Column: Roger's Soapbox

The Future is Now

By: | October 15, 2014

Roger Crombie is a United Kingdom-based columnist for Risk & Insurance®. He can be reached at [email protected].

Whether or not you’re ready for it, the future is now. Old-fashioned ideas are being swept aside. New, often ridiculous, notions are in vogue. If you still think the future is in the future, you’re living in the past.

A few examples: Google is distributing chocolate to Australian farmers by drone. Conveniently, if the farmers turn out to be terrorists, they can be vaporized by the drone post-delivery.

Driverless cars are operating in California and will soon be charging around other countries.

Your company’s data (its most valuable asset) is probably no longer in its possession, much of it now residing in the Cloud.

Doctors are carrying out surgery from the golf course, electronically. Teachers are running classes from their beds.

And these are just the known knowns.

The herd instinct is in full flow. If Google wants us to be passengers in life, then that’s what we want to be.

If Amazon wants to drop our goods somewhere near us, bring it on, we say.
And if Microsoft wants to take control of our data, so much less for us to worry about, we all think.

Well, not all of us. One of us sees catastrophe in the making wherever the future presents itself.

Here’s the thing: If we don’t understand the risks we are taking, how can insurance companies offer protection against them?

I surely cannot be required to point out the futility of abandoning one’s data to Microsoft, which famously releases unfinished programs, so as to learn what’s wrong with them from experience — your experience.

All these modern ideas rely critically on one thing: uninterrupted broadband service. If you’ve ever used a computer — and I’m reliably informed that many of our readers have — you know that consistent broadband service is elusive.

I have Britain’s most expensive broadband service. It drops out constantly.
Only about half of my Amazon deliveries, made by humans, arrive, and I live in a conspicuous building near the center of town. Drone service is not available for apartment dwellers.

My commercial life depends on Microsoft Word, yet I haven’t a clue how to change the default settings.

I’m no Luddite, but with many of our countries at war with soldiers of the past, in the Middle East and elsewhere, it cannot be long before a terrorist attack on a satellite or a server brings down the banking system.

You think that unlikely? The demand for naked photos of Jennifer Lawrence broke the Internet in New Zealand. Plumb broke it.

Here’s the thing: If we don’t understand the risks we are taking, how can insurance companies offer protection against them?  Astro Teller (honestly), director of the Google lab that makes drones, said, “… if the right thing could find anybody just in the moment that they need it, the world might be a radically better place.”

Really. He said that.

Jonathan Ledgard, who is heading up a project on cargo drones for Africa, said,

“[In the future,] a community will have access to a flying robot even though it will not have access to clean water, or security, or be able to keep its girls in school.”

Meanwhile, people starve and wars are fought. The future doesn’t care about that.
And now I must return to chiselling next month’s column on a rock.

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