"He stands in line at the airport, waiting to approach the security gates. The Distributed Arbitrage paperwork is in his hand. As soon as he hits the checkpoint, the alarms goes off. He holds the papers out as three security agents converge on him. “I’m a forecaster with DA?” he says. He doesn’t mean for it to sound like a question, but their mood is patently apparent to him. Heightened concern and a trickle of alarm. He follows them to the room with the metal door and submits to the search.
“Take off your sunglasses, sir.” And he does, wincing at the bright lights. He lifts his shirt when they tell him to, and one of the agents raises his eyebrows at the tracework of scars across his torso. They run a metal detector wand up and down, it predictably emits a piercing tone from his belt to his head. The papers should be enough, but there’s always curiosity to satisfy; everybody wants to see it, to look at his scars and the ports that have to be flushed every three weeks with heparin and the smooth panels where cables can be connected. What they want to see most of all is the soft green glow from the strips of monitor LEDs along his ribs just under the skin that tell him, at a glance, that his system is functioning properly. Everybody wants a look. It’s so mysterious; it’s so enthralling. In this small, enclosed space, their interest is lurid. From the waist up, he’s not entirely human. DA calls it augmentation. Cyborg sounds too kitschy.”
The rise of the hidden systems in modern society that are stopping us changing the world. Systems that keep us trapped in the past and where everything repeats. How we have become haunted by the ghosts of our own past desires and cannot imagine anything that has not existed before.
So, what’s the trade-off here? In general, we are safer (automation makes airline flying safer, in general) except in the long-tail: pilots are losing both tacit knowledge of flying and some of its mechanics. But in general, we, as humans, have less and less understanding of our machines—we are compartmentalized, looking at a tiny corner of a very complex system beyond our individual comprehension. Increasing numbers of our systems—from finance to electricity to cybersecurity to medical systems, are going in this direction. We are losing control and understanding which seems fine—until it’s not. We will certainly, and unfortunately, find out what this really means because sooner or later, one of these systems will fail in a way we don’t understand.