Showing posts with label Accidents. Show all posts
Showing posts with label Accidents. Show all posts

February 11, 2018

They Really Think They Deserve It

Sometimes I come across people with enormous wealth and power. 

Many wield it like they own it and deserve it. 

I wonder sometimes with billions of other people in the world without adequate food, water, plumbing, medicine, or a solid roof over the heads, how the mighty can think they are above it all. 

Do they look around--do they see anyone else but themselves?

They seem drunk with themselves and what they have--and very overconfident.

Worshipping self and all the honor and materialistic success--they forget where it comes from and what they are supposed to be doing with it to help others. 

Yet, G-d and His angels can strike in but a split second. 

Those that are high and mighty can be brought low and those that are in the depths of despair can be uplifted. 

But at the will of G-d Almighty.

At the top, people may erroneously think and come to believe that they are smarter or more deserving--and so what's theirs is theirs for the taking and keeping. 

They think "To hell" with everyone else--they are the little people. 

Perhaps, they even come to enjoy squashing them underfoot.

They really believe and savor the power and even think it's forever. 

Yet the wheel of life turns and often abruptly--illness, accidents, misfortune...it comes seemingly from nowhere when G-d breaths justice. 

How silly of the powerful and wealthy to think they are the untouchable and the forever mighty. 

G-d sees the good and the bad in the people--and ultimately, there is no escape from the King of Kings. 

Wealth and power are earthly and fleeting, but the will of G-d is all that endures. 

(Source Photo: Andy Blumenthal)
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January 6, 2018

Two Lightning Strikes

One week apart, two freak accidents, both families nearly wiped out. 

Both touched me. 

Exactly one week ago, I learned and wished condolences to the man in synagogue who lost his wife, youngest son, and mother-in-law in the Mexico tourist bus accident. 

Today--7 days later, a neighbor comes up to me and tells me she's going to the funeral for her daughter, son-in-law and three children killed in the Costa Rica plane crash this week, and I wished her that G-d have mercy. 

Like two lightning strikes--not a coincidence (I don't believe in that).

I believe more that it is a warning, and it is really frightening.

I pray that G-d should have mercy on all of us. 
Please G-d, Save Us. 
Please G-d, Save Us. 
Please G-d, Help Us To Succeed. 
Please G-d, Help Us To Succeed. 
Life truly hangs by a thin thread.

The time period between my meeting the man and women from these two families--7 days--represents both life and death--it is both the number of days of "Sheva Brachot" (days of celebration for a bride and groom) and the number of says of "Shiva: (mourning when someone dies)

We need to be committed to doing good in this world and in His name.

-- Repentance, charity, and prayer.

All of us must do our best to serve G-d and always do right with integrity.

G-d should defeat evil, and He should have mercy on his faithful children, so that He turns mourning into celebration and blessings. ;-)

(Source Photo: here with attribution to kristendawn, and interesting that it is from Costa Rica)
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August 21, 2017

Navy Under Attack?

So there was another collision of a U.S. Navy Destroyer.

The Navy destroyer collided early today with an oil tanker off of Singapore. 

10 sailors are missing and there is significant hull damage. 

This is the 4th known accident just this year of our Navy vessels in Asia waters.

And previously I wrote incredulously about the last Navy collision with a massive container ship in June that resulted in 7 dead. 

How do U.S. Navy ships with the most advanced sensors, navigation, weapons, and command and controls systems in the world--that are supposed to be protecting us--just simply collide with other ships like toys in a bathtub?

These Navy ships are a vital projection of U.S. might, and are supposed to be able to keep the worst foes away and keep our dedicated men and women warfighters safe at sea--whether from bomb-laden terrorist attack speed boats to anti-access/area denial missiles and all threats from on, above, or below. 

Yet, they just keep crashing...

There was supposedly some buzz online about a stealthy new cyber weapon that is attacking our ships and making them useless and helpless pieces of (G-d forbid) floating junk at sea or perhaps enabling them to be hacked and electronically commandeered and controlled in order to crash them.

Either way, how many collisions does it take for this to become a concerning problem with our Navy's ability to manage the ships under their command and be ever war-ready. 

Our ships are a major element of our national strength and security, and loss of control implies a potentially great risk to our nation. 

We need our Navy and their tremendous people, assets, and expertise to safeguard our people, freedom, and democracy.

A few months ago, there was a hackathon to test the Navy's systems' security--and most certainly, this is a crucial type of test that we potentially face every day in real life.

These are challenging times for everything cybersecurity, so let's make sure we have all the capabilities we need and are fully up to the task to defend ourselves and take out our enemies--it's not just our Navy in the spotlight and at risk. ;-) 

(Source Photo: With attribution to CNN and adapted from here)
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May 29, 2017

Things Still Happen

So I know that I'm stating the obvious, but still I can’t help but reflect…

No matter how successful people are, things—bad things—still unfortunately happen.

This weekend, I read about how tragedy struck Uber's founder and CEO—of a $70 billion company--and he lost his mother in a freak boating accident. 

A few years back, Facebook’s, powerful Chief Operating Officer and billionaire lost her husband on a treadmill in a hotel.

Other famous people, like superstar icon, Michael Jackson, died at a young age from an overdose. 

Life events can G-d forbid overtake us suddenly and with devastating impact. 

It’s scary, and it just never seems to end (B’AH).

No matter who you are or how rich and powerful, G-d is the most powerful.

While we can control only what we can control, there is no escape from ultimate fate that awaits when it is so decreed by the One Above—it should all be in His ever-bounding mercy. ;-)

(Source Photo: Andy Blumenthal)
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January 8, 2017

Robotics Help The Paralyzed Stand And Regain Mobility


Some of the best work being done in robots to help disabled people is from Dr. Amit Goffer of the Technion University in Israel. 

ReWalk is a robotic battery-powered exoskeleton with motorized legs and hips that enable paraplegics to walk, turn, and even climb and descend stairs again--and is FDA cleared as of 2014. 

And UPnRIDE is a wheeled auto-balancing robotic device that enables quadriplegics to stand and be mobile. 

The inventor, Dr. Goffer, is himself paralyzed from the waist down due to an accident 20-years ago.

This has inspired him to create these absolutely amazing robotic devices to assist all disabled people who are wheelchair bound. 

Approximately 1% of the people are wheelchair bound that's 70 million

And surely, many more especially in the developing world need wheelchairs and don't have them.

So these amazing robotic devices have the incredible capacity to help so many people stand and regain their mobility and dignity again. 

These are nothing short of miraculous and a new beginning for so many people suffering from spinal cord injuries, multiple sclerosis, palsy, strokes and more

Being able to stand again is not only psychology healthy and helpful for mobility, but it may aid in preventing secondary conditions that wheelchair-bound people can suffer, such as osteoporosis, diabetes, heart disease, loss of lean mass and difficulty with bowel and urinary functions.

ReWalk has also received approval for coverage from the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs for those qualifying and with spinal cord injuries. 

Hopefully, this is just the beginning for helping people around the world. Mobility is life! ;-)


(Source Photo: here with attribution to The Times of Israel)
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October 4, 2015

No More Flooding With Permeable Pavement



Very cool solution to flash flooding called Topmix Permeable by Tarmac (a U.K. sustainable building materials company). 

The concrete literally drinks up hundreds of gallons of water. 

Where the heck does all the water go? 

If you're walking, no more soggy shoes and pant's bottoms. 

If your driving, even more important is the potential life-saving element for about 75 people that die in vehicles every year when they try get caught in the vehicles in flash flood conditions. 

Also, many potential accidents, injuries, and deaths could be averted by people whose car's go hydroplaning on wet road surfaces.

Finally, think how transportation would be faster and more efficient (with less traffic) from better road conditions with innovations like this.

With this new material on our roads and some added heat elements to prevent snow and ice, we got some darn good road-safety going on. ;-)
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June 24, 2015

Disability Stories and Resources

Just wanted to share this great site called Disability Blog where people tell about their experiences of being disabled and how they have overcome the odds. 

It is hosted by Department of Labor's Office of Disability Employment Policy.


And it is the official blog of Disability.gov where there is lots of information on "disability programs and services." 


The blog site promotes the "full inclusion of people with disabilities in the workforce and communities nationwide."


Disability Blog posts guest bloggers on various topics and I read some of the recent posts and they were very good, including:


- Disability rights activism

- Small business loans and mentoring support with SCORE for a veteran with disability
- Resources and support from the Amputtee Coalition for a child that was hurt in a lawn mowing accident
- A courageous description of how someone lives with syndactyly (fused fingers).
- Options for workplace accommodations at the Job Accommodation Network

As someone myself who has had two total hip replacements, I encourage people to get their personal stories out there to increase disability awareness, rights, and resources and support to help them.


I used to dream about retiring one day and running along the boardwalk and ocean every morning in Florida, but I know that will not happen for me anymore (so thank G-d for swimming). 


Disabilities can happen to anyone. 


We all need to be sensitive to what it's like to be different and have unique challenges, and to try and help anyone who does.  ;-)


(Source Photo: here with attribution to Abhijit Bhaduri)

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May 5, 2015

Freak Accidents, Illnesses, And Events

Dave Goldberg, the CEO of Survey Monkey (and the husband of Sheryl Sandberg, the COO of Facebook), died suddenly in a freakish accident falling off a treadmill and hitting his head. 

Poof...dead at age 47!

Unfortunately, we hear all the time about these type of tragic occurrences to people.

And of course tragedy knows no bounds--so while sh*t happens everyday to people from all walks of life, we tend to pay more attention when it's someone we know and love or when it's splashed wildly in the news about fabulously successful people we admire and follow. 

- Entertainer, Michael Jackson (50) dead from drug intoxication after suffering cardiac arrest.

- Actor, Robin Williams (63) dead by hanging suicide. 

- Singer, John Lennon (40) shot in the back by someone he had autographed an album for.

- Martial Artist, Bruce Lee (33) died on a movie set from a cerebral edema.

- Model, Marilyn Monroe (33) dead by drug overdose.

- President, John F. Kennedy (46) dead by assassination.

Whether by a plane crash or car accident, drowning or fire, poison or electrocution, a criminal or animal attackterrorism, war, or natural disaster, a heart attack, stroke, or cancer, through suicide, punishment, or mercy killing...regardless of the probabilities and statistics, many people never make it all the way to "a ripe old age." 

We feel bad, shake our heads, say a few words of sympathy perhaps, when we hear of these lives cut short.

But like the TV shows, Six Feet Under (HBO) or 1000 Ways To Die (Spike)--there are a near endless number of horrible ways to go--and they can take you at literally any time.

While we can't stop living and just sit around worrying all the time about all the bad things that can happen, we do need to remember that anything can happen at any time (and these things are not so freakish after all)--no one is beyond the Angel of Death, no one should be arrogant, and we should make the most of every single moment that G-d lovingly grants to us.  ;-)

(Source Photo: here with attribution to Military Health)
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November 27, 2014

Drones Neighbor Against Neighbor

Fascinating perspective in the New York Times today on the future diabolical use of drones.

Yes, drones can be used for defense, law enforcement, search and rescue, neighborhood watch, agriculture, and even Amazon or Pizza Hut deliveries. 

But what about the darker side of drones--used neighbor against neighbor, where anyone can buy a fairly sophisticated drone for merely hundreds of dollars and use it against others in the community.

- Want to use the (surveillance) camera to spy on your neighbor?

- Want to use its claws to pick up and steal something?

- Want to airlift and plant evidence or contraband and frame someone unjustly?

- Want to distract someone or cause an accident or fatality?

Ok, I am going a lot further than the NYT article...but really what prevents people from doing these things and more?

The article does mention new FAA policies "prohibiting drones from flying [over stadiums] near major sporting events."

But think about a drone in the hands of a terrorist with a dirty bomb or G-d forbid, even a WMD, and the drone swooping into a densely populated area like a stadium or even Times Square...what would prevent this--perhaps, nothing?

Think about it...this is about to become a lot more dangerous world because drones are not just for the good guys anymore, and the bad guys may not care about FAA regulations and penalties. 

(Source Photo: here with attribution to outacontext)
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May 3, 2013

When Desperation Turns Deadly

It was shocking to read that suicide deaths in the U.S. have now surpassed deaths by motor vehicle accidents.

In 2010, there were over 38,000 suicides compared with almost 34,000 motor vehicle deaths (or 14.1 suicides per 100,000 people aged 10 and older versus 10.7 deaths from motor vehicles). 

Motor vehicle deaths have been, thank G-d, declining since 1999, while suicides are unfortunately up by almost a third (31%). 

Suicide for working adults were double other demographics (and highest for those in their 50's), while for teens and the elderly, the rates stayed flat. 

According to the Wall Street Journal (3 May 2012), for middle-age people 35-64, suicide is now the 4th highest cause of death after cancer, heart disease, and unintentional injury (e.g. drowning). 

Suicide prevention efforts that have typically been directed to at-risk teenagers and the elderly are now being looked at for greater focus on middle-aged adults. 

The article points to tough economic times (with the recession of 2007) as a potential factor in the increase. 

I would assume also that the 10 years of war in Iraq and Afghanistan have contributed to the increase as well due to posttraumatic stress disorder. 

Yet, suicide is a very final act of escape for those acutely suffering from economic hardships, the horrors of war, and depression--and we can only imagine how much pain these people must be feeling to do the unthinkable. 

I am familiar with teenagers and adults taking or attempting suicide--some have survived and others have died. 

For those lucky enough to survive, they have the opportunity to rebuild their lives and try again, while those who didn't make it, their loved ones suffer with the emptiness that was once a loving and caring individual, part of their lives. 

I was taught in Yeshiva that suicide is a very grave sin and people don't have the right to take the life that G-d granted them, but in my mind, those who suffer so as to attempt or commit suicide are probably not in a state of mind or in full control of themselves to be fully responsible. 

It is worth thinking about that if 38,000 actually commit suicide a year, how many more attempt it, contemplate it often, or otherwise consider it occasionally. 

People need help coping. I remember learning in English class in college that "all men live lives of quiet desperation," and I wonder how many are out there suffering inside--at times desperate, but usually putting a smile on their faces. 

We need to look beyond the surface of what people are going through, have empathy, have mercy, and give plentifully of your time, and kindness to all--you may just be saving a desperate life from taking that one last and unforgiving step. 

(Source Photo: Andy Blumenthal)


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March 8, 2013

From Wheelchair to Walking


Berkeley Bionics (now Ekso Bionics) has done miracles here in helping the disabled to walk again. 

Based on the Human Universal Load Carrier (HULC) from Lockheed Martin that was developed for the warfighter to carry 200 pounds of weight at 10 mph, Berkeley has adapted this technology for medical rehabilitation. 

I first watched this eLEGS technology on a National Geographic special called "Make Me Superhuman."

This woman literally walks for the first time in18 years after a skiing accident, and I was literally crying for her. 

She wobbled and would've fallen if not for the safety harness, but after a few times retraining her muscles to walk again, she was able to take steps and turn using the eLEGS exoskeleton technology.

Over and over again, she says how grateful she is to be able to stand, be normal height, walk again, and get out of her wheelchair.

This technology can really bring hope to the disabled, especially as it gets refined, more compact, and cheaper.

The vision is that paralyzed people will one day get up in the morning, put on the eLEGS, get in the car, and then walk around all day just like you and I.

Oh, what a great day that will be. ;-)

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December 11, 2012

Escaping From A Submerged Vehicle Gets Easier


Of all things, here's an innovation to the seat belt. 

In the movies, we've all seen cars plunging into the water and submerging with people trapped inside. 

Wired Magazine (11 December 2012) reported on a new escape belt that helps people get out of the vehicles and to safety. 

According to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administation, almost 400 people die a year from car accidents that result in accidental drowning. 

Now Dutch company, Fijen TMLS has developed a seat-belt that releases when water goes in the interior and dissolves a salt pill in the latch. 

The mechanism costs as little as $40 and according to the company's website can "be assembled on all seatbelt releasers in just a few simple steps."

From the pictures of the assembly instructions, I am not sure it is quite so easy. 

Also, it is unclear how long the device is good for, since on one hand, their website states that the "Escape Belt lasts 6 months" and on other hand that "the cartridge will need to replaced after 2 years."

In any case, I think the idea is a good one as long as the belt remains secure when not submerged and will not release accidentally with any simple spill or splash. ;-)

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September 23, 2012

The Dumbest Parent, No Really

So we took our daughter out to shoot some arrows.


She was really good, shooting off one after another and hitting the bullseye way down field.

Of course, when I gave it a try, I couldn't even hit the side of a barn.
Next to us, at the range, where two girls and their mother.

The girls were jumping around with their bows, grabbing the arrows, and popping off shots at a target set at a distance appropriate for their age.

What comes next is the dumbest and most irresponsible parent I've seen for some time.

The mother yells out to the girls--"Hey, I'd like to take a picture of you guys!"

Then she goes over to them and pulls them off the range and faces them at each other about a foot apart--with their bows and arrows pointed at each other!

The girls not understanding the danger they are in and playing around as kids do--pull the strings on the bows back to pose for the shot--literally, and with the mother egging them on. 

I am feeling like I am watching a horrible accident about to unfold in front of my eyes.

I say politely, but with obvious fear and concern, "Stop!--the girls are pointing the arrows at each other--that's dangerous!"

But the mother, puts her finger up as if to hush me, and says emphatically that she just wants to take a picture and "it's so cute."

I am watching what appears to be the younger of the girls--the one on the right--start dancing around with the bow and arrow, pulling back and pointing right at the other girl--who in turn mimics her and does the same back.

At this point my wife joins me, and we are not sure how to stop this or whether its time to take cover, while the mother continues to ignore any semblance of safety and refuses to pull back from her cherished photo op of the children.

This mother was not just dumb, but completely irresponsible--for the safety of her kids and everyone else around on the court.

When the "photo shoot" was over--and the kids let the strings go and ran back to the range, we sighed a sigh of relief that nothing worse had happened.

A number of days later, I found myself doing some strategic planning and using the Force Field Analysis tool.

In the Force Field Analysis, we try to identify and examine the driving and limiting forces for and against change, and more importantly the actions we can take for influencing each force. 

Usually, we view the forces for change as something positive, and the limiting forces as a hinderance, blocking our goal achievement. But the more I thought about it, the more I realized that while change can be positive when undertaken for the right reasons, there are times when restraint is necessary as well. 

For example, in applying this to the situation at the archery range--the parent is hell-bent on taking the photo no matter the forces for restraint to prevent a serious accident happening to her kids or to others around them. In this case, some parental restraint would have been appropriate. From an influencing perspective, probably some much better supervision at the range would have been in order. 

To me, it was interesting to think about it in this context and contemplate how to tip the forces for change or restraint to where they need to be depending on the situation--whether it is a good goal and a good time to pursue it, or not. 

Also, it is worth noting how challenging it can be to influence driving and restraining forces, especially when dealing with ignorance, foolhardiness, or people who may just refuse to listen to reason.

As leaders, the Force Field Analysis can be a useful framework not just for planning, but for trying to understand our environment and how best we can shape the events around us--no matter how quickly or dangerously they may unfold.

(Source Photo: Andy Blumenthal)

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August 17, 2012

Realizing Bubble Boy

Cool innovation out of Sweden, as an alternative to regular bike helmets, there is now the Hovding

An "invisible" nylon air bag helmet that is worn stylishly around the neck and inflates only when the it detects a pending accident.

The wearable device has a rechargeable accelerometer and gyroscope for sensing accidents, and it can inflate with helium in just a tenth of a second. 

It also has a "black box" that records that last 10 seconds of the accident, so that investigators can analyze what happened.

The helmet shell for around the neck comes in a variety of styles and colors, and it costs between $450 and $600 dollars, but  is not usable after a single inflatable event. 

While many people don't want to wear crash helmets because they are either unattractive or uncomfortable, this new inflatable helmet provides style and comfort, and most importantly head protection. 

The developers see other potential uses for skiing, horseback riding, epileptics, and the elderly.

I wonder about future applications for even more extreme sports and activities like motocycle riding, sky diving, and even race-car driving--people could do the things they enjoy, more naturally, without the clunky helmet, but still have the protection they need.

Also, I believe that the inflatable helmet has potential to be expanded into a more complete body guard package--like an invisible protective shield ready and waiting to be deployed all around a person in case of an accident, attack, or other disaster scenario. 

Like the idea of Bubble Boy, who lives in a sterilized dome to protect him because of a compromised immune system, people of all types may one day be able to have a protective bubble that keeps them out of harm's way. 

Technology, such as the smartphone, is moving from mobile to wearable, and high-tech helmets too have the potential for a big lift--stay tuned for yours. ;-)

(Source Photo: here with attribution to Geoffery Kehrig)

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March 23, 2012

Helping The Disabled Get Their Groove Back


I love this evolving technology using bionics to help the paralyzed stand and walk again. 

This technology for exoskeleton suits with motors, sensors, and external power supplies was first developed for the military to run farther, lift more, and so on. 

However, the application has been expanded to those who have had strokes, accidents, or otherwise have lost use of their limbs and movement.

Additionally, there is potential for industrial workers to use these robotic suits to do their work with less effort and more impact by augmenting their movement with hydraulic and battery power. 

What Exso Bionics seems to have really gotten right is that the suit looks almost perfectly sculpted for a human body, appears to go on the person with relative ease, and helps the person move in a balanced and controlled fashion. 

While these suits are still pricey and according to Fast Company (April 2002) cost approximately $130,000, Exso is looking get the rates down to between $50,000 and $75,000 retail. 

Further, the article notes that other companies are building competing devices, such as Argo Medical of Israel that offers the ability to climb stairs and that activates by gesture without a therapist pressing buttons. Similarly Rex of New Zealand offers a device that is controlled by a simple joystick. 

I think the future for these bionic suits for the military and industrial use will be truly transformative in terms of providing superhuman speed, strength, and stamina to advance our capabilities and increase our productivity.

Moreover, the use of these exoskeletons by people who are elderly, frail, or sick is compelling and provides hope for people to live with greater mobility, self-reliance, and human dignity. 

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December 14, 2011

The Elevator and The Bigger Picture


Some of you may have watched the HBO series called Six Feet Under that ran from about 2000-2005 about a family that owned a funeral home, and every episode opened with a freakish death scene.

In fact, the father who was the funeral director dies an untimely death himself and bequeaths the funeral home to his two sons.

The series, which ran for 63 episodes, evoked a recognition that life is most precious, too short, and can end in both horrible and unpredictable ways.
This week, I was reminded of this in all too many ways:

First, Brett Stephens wrote a beautiful piece in the Wall Street Journal yesterday about the graceful death of his father from a horrible brain tumor. Brett describes in vivid terms the operations, loss of sight, debilitating bouts of chemo and radiation, agonizing shingles, loss of memory, mobility, sight, ability to eat, and more. Brett writes: "cancer is a heist culminating in murder."


Then today, all over the news were reports of of a horrible accident in New York, where a woman was killed in an elevator accident when it shot up while she was still only about half way on and she was crushed between the elevator and the shaft in a 25 story office building on Madison Avenue.


Third, I learned from a colleague about a wonderful gentlemen, who served his country in the armed forces and was an athlete in incredible shape, when one day in the gym, he suffered a massive heart, which deprived of oxygen for too long, and he was left horribly crippled for life.


Unfortunately, similar to Six feet Under, in real life, there are countless of stories of life's fortunes and misfortunes, death and the aftermath (adapted from the show's synopsis--I really liked how this was said). Yet, in the end, we are left with the completely heart wrenching feeling of how it is to be without and sorely miss the people we love so dearly.


In the Talmud, I remember learning this saying that to the Angel of Death it does not whether his intended is here or there--when a person's time is up, death shows up and no matter how peaceful or painful, it is never convenient and always deeply traumatic in so many ways.


For one the elevator opens and closes normally and brings a person to their destination floor, and to another the door may close on them, never at all, or the elevator may shift right beneath their feet.


We can never really be prepared emotionally or otherwise for the devastation brought by accident, illness, and death--and while it is hard to be optimistic sometimes, we can try to maintain faith that The Almighty is guiding the events of our lives, and that he knows what he is doing, even if we cannot always understand the bigger picture.


May G-d have mercy.


(Source Photo: here with attribution to Chris McKenna)

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September 26, 2009

The Doomsday Machine is Real

There is a fascinating article in Wired (Oct. 2009) on a Doomsday Machine called “the Perimeter System” created by the Soviets. If anyone tries to attack them with a debilitating first strike, the doomsday machine will take over and make sure that the adversary is decimated in return.

“Even if the US crippled the USSR with a surprise attack, the Soviets could still hit back. It wouldn’t matter if the US blew up the Kremlin, took out the defense ministry, severed the communications network, and killed everyone with stars on their shoulders. Ground-based sensors would detect that a devastating blow had been struck and a counterattack would be launched.”

The Doomsday machine has supposedly been online since 1985, shortly after President Reagan proposed the Strategic Defense Initiative (SDI or “Star Wars”) in 1983. SDI was to shield the US from nuclear attack with space lasers (missile defense). “Star Wars would nullify the long-standing doctrine of mutually assured destruction.”

The logic of the Soviet’s Doomsday Machine was “you either launch first or convince the enemy that you can strike back even if you’re dead.”

The Soviet’s system “is designed to lie dormant until switched on by a high official in a crisis. Then it would begin monitoring a network of seismic, radiation, and air pressure sensors for signs of nuclear explosion.”

Perimeter had checks and balances to hopefully prevent a mistaken launch. There were four if/then propositions that had to be meet before a launch.

Is it turned on?

Yes then…

Had a nuclear weapon hit Soviet soil?

Yes, then…

Was there still communications links to the Soviet General Staff?

No, then launch authority is transfered to whoever is left in protected bunkers

Will they press the button?

Yes, then devastating nuclear retaliation!

The Perimeter System is the realization of the long-dreaded reality of machines taking over war.

The US never implemented this type of system for fear of “accidents and the one mistake that could end it all.”

“Instead, airborne American crews with the capacity and authority to launch retaliatory strikes were kept aloft throughout the Cold War.” This system relied more on people than on autonomous decision-making by machines.

To me, the Doomsday Machine brings the question of automation and computerization to the ultimate precipice of how far we are willing to go with technology. How much confidence do we have in computers to do what they are supposed to do, and also how much confidence do we have in people to program the computers correctly and with enough failsafe abilities not to make a mistake?

On one hand, automating decision-making can help prevent errors, such as a mistaken retaliatory missile launch to nothing more than a flock of geese or malfunctioning radar. On the other hand, with the Soviet’s Perimeter System, once activated, it put the entire launch sequence in the hands of a machine, up until the final push a button by a low-level duty station officer, who has a authority transferred to him/her and who is perhaps misinformed and blinded by fear, anger, and the urge to revenge the motherland in a 15 minute decision cycle—do or die.

The question of faith in technology is not going away. It is only going to get increasingly dire as we continue down the road of computerization, automation, robotics, and artificial intelligence. Are we safer with or without the technology?

There seems to be no going back—the technology genie is out of the bottle.

Further, desperate nations will take desperate measures to protect themselves and companies hungry for profits will continue to innovate and drive further technological advancement, including semi-autonomous and perhaps, even fully autonomous decision-making.

As we continue to advance technologically, we must do so with astute planning, sound governance, thorough quality assurance and testing, and always revisiting the technology ethics of what we are embarking on and where we are headed.

It is up to us to make sure that we take the precautions to foolproof these devices or else we will face the final consequences of our technological prowess.


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