dickey - A fault in our design
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- Blue: Text by me; © Theo Todman, 2020
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