When technology takes on a life of its own

November 16, 2014

I had the disconcerting experience today of trying to abort a purchase online by removing the one and only item from the order, only to discover later that an order for the item was posted to my account.  I had not submitted the order.  Perhaps merely clicking on “remove item” had the same effect as “submit order”?  I don’t know.

My credit card company told me to place a temporary hold on my card, since the online vendor has no customer service support on weekends, so it can’t be straightened out at that end, and the request for authorization had not yet been received by the credit card company, so the hold will thwart an attempt to process the “order.”  I can try to clean up the mess tomorrow, when customer service is available at the vendor.

This may be the second vendor I’ve encountered in the past couple of months where it’s easier in the long run to place an order by phone than to use their newly idiosyncratic software online.  And my bank’s automated telephone line refused to recognize my password the other day, for no apparent reason.  I was calling because my monthly statement was missing — which turned out to be a casualty of their machine that produces them being broken for two weeks.

These experiences make me wonder whether hacking incidents have spurred companies to upgrade their software, in a quest for greater security, and not adequately tested the new software before implementing it.  Either that, or business infrastructure is deteriorating — and turning into a zombie some of the time.

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4 Responses to “When technology takes on a life of its own”

  1. Matthew Brooks Says:

    Hmm, yes. The focus on automation has made human interaction increasingly impersonal (and consequently often imprecise), rigid, and, given our increased reliance on it, susceptible/fragile.

    The rigidity is a feature of our culture overall, methinks; what happens when we reach a sort of (local) plateau of growth/development; and people become complacent and careless, increasing their dependence on automation and also making themselves more susceptible to systems failures.

    Reminds me of this;

    http://pipelineandgasjournal.com/hacking-industrial-scada-network

    And this;

    http://www.washingtonpost.com/blogs/capital-weather-gang/wp/2014/07/23/how-a-solar-storm-nearly-destroyed-life-as-we-know-it-two-years-ago/

    And this;

    http://archive.ncsa.illinois.edu/prajlich/forster.html

    Granted, automation (software, the internet, etc.) has enabled us to do more, go further, connect in ways we never could, etc., but it seems like the passage in the Cat in the Hat when the Cat keeps stacking things higher and higher and eventually they all fall.

    On the other hand, catastrophe is just the movement from one state of equilibrium to the next. The entire world and all of humanity could disappear, as such, and it would be but a prelude to our next stage of development/being, like a caterpillar undergoes metamorphosis. In fact, the most advanced single active variable catastrophe is named after the butterfly;

    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Catastrophe_theory#Butterfly_catastrophe

    It could be the internet is a prelude to a more fully integrated consciousness (Teilhard’s noosphere? Kurzweil’s singularity?). How/if humans participate in the process remains to be seen, but one does get the sense we’re on the verge of some great change.

    Or maybe, in the spirit of “necessity is the mother of invention” and synchronicity, we develop the technology right when (before) it’s necessary; like, now we finally can build for ourselves a technologically reinforced Ark to survive an impending nova of the sun or something.

    • Diana Moses Says:

      I think the internet is the man-made analog to consciousness. Whether one can “get there from here,” from online interaction to union, I don’t know. I tend to think it’s like sending the food through the xylem and the water through the phloem (phloem and xylem here standing in for different modes of perception) — that something got reversed and resulted in an aberration, resulting in people looking in the wrong place and through the wrong means for connection. How we resolve that I think is complicated. Of course, there’s always grace. There’s also the possibility that destroying ourselves (that is, our species) through destroying our habitat, will occur and be the step to something else, as if more asteroids and comets had hit earth. I think perhaps we absorbed the energy of such destruction and play it out in our own way. Again, maybe there’s a way to ameliorate the situation. My sense is that the situation with the earth is related to something like Jupiter’s not becoming a star — part of a concatenation of events.

      • Matthew Brooks Says:

        “getting there from here”, well, perhaps, one way or another. I don’t think it will be intentional on our part, if so; rather, the internet is a reflection/manifestation of an incomplete spiritual process at work.

        Incomplete especially because tho we are more connected intellectually, at the same time people seem ever more disconnected emotionally/inter-personally.

        The Tao warns against “knowing too much”; I think a society that over-emphasises self-reflection at the expense of feeling/instinct/intuition loses something essential, tho the primary principle remains even if/when the society does not.

        Re; Jupiter, everything in its right place. The earth (heart) is still the center of the universe as far as I’m concerned. ~faith

      • Diana Moses Says:

        self-reflection I think got conflated with self-awareness — I think we need more of the second and less of the first

        The earth hurts, I think, the way a heart can ache. I am sure the earth appreciates your focus.


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