Like most, I’ve been following the news about the disappearance of Malaysian flight MH370. One of the most common questions people seem to have is how something like this could have happened in our age of technology. Radar, transponders GPS, and multiple forms of satellite imagery are commonplace in our era.
Yet, things like this do happen. In any system, there are usually oversights or vulnerabilities. Most engineers will tell you that failure is one of the most important (if not the most important) part of improving those systems – be it in engineering, technology, innovation or success.
After 9/11, we saw a complete overhaul of not only airline security, but our entire national defense and intelligence programs, because those systems had clearly failed to protect us from a new type of enemy. Politicians waxed poetic with various blame games and arguments, but the truth was that we had an old system built to defend against a different kind of enemy. And, personal civil liberty arguments aside, most would agree that the improvements to our defense and intelligence systems have made these programs stronger than they have ever been.
The same sort of improvements will likely happen with regard to the onboard tracking systems of aircraft. The fact that these could be somewhat easily be disabled in the first place is an amazing failure, and something I expect will soon be near-impossible for anyone to do.
Something else that happens when tragedies like this happen are the inevitable grand conspiracy theories. Here, we have all the ingredients necessary: the sheer amount of technology and information available to us being the first.
The second ingredient is the distrust of authority. The Malaysian government, with a state-run media department that is used to dispersing only government-approved news, has only provided more fuel to the fire. Other countries and systems of government (whether they choose to believe it or not) exist in a larger world – where information is expected to be transparent and available without censorship or government approval, and in a timely (if not instant) fashion. And in this case, the lack of transparency has led to some people, who are understandably eager for answers, to support belief in a grand conspiracy.
In my profession of private investigation, we only care about one thing: proof. As with science, a lack of proof is not considered evidence in support of any theory, much less in a court of law. Yet somehow, in a modern world that is characterized by incredible technology and instant access to information and facts, a lack of proof still seems to somehow constitute “evidence” for many people out there.
The reason for this has to do with something psychologists call selective exposure: All things being equal, most people only entertain the proof and information that coincides with what they already believe.
While the truth is often hard to hear, it’s much harder to accept. I see this every time I have to tell a client that her husband is cheating on her. I supply the client with photographic and video evidence, and it confirms the theory she had when she hired my firm to find out in the first place. While it’s incredibly painful for her in the short term, I sleep well at night because the truth is a liberating thing. Years down the road, when and if I run into these clients again, they are usually divorced (or remarried), stronger, happier and more confident women.
I have no doubt that given enough time, we will find evidence of exactly what happened to flight MH370. Every day, various imaging satellites are identifying more and more possible debris. In the meantime, in the aftermath of the failure of this technology, it’s important to not let our passions get the best of us, and be patient while theories are proved or disproved.
As the whole world is involved in the search for truth, be assured we’re going to find it.