No Room For The Unknown - Stephanie Renee
Mar 23, 2014

Managing uncertainty in The Information Age

It's been two whole weeks, and still no definitive information about what happened to Malaysian Airline Flight 370. Two weeks of searching, sorrow, and--for the most part--one giant international shrug.

I cannot imagine what the loved ones of those who were aboard that plane are going through. We ever-apathetic Americans have begun to murmur that not only do we not care about this much, but we also don't understand why this continues to be such a big news story. Really? This is much more disturbing when it is uttered by people of color, of course, because (if we're awake and paying even the slightest bit of attention) we are keenly aware that when our children go missing or are gunned down in the street, it barely registers a yawn from most of the global community. I could harp on the human aspects of this story for hours, but my point is actually not about the people power of this tragedy at all.

How do we accept "flying blind" in a society that otherwise lives eyeball-deep in digital resources?

It is 2014, folks. We function in a society that has made the word Google a verb. Warfare is conducted by soldiers with joysticks operating unmanned drones half a world away. The NSA has the ability of reviewing your past 30 days' worth of erased voicemail messages. GPS chips in your car, your cell phone and other mobile devices, and manually implanted under the skin of your children or your pets make just about anyone and anything infinitely discoverable, if you've got the right software. Microscopic technology controlling ginormous innovation. And yet, with all of this access and ability, we have multiple international governments throwing up their hands in ignorance over the location of a 777 jet full of people. How is this feasible?

There are individuals who have pushed the boundaries of modern existence by choosing to live "off the grid." Raising their own food. Generating their own power. When payments to the outside world are necessary, they spend cash instead of credit or debit. Possible, but rare. Extremely rare. The average citizen of the developed world willingly gives up civil liberties and privacy for the privilege of being plugged in to a global network of wires and circuits, providing access to finance, communications and other essential information accessed in nanoseconds. And yet, with all of this connectedness, a plane trasporting nearly 300 people has vanished. Gone. Poof. And their families are left in the purgatory of nothing, wondering whether to grieve, sue or otherwise fight. Submerged in the fog of the unknown.

You can Google it, and still not come up with any concrete answers. And that makes the world feel a lot less secure and accessible than it did 16 days ago. Surely you can understand the fear and pain of that.