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Technology in Haiti

Devastation from the Haiti Earthquake
Devastation from the Haiti EarthquakeWikimedia Commons

As noted before, technology can have consequences that go far beyond the initial appearance or purpose of that technology. Sometimes, of course, those consequences are frivolous, but even then they can have interesting effects. For example, the Hitler parodies that have become rather popular on You Tube, have now gone recursive. The latest offering is about Hitler trying to create a Hitler parody You Tube video. Much more of that and the whole meme will disappear into a black hole of its own creation.

Sometimes, technological advances bring us good news, or at any rate, good excuses, as with a recent study showing that red wine and dark chocolate are both fairly effective cancer killers! It is not just wine and chocolate that are good for us, but somehow the appeal of tomatoes (good for fighting prostate cancer) and parsley is a bit less.

Sometimes the advances give us pause, as in a recent article about synthetic biology. When people start to talk about genome hackers, alarm bells should start to ring - their ringing may be premature, but still necessary.

And sometimes the impact of the technology is wonderful, even almost miraculous. And such was the case with a story out of Haiti. Stephane Bruno, who lives in Haiti, describes how the use of cell phones and social networks like facebook helped to save lives after the earthquake there. About half of the 8 million people living in Haiti have cell phones, and a significant number of folk who were trapped in the rubble used those phones to text or post to social networks about their plight.

Bruno, along with the assistance of Steven Huter at the Network Startup Resource Center of the University of Oregon, set up a system whereby information about the trapped people was forwarded to the U.S. military search and rescue teams at the Port-au-Prince airport. The teams used the information from this to rescue folk and to do so efficiently because they could go directly to where the people were trapped. What a wonderful use of a bit of technology that was never intended as an earthquake rescue tool, but nonetheless found great utility in that role.

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