Obviously one of these things is worse than the others, but they all have one thing in common – they were brought down because the technology behind them was “broken”. None of us should be surprised.
I’m not blaming the people responsible for keeping a well-oiled machine running well. I’m sure it’s a tough and almost thankless job working behind the scenes to make sure all the band aids are working and none of the critical issues are failing. But we have to recognize that most of the time, technology is like a giant tower of blocks that only takes one wrong step.
You have been through this firsthand as I have. Internet service providers go out of business. Telephone carrier outage. Instagram and every other service that many people use and enjoy can fail at random and is always prone to random outages. Usually, they are fixed quickly.usually (opens in a new tab).
We hate being inconvenienced by all this. When WhatsApp or Twitter go down, tech sites like Android Central are flooded with problem reports so we can get the word out, so I know how annoying people are when a software or service they want to use stops working , even a little bit.
Many of us — and I often feel guilty here too — forget how complicated even the simplest things can be. We’re about to record our weekly podcast. It’s down to four different services running on our personal computers and one cloud-based communication service that works as expected. These services must also function properly when they need to be edited. Finally, the service you use to listen to it and the way you access the internet need to work. One bug in the system means everything grinds to a halt.
If something as simple as recording an hour-long podcast can rely on so much technology, imagine what it takes to keep the airline industry running. The system that powers the front end so you can get on the flight, the way to track the location of the plane so the right plane is in the right place at the right time, the technology to track passenger luggage, and more needs to all work flawlessly.
All of this, and the critical technology that keeps planes in the air and passengers safe — depends on servers, software and people. When a piece of this technical puzzle is missing, everything has to stop until it is “fixed”. Redundancy, you have a backup of your running critical infrastructure in case something goes down, that helps and is in place, but sometimes that’s not enough and you’re on the ground for 12 hours on a flight, or people Getting stuck on a train because the train was on another track being broken, or even broken APIs would kill third-party Twitter clients at the same time.
Blaming someone is easy, and often fun. FAA system down? Mayor Pete did. Are all Twitter clients broken? Elon must have fired someone again. Is Instagram having an outage? Robot Zuckerberg needs to be unplugged and plugged back in. In reality, though, that’s not how it works.
Yes, Secretary Buttigieg could have tried to sabotage the airline industry, but we all know he didn’t. Musk has found creative ways to save Twitter money, so he may be killing third-party access. It’s possible, but very unlikely. Zuckerberg might need to reboot every now and then so the kill-all-everyone mode doesn’t activate, but that’s not how you fix Instagram.
We are seeing it for what it really is. If it seems to be getting worse, it’s because we use more services that rely on complex technology, and every error is magnified to n degrees by technical websites and users.
Your cable keeps losing power. Your carrier has been down. Twitter has always had a big blue whale. The FAA has grounded planes before due to technical issues. It’s going to keep happening, and the one thing technology can’t fix is preventing it from breaking down and requiring a reboot, repair, or replacement.
This isn’t really a problem, and there are systems in place to keep it that way. Whether these are the security policies we’re seeing at the FAA, or server redundancy so that WhatsApp can get back up and running as quickly as possible, the people building the 21st century know that the house of cards can fall and plan for it.but it sucks when it happens sometime you I want to play with my phone or do something productive.
I’m sure the way to fix technology when it fails is part of the move to implement it in the first place. If not, ChatGPT can tell us how to fix it, I bet.