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2056: How did The Chernobyl of Tech happen?

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Ever since the most dreadful nuclear catastrophe in the peoplekind history that happened in the small Soviet city of Chernobyl, we have had the question on our minds. Now, it seems clear we didn’t do our homework and forgot to learn from the past mistakes. Precisely seventy years after the Ukrainian disaster, the in-air explosion of Google’s latest iteration of their Mars III space shuttle has finally brought a winter to tropical Scandinavian countries. Although no one could predict that the desired cooling will be a nuclear one.

As The Times reported yesterday, the investigative commission finished the final report. Led by Dr. Fineman, who is a professor emerita at the Institute for Higher Learning and well-respected expert in the field of applied physics, the group presented the findings into the probable causes of the explosion. Dr. Fineman is quoted saying that she was struck by the unimaginable series of errors and irresponsibility found in Google’s documents. By the tech giant’s own standards, the new compact nuclear fusion reactor with its unusual beta configuration shouldn’t have been used because it failed all the three mandatory tests before the lift-off.

Google has been experiencing serious technical and privacy issues in recent years. The infamous hacking incident to its YouLive social network powered by the breakthrough machine-brain chip interface is still hotly debated.

The social network YouLive experienced a massive leak of brain login information of more than a million users. The hacker took advantage of poorly secured private brain streams of YouLive users during the most intimate personal moments, including a sexual intercourse. With the unlimited access to the brain streams of many victims, the hacker set up an app where he was offering the access to these brain streams to other women. The Department of Cyber Security and Brain Interfaces was flabbergasted to learn that the majority of users of the app were women from professional backgrounds who are reportedly suffering from a sudden onset of asexuality. These women belong to an increasing population of well-of women who use other women’s brain streams to artificially regain sexual sensations that they themselves had lost long time ago. This hacking wasn’t illegal because it was intended to benefit the vulnerable communities of professional women. Google itself condoned this act as a brilliant case of digital activism. But soon it became known the app was also used by men who exploited all involved for their illegal sexist activities. At that moment Google reacted speedily and was given a permission to prosecute those men. Even though many received their life sentences, the damage to the reputation couldn’t be undone.

It was a blow to the public’s trust in the tech giant’s ability to secure the transmission of our most intimate thoughts and sensations between friends, family, and love partners. The situation eroded further when Google decided to dismiss two high-ranking female employees and instead hired Jacob Mao-Hong to be an interim chief officer of engineering. This step was widely condemned by professional Twitter commentators. The US vice-president for diversity, issued an official government response that the decision to exchange two female employees for one man may be unconstitutional.

The culmination of Google’s problems comes back to last week’s explosion watched by the entire world online. The anticipation was ecstatic because Google boasted that the new fusion reactor engine would shorten the fly time to Mars by half. Such technological leap was going to be the ultimate step towards making commercial travel to Mars a viable reality. Instead we saw a sudden flash of white sharp light followed by an ominous fire ball. While the picture was terrifying, the video stream was cut at instance and the viewers were kept safe.

That cannot be said about the inhabitants of Scandinavian countries in the Northern Europe below the trajectory of the shuttle. Dr. Fineman and her group of collaborators have gathered the preliminary number of the casualties. Apart from the twelve brave American crew members on the board of the Mars III shuttle, thousands died immediately after the explosion due to the radiation or were swept away by the inevitable shockwave that destroyed houses, schools, churches, offices and other structures on the ground.

The US president M. Sue, her wife, and other US government officials already travelled to Europe to discuss the situation with their counterparts. The US delegation emphasized its commitment to prolong the social media ban on distressing content related to the accident in all Western hemisphere at least for the next three months. They also met the injured at the hospitals across Scandinavia and offered their condolences after the incident. The president M. Sue promised on the behalf of our country to pay for the expenses of clearing up the catastrophe. However, the Eastern bloc of the European continent with its sizable population of white American immigrants was staging protest marches in all major capitals. Budapest, Warsaw, and other cities joined the Moscow to condemn the alleged Western human rights abuses and discrimination against white and Asian minorities. The “white curtain” bloc with Moscow it the lead even suggested at the hastily summoned UN meeting that the systemic discrimination in the US directly contributed to the shuttle exploding. Having supplied no evidence for such outrageous claims, it would be dismissed as mere propaganda.

The evidence, however, has piled up in last days. Dr. Fineman and her team revealed in Google’s internal communication that the leadership knew well about the failed tests. Google decided to go ahead with the project nevertheless because it refused to believe that the testing team should have the power to intervene with the plans. This unorthodox move was perplexing to Dr. Fineman’s investigation because, to the contrary, this was the testing team’s primary role. According to the documents monitoring the performance of employees, over last years the testing team did caught many blatant mistakes, preventing other possible tragic incidents. While presenting this finding to the public on the government video stream inside the court room of Google executives and public officials, Dr. Fineman asked why these particular tests of the new fusion reactor engine were ignored when the previous test results were accepted and integrated into the next versions.

The CEO of Google, Anita Gupta, replied with a prepared statement. She said that Google followed the new legislature requiring tech companies in Sillicon Valley to have sufficiently diverse working groups to generate valid results. And because the test team handling the tests of the nuclear reactor engine had more than thirty percent of white, heterosexual males, the tests were invalid due to the lack of diversity.

Dr. Fineman continued with her interrogation and asked what happened next when they decided to discard the test results. The head of Human Resources commented that her department was responsible to find more diverse candidates, which they did in next two days. It was at this moment where Dr. Fineman went back to her table and looked over a few sheets of paper and asked her colleagues to confirm her suspicion that two days were a short time to find new candidates for such an important task. The head of HR continued that it was indeed a situation that they needed to solve quickly so that they could finish the tests. To be consistent with the internal policy at Google, the HR department decided to use brain scans and paper-and-pencil tests to assess the cognitive abilities of the candidates.

Dr. Fineman asked about what kind of tests were used. At this moment Anita Gupta interrupted to clarify and emphasize that Google uses only the legal tests that assess the verbal ability of the candidates. Dr. Fineman asked how long they had been using this specific test. Gupta again answered instead of her HR colleague that Google started to use only the verbal part of cognitive assessment right after the government passed the law which prohibited to discriminate job applicants based on their mathematical and visual-spatial abilities, having been used previously with the minorities failing the most.

Next day, Dr. Fineman brought to the court room a large white printed graph. There was a red and blue line that showed the relationship between the number of mistakes Google internally made during last years and the hired people that were given only the verbal part of the cognitive assessment test. The lines followed each other perfectly, both having an increasing slope as the years went by. So far Dr. Fineman always had a stone-cold face, delivering her remarks calmly as we would expect from an experienced academic. But this morning she had visible wrinkles on her forehead and sleepy eyelids. Her lips were weak and drained of colour. She accompanied her words with frequent sips of purified water. Stepping out of her usual booth, she took some time before continuing:

“The lines we can see on my whiteboard look innocent but show a relationship between two important things. I have noticed this pattern myself some time ago and worries me greatly. Of course, we all learned that correlation doesn’t equal causation and this rule must be applied also in this case. However, if we stop for a moment and imagine there is a causation, can we explain it?”

Dr. Fineman continued: “It’s been over two decades when the famous Ocasio-Cortez commission brought together experts from the field of psychometrics and ruled that mathematical and visual-spatial tests are biased in favour of men. And especially white and Asian men. It was decided that these results go against the official state policy of equity and progressive democratic values. The test were kept but only their part that made a path to equitable results. But I wonder if Albert Einstein, the famous physicist of the 20th century, wasn’t correct when he said that doing physics is not a verbal process at all but needs visual imagination and mental rotation of abstract objects and concepts. Only later do words and meanings come into play solving the puzzle. Physics, programming and all kinds of engineering need all the human talents and if we decide to cherish only of them and base our technological future on it, we may face an unintended consequences”.

The state prosecutor interrupted Dr. Fineman’s monologue and said that to suggest any relationship between Google’s technical mistakes and the cognitive assessment test would go against the scientific consensus that the verbal tests are the most equitable ones and thus provide the best cognitive assessment for hiring practices, in tech and elsewhere.

Dr. Fineman took a pause before agreeing that the verbal tests are the best choice for equity. But she continued:

“My dear comrades, we all work and struggle to fulfil the promises of our parents to rebuild our nation on the bedrock of equity and solidarity. My training in physics taught me, however, the physical world doesn’t care about the social goals we have embedded into the fabric of our constitution. It has own rules and politics. The physical world showed us that shuttles explode even though we tell ourselves they shouldn’t. Likewise, we have bright and talented people of diverse backgrounds. But for them to reach their potential, we must ensure they have equally an opportunity to do what they excel at. The conclusion of our investigation reveals that the nuclear catastrophe, the tragic loss of thousands of lives, many our technological problems and looming stagnation in innovation compared to China, Japan, Korea or even our adversaries in the Eastern Europe are results of our decision to forget the full picture of what is mean to be a human.”

After the presentation, the hearing was adjourned abruptly.