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Yama In The Guise Of Software

Discussion in 'Snippets of Life (Non-Fiction)' started by jayasala42, Mar 15, 2019 at 9:35 AM.

  1. jayasala42

    jayasala42 IL Hall of Fame

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    For the past four days news papers are flooded with reports about the crash of an Ethiopian Airlines 737max killing all 157 people.In addition to the loss of lives,which is a separate issue,the world's largest plane maker is towards turbulence, as many of the customers are threatening to cancel the orders or defect to rival airlines.
    For common people like us these are news items.Our worry is the plane in which we,our children, friends and relatives land safe.A big question-do we have to travel by air unless otherwise forced by circumstances.
    157 people recently died in a tragic crash. The crew and passengers of Ethiopian Airline Flight # ET302 on board a brand new Boeing 737 MAX 8 never had a chance.

    While the investigation is in,some information is being leaked out.
    The less than three months old plane had a new software in it. They called it MCAS or Maneuvering Characteristics Augmentations System. MCAS was a system that didn't exist in any of the Boeing 737's before. However, when they built the 737 MAX version, in layman's term, they built the plane with a larger and more efficient engine.
    However, this larger engine, which delivered a further 14% fuel efficiency had to be fitted further forward under the low wings of the 737. This potentially may cause the plane to stall.
    In order to avoid this, Boeing installed the new MCAS software. This software is designed to tell the plane to move its nose down to increase its speed and avoid it from stalling.
    So here comes the problem.
    In the computer world, we have this term called GIGO. Yes. Garbage In, Garbage Out.

    GIGO stands for garbage in, garbage out. It is a computer science and mathematics concept that the quality of the input determines the quality of the output. In other words, in a processing system, the data’s quality coming out cannot be better than what went in.

    Therefore, a program will only yield misleading results if it is working on faulty data.

    In mathematics, for example, if somebody states an equation improperly, the answer will probably be incorrect.

    Computers can only operate on strict logic. Therefore, invalid input may result in ‘garbage’ or unrecognizable output. .

    The problem based on the findings so far is this.
    On the plane there is a sensor called the Alpha Vane which measures the Angle of Attack (AOA) of the plane. It looks like a small little wing, and they have two of it, one on the pilot side, and the other on the co-pilot's.
    The sensor's job is to tell the computer the angle the plane is flying at. And if the AOA of the plane is too high, this will result in the plane stalling. Typically the AOA is below 15 to 20 degrees, and the new MCAS software will push the plane's nose down if it thinks that the AOA is too high.
    Now.
    With this flight the Alpha Vane sensor measuring the AOA on the Captain's side was reported to be faulty.
    On the fateful final flight, the plane took off in the morning.,with the faulty sensor.
    No one knew what was really wrong with the plane, or about the new MCAS software. No one. Not the maintenance folks, and in fact not even the pilot. He apparently wasn't trained on it yet.
    So they flew the plane.
    And once in the air, the faulty sensor told the computer that the plane is stalling. The computer then, without the pilot ever knowing pushed the nose of the plane down further, while the pilot was trying to raise the plane.
    In this battle between the pilot and the computer, the computer won. And the pilot, the crew, and the passengers lost and they died. The plane was too low, and the pilot didn't have enough air to raise the plane and fly it.
    The computer literally flew the plane into the ocean.
    A few days later, Boeing issued an update on the plane, and informed that should the plane have an issue with it's AOA sensors, one of the way to stop the computer was to switch it off!
    Apparently 200 lives could have been saved, had the pilot known about the software, and flipped a switch to turn it off.
    A switch!
    A single simple switch was the difference between life and death!
    Lack of knowledge about the switch, switched off their life and switched them on to the other world.
    I am reminded of a story very often told in our school days about the Nature's Will.
    Lord Yama came to this world to attend a wedding.In a corner of the door he saw a rat and got amazed,"Are you here?" asked Yama and went inside.
    The rat became worried."Perhaps Yama has come to take my life.It is time I get out from here.".The fear of death overpowered the rat and it started crying.
    Right in the time, an eagle came there.He promised to support the rat.
    The eagle carried away the rat far from the eyes of Yama and kept it in a hole behind a rock in a nearby mountain.The rat profusely thanked the eagle.
    Eagle came again to the wedding hall.Yama was coming out and searched for the rat behind the door.The eagle told Yama with pride,"you cannot find him here.I saved him by carrying him and kept him hidden behind a rock.".
    Yama heaved a sigh of relief.The rat is destined to be a killed by a jungle cat behind a rock today. Actually I was surprised to see the rat here.Thank you Eagle for helping me to accomplish my duty as per destiny.By this time rat would have been killed by the cat..
    Now in the present instance,for the destiny's help ,came the software Programme.The programme relied on sensor.Sensor got damaged sending wrong information..At last the lifeless computer had taken the lives of so many people unintentionally.
    Is it Destiny?Do we have to think many times before booking our tickets by flight?What do
    we know about the implications of the software, when even the pilot is not aware of it?Is it not the duty of administrators/technical squad to convey about the installation of any important programme involving automatic instructions?
    Is the omission so simple to be pardonable?The only way for the relatives of the dead seems to reconcile about the supremacy of Destiny.
    When miracles happen in our favour, some unknown person seems to stand by our side.Similarly, when nature thinks otherwise,even inanimate objects or concepts do help the Destiny to accomplish its role.
    Jayasala42
     
    Indhradhanu, Amulet, Mistt and 9 others like this.
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  2. Anusha2917

    Anusha2917 Platinum IL'ite

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    An interesting read. While I don't have much inputs/comments at this point of time the article is very insightful.
     
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  3. Vedhavalli

    Vedhavalli Gold IL'ite

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    The Testing wasn't done properly. Apparently no test runs conducted until it gave fruit ful results.
    Now a days we are compromising quality for lustre comforts. Forgetting old tried routes ending up with nothing later
     
    Thyagarajan likes this.
  4. Gauri03

    Gauri03 Moderator Staff Member IL Hall of Fame

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    The story of the rat reminded me of W. Somerset Maugham's retelling of an ancient Mesopotamian parable called 'Appointment in Samarra'. (Death is the speaker)

    There was a merchant in Bagdad who sent his servant to market to buy provisions and in a little while the servant came back, white and trembling, and said ‘Master, just now when I was in the market-place I was jostled by a woman in the crowd and when I turned I saw it was Death that jostled me. She looked at me and made a threatening gesture; now, lend me your horse, and I will ride away from this city and avoid my fate. I will go to Samarra and there Death will not find me.’ The merchant lent him his horse, and the servant mounted it, and he dug his spurs in its flanks and as fast as the horse could gallop he went. Then the merchant went down to the market-place and he saw Death standing in the crowd and he went to Death and said, ‘Why did you make a threatening gesture to my servant when you saw him this morning?’ ‘That was not a threatening gesture,’ Death said, ‘It was only a start of surprise. I was astonished to see him in Baghdad, for I had an appointment with him tonight in Samarra.’

    Sadly in this case both Yamaraj and the computers controlling those planes are blameless. The blame lies squarely on the shoulders of the revolving door relationship between FAA and the American Aviation industry. The FAA designates the employees of aircraft manufacturers, in this case, Boeing's employees to do the airworthiness and repair certifications. Is it any surprise that commercial interests take precedence over safety? It's a case of the fox guarding the chicken coop. And now it has cost 346 innocent people their lives. Boeing made a bad design decision with the MCAS and made the problem worse by not updating the flight manuals and not emphasizing pilot retraining. Since the Lion Air crash instead of preventing further accidents, both Boeing and the FAA have tried to frame this as the incompetence of third world pilots. It is wishful thinking I know but I do hope the families of the dead sue the pants off Boeing.
     
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  5. GeetaKashyap

    GeetaKashyap IL Hall of Fame

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    @jayasala42 mam,

    Quite a comprehensive article about technology and mythology. The loss of life is so sad be it on a high profile flight or the low profile crumbling bridges! As a non-technical person I can only admire or fear technology from a distance. Perhaps everything is determined by destiny as the book by Priya Kumar explains in "I Will Go With You: The Flight of a Lifetime".
     
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  6. Afresh

    Afresh Silver IL'ite

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    Dear @jayasala42 Mam,

    This is a very tragic happening, which as you rightly pointed out could have been avoided with the right training. You have given a very exhaustively researched overview of the catastrophic incident.
    Here to pin point the fault is very difficult, the entire aviation system and the carrier is at fault. Had the pilot, been given proper training, this accident might have been averted.

    Given, the rapid advancements with which we as a race have decided to give in to technology , such incidents are bound to happen. The monitoring of such extra sensitive situations, though regulated by many regulators, in the end is only a puppet of a few , almost monopolising companies or giants. Here we are talking about a plane full of people, but there is no saying for other everyday item, eg cars or even microwaves at home which we buy with their latest upgraded features, can malfunction.

    Just recently, in Delhi, a car caught fire in the middle of a busy road, in which a family of five were travelling. Three persons which included the mother and her two daughters aged 5 and 3 were engulfed and claimed in the fire.

    I often wonder, if we lose trust in these machines, then how would the world function? We, in this world ,cannot avoid coming in contact with these ‘boons’ of the human race, as given the global world we live in today, it just will be impossible to survive . People have to travel , not only for vacations, but for their daily bread.

    As summarised, should we blame destiny or its tools? I love the last line and completely submit to it Mam;
    yet it is frustrating ,especially , for the ones who lost their loved ones to this software.
     
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  7. jayasala42

    jayasala42 IL Hall of Fame

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    Thank you Anusha.
    jayasala 42
     
  8. jayasala42

    jayasala42 IL Hall of Fame

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    Dear Vedhavalli,
    you are correct.Human life has become so cheap.Neither the manufacturers nor the technicians do bother about the safety.After the incident/accident some condolence messages here and there, some talks about monetary compensation;the matter ends.

    Jayasala 42
     
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  9. jayasala42

    jayasala42 IL Hall of Fame

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    Dear Madam Gowri,
    You have beautifully analysed the real causes giving priority to business and not to valuable huamn lives, inter alia narrating a beautiful story associated with Baghdad.We have so many mythological and panchatantra stories emphasizing the force of Destiny. But the poor families who might have lost the bread winner cannot get reconciled to such reasonings.Is high time that some severe steps are taken to avoid further terrific events.

    jayasala 42
     
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  10. jayasala42

    jayasala42 IL Hall of Fame

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    Dear Geetha,
    Thank you very much .The business community or political leaders do not seem to have learnt any lesson out of the happenings.Soon on happening of any such accident, blame game starts which may not solve the issue.
    Jayasala 42
     
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