Juris Lorencs: There is no way back. You will only have to learn to live with new threats


Juris Lorencs

Juris Lorencs

Photo: Ieva Leiniša / LETA

One good news during the Covid-19 pandemic – the stray unmanned aircraft or drone of SIA “UAVFactory” ran out of fuel! Its maximum flight time was 90 hours. Airspace restrictions lifted!

In fact, this event did not receive much attention, because Riga Airport is not busy at the moment – and that would be a gentle saying. But now let’s imagine for a moment that the drone would have escaped, say, half a year ago. 90 hours – that’s almost four days.

Last year, the airport served 7.8 million passengers. So 21,000 in one day. In four days – 84 000. Inconvenience to people, huge losses to airlines and the airport. I dare say that then we would not have counted the number of Covid-19-infected people, but the number of hours left until the drones were depleted.

And what if the drone were running on solar panels? Should we really wait years for battery life to end? Theoretically, such soap can be boiled by one person. And it is too late to judge who is to blame – a technical failure, irresponsibility or unfortunate coincidence.

Something similar happened at the end of last year in the Chinese city of Wuhan. Only the virus escaped, not the drone. And conventional planes were the ones that quickly carried the new disease around the world.

But the essence of the problem does not change. We have built a globalized, interconnected world that is efficient, convenient and powerful, but also very vulnerable. And sometimes one accidentally overturned domino is enough to start collapsing the whole carefully constructed structure.

The drone stops air traffic in Riga, the virus – all over the world. What awaits us in the future? Today, we learn that scientists had warned of the threat of a new coronavirus pandemic several years ago.

Now we see that they were right. Similar rumors are circulating about the emergence of a potentially dangerous computer virus. One that could almost or momentarily disrupt the operation of communications systems, airports, banks, energy networks around the world. That the appearance of such a computer virus is only a matter of time.

But this has not always been the case. A person knows computer viruses well for thirty years. If an epidemic of typhoid, cholera or a new coronavirus had started in an Asian city at the beginning of the last century, Europe would probably not have noticed it at all.

From time to time, the Latvian police receive anonymous threats for mining the Riga Railway Central Station. Although villains are usually found, this does not stop people from calling and reporting the bomb. Why they do this is within the competence of psychiatrists.

Police officers with dogs arrive at the station, evacuation begins, traffic is suspended for several hours. One phone call has huge consequences.

And now let’s imagine a hypothetical situation – it’s the morning of April 9, 1900. Lenin arrives at the Riga railway station from Pskov by train.

A joker, knowing this, wants to ruin the visit of the great revolutionary, to announce the mining of the station. How can he make these threats public? Write an anonymous letter? Send a note to the station manager? And what is the guarantee that the message will reach the recipient in time? In addition, the bombs were low power at the time, resembling the noise of a firecracker projectile rather than a serious explosion.

The news of the presence of an explosive would hardly be a reason to stop trains and evacuate the station.

One benefit of two months of isolation, however, is. We are given time to stop and think. And it is becoming more and more common to find that people are beginning to remember the “good old days”. Not them a few months ago when the whole world was still open.

Even older – for a slow, leisurely life without a smartphone, mobile internet, social networks and drones.

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An acquaintance expressed an interesting idea – she would be willing to exchange a mobile phone for the opportunity to go to the theater. But we know full well that these are just fantasies that there is no going back.

We will have to live with further globalization, new technologies and even greater interdependence. Unfortunately, also with new threats that even the most daring fantasists cannot imagine today.



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