Events like the attacks in Brussels soften my heart and remind me what's really important.
For the last several years I have visited Brussels about once a year as a host of the Imec research institute in the university town of Leuven, just outside the city. I’ve met dozens of world-class researchers there pushing the boundaries of technology, trying to invent the next big thing in areas from lithography to medical technology.
So when I awoke in my hotel room in Kalamazoo, Michigan this morning and went online, I was moved to see images of an airport I knew well and a subway station I had used.
I’ve stayed at airport hotels there and in the morning jogged past NATO headquarters. I’ve had many great meals and fine local beers in the old city square downtown. I’ve visited the fabulous antique musical instrument museum in the heart of town.
After getting my fill of the news, I sent a few emails to a handful of contacts at Imec I have come to know well over the years, and went on with my day, thinking about what happened.
High tech can provide a partial solution to terrorism. We have seen advanced imaging systems deployed in airports. Behind the scenes, big data analytics and other technologies are trying to uncover and stop plots.
And of course there are the drones. The U.S. continues to use these unmanned bombers at record rates to “kill the killers.” That phrase always reminds me of the saying, “An eye for an eye leaves the world blind.”
I don’t know if there is a technical solution to detecting and preventing people wearing explosive vests from entering an airport or subway station or shopping mall or crowded restaurant. I wonder what the human solution is.
Sometimes I think about parts of the world that live in great poverty and lack good schools and strong businesses. They could use a few technical institutes like an Imec where young people can learn skills that enable them to build something like a wearable heart monitor or better data analytics.
I have seen countries such as Taiwan, Singapore, Malaysia and China seed and grow high tech sectors that raised their standards of living. I wonder if we need more of that in the world.
Technology can touch many aspects of the problems at the heart of terrorism. But we need something more.
Events like the attacks in Brussels soften my heart. They make me wonder how a human being gets so confused and hurt that they strap on a suicide vest. They make me wonder how we can help make sure no one even considers putting one on again.
Today I am busy in Kalamazoo, Michigan helping an elderly aunt transition into assisted living. Aunt Jerry doesn’t know it, but she has pulled me out of the go-go rat race of Silicon Valley briefly to work on something more important than my day-to-day job at EE Times. On days like this, I am especially glad to have such work.
—Rick Merritt, Silicon Valley Bureau Chief, EE Times