Computers and Medical Science

CEYLON TODAY | Published: 2:00 AM May 14 2021
Columns Computers and Medical Science

The recent news on BBC and CNN on the hacking of the American Colonial Pipeline that carries various liquid fuels from Western USA to cities such as New York and Atlanta, set me pondering on the question of whether science has gone too far for mankind’s good. To sort this out, the best is to start with definitions of the new branches of science that cause the worry expressed in my title. 

“Computer science is the study of computers and computing as well as their theoretical and practical applications. Computer science applies the principles of mathematics, engineering, and logic to a plethora of functions including algorithm formulation, software and hardware development and artificial intelligence.” That last is frightening with its possibilities.

 Reasons for fear 

You may well ask: why the fear with all the advantages computers offer? Consider what some computer nuts are doing – hacking into others’ computers and either getting to know stuff input in those or maliciously introducing viruses. As of now we have a new and more dangerous breed of hackers named hackers for ransom. This is an entirely new nasty phenomenon to me who had heard of computer hacking but not for earning money from it. These stealers are dubbed ransom ware hackers. They seize control of a victim’s computer systems or data by installing illicit software and release the stolen assets on payment of amount demanded. 

The article I read specifically mentioned the Russians and Chinese being well known. We know of the former’s activities during the presidential election when Trump was pitted against Hillary Clinton. There sure are Americans and Europeans too. How about Indians who dominate Silicon Valley? The Colonial Pipeline that carries liquid fuels across the United States was hacked on Friday 7 May and data stolen. A ransom has been demanded but we do not know the amount. Sure must be astronomical! Robotics is another area for discussion in this article. 

It is an advancement now rapidly developing. “Robotics is an interdisciplinary field that integrates computer science and engineering and designs machines that can assist humans, and now machines that can substitute for humans and replicate human actions.” It has its advantages by doing repetitive jobs that are injurious to humans. However, they are now invading offices and homes resembling human beings and, God forbid, with emotions, senses and thinking ability. To conservative me, robots are another potential danger notwithstanding their benefits. 

Kazuo Ishiguro features a robot maid servant in his latest novel Klara and the Sun. I read critiques that said she was near human and kind to the handicapped child who chose to buy her. More cannot be said as I have not got my hands on the book. I am sure it will be stunning. Many films have dealt with robots both good and evil, such as ‘Robot Cop’ and the ‘Blade Runner’. Medical science has advanced to replicating animals and humans. Thus cloning is another frightening off shoot of medical science that was believed to be for the benefit of humans, when DNA probably could be altered. Remember the first cloned creature – Dolly the sheep? I believe she died recently. 

Cloning may proceed to the human world but is still held back for ethical reasons. I was shocked and disturbed when I read Kazuo Ishiguro’s imagined novel Never let me go. It started off like a happy school story with boys and girls in a British boarding school playing tennis and even starting romances. But the novel soon came to explain they were clones and were developed and nurtured to donate their organs to human beings (sure rich and powerful) so they lived healthy while the clones die early as his/her organs are systematically culled.

 This evil practice could very well happen in the near future. The older of us sit back and wonder what next? I end with a quote: “Is civilisation progress? The challenge, I think, is clear. The final answer will be given not by our amassing knowledge or by the discoveries of our science or by the speed of our aircraft, but by the effect of our civilized activities as a whole have upon the quality of our planets’ life – the life of plants and animals as that of men.” – Charles Lindbergh. Kumari

CEYLON TODAY | Published: 2:00 AM May 14 2021

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