Information-less in the Age of Information

Here is the plot – the storyline – the elevator pitch for Hollywood:

Forty minutes or so into a regularly scheduled flight…on a highly traveled route…a state-of-the-art Boeing 777 with 12 crew members and 227 passengers disappears…completely. No one knows how; no one knows where…. Mystery….

There is no radar trail, no satellite track, no last-minute texts or calls from passengers or crew. There is no distress signal, no hint of threats. There are no terrorists claiming credit. No smoking guns…. Mystery….

Every day the search area changes as “new” evidence is uncovered…swinging the arc of the search crazily from side to side…up and down…ocean to ocean…. Mystery….

Many countries join in the search…deploying state-of-the-art technology…yet nothing…nothing at all…and soon the black box will lose power and then, maybe forever, no one will ever know…. Mystery….

No – this isn’t a sequel to Lost or a new episode of Sherlock or the next season of Homeland.

In fact…if this was a movie – or better – the latest streaming video drama…you would dismiss it on the basis of its total lack of credibility…indeed…in a world where game companies can spot the “whales” and “make” them spend big; in a world where Google knows your every move; where Waze can track you to a street corner anywhere in the world; where Uber can send a car to pick you up at any address across the globe…

In a world where the NSA (and others, I’d imagine) listen in on all your calls and read all your emails, where GPS-based promotional companies send you coupons for the store you are randomly standing in front of, and where privacy is increasingly not private…

In a world where ridiculous valuations are placed on loss-making businesses that claim to know everything about us – where we are and what we do…

In such a world – how could a story about a lost jet be true?


And yet Malaysia Airlines Flight 370 is just that – lost – completely, totally lost…so lost in fact that the search areas for it change almost daily, even with all of the most esoteric, secret high-tech equipment in the world deployed to find it.


You can track me – send me useless and meaningless messages based on tracking me – and yet a new jet plane full of real people just falls off of the grid….

This is not the conspiracy theory memo – read them – very entertaining and no doubt a hit, hot show or two can be teased from some of them.

My point is much simpler – what is clear is that there are a number of factors at work here.

One is the simple notion that airlines have not wanted to add the cost of additional tracking to their budget sheets – despite what would seem to be pretty basic and compelling reasons to do so. I think that most of us were surprised to find this the case…I know I was…how could it be that we track terrorists to a car driving in a crowded market and hit them with drone missiles and we can’t track a big plane…HMMM?

Second seems to be secrecy – I would bet there is more radar/satellite information than is being let on – this is not conspiracy theory…merely conjecture – it actually has been hinted at – but the countries involved don’t want others to know just what they are tracking….

Third and foremost is the human factor – with all the high tech in the world – when the only tracking devices (kind of primitive given what is available) are purposefully turned off – what are you going to do?

And here is where I land – the human factor – because all of the high tech pales in comparison….

In fact, there is a great report on the US Navy P8 Poseidon planes that have joined the search – with such secret high tech that every once in a while they made the reporters onboard sit back – yet the commander of the mission describes the two spotters – humans – looking out the windows as the most important element of the search….

It was the human factor that allowed Edward Snowden to breach the high-tech security of the NSA. It was the human factor that allowed a young man to slip by guards and the high-tech systems of the World Trade Center in New York. It is the human factor at work in Turkey and Ukraine, as it was the human factor that sank the Titanic – state-of-the-art high tech so very long ago.

So where does that leave us?

What do they all have in common?

In my opinion the common factor is a lack of caring – a sense of, is it worth the cost – a feeling of invincibility for some at the expense of others….

And frankly, when we trip over ourselves to justify valuations of Candy Crush and the latest monetization scheme for the newest world changer I am even more mystified at how we don’t demand more for the world from our digital possibility play list.


“Am I my brother’s keeper?” Cain

The answer should be yes – and our action should be to make sure that the lens of accountability, the filter of helping humanity, the imperatives for society must be basic to all that we do.

I like Candy Crush as much as the next whale…use Uber and don’t go around the corner without Waze…but when I look at those poor families asking for nothing more than the basics, and after weeks we can’t help them? I wonder if we aren’t falling back on that age-old Biblical excuse….

What do you think?

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