Wednesday, October 15, 2014

Attack of the Flag-Bearing Drone

A drone carrying a flag crashed onto a playing field during a World Cup qualifying match. Chaos ensued — actually, worse than chaos, but I’ll let you look that up elsewhere if you are curious. What fascinates me is the low cost of creating chaos in this incident. A drone costs little, a flag nothing, yet the intrusion was dramatic enough to disrupt the activities of half a million people. It is possible that the drone operator didn’t mean to be so disruptive, but merely went too far and overloaded the drone or steered it ineptly while attempting a political statement. I am only speculating, but the scenario underscores how casually such a large disruption can be created.

With new technology every year there is always new potential for chaos, but social and cultural forces work against the disruptions. It is human nature that we resist being manipulated, and now that we have seen how easily a crowd was manipulated by a flag-bearing drone, the same kind of attack probably will not be nearly so effective the next time someone tries it. Among many other adjustments, game officials will surely be quicker about getting players out of harm’s way when there is a threat from a flying object. It is this kind of adjustment of expectations, more so than counter-technology, that keeps our public lives from descending into chaos with each new technological change.