Technology's unremitting forward march

Monday, March 05, 2018

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Dating all the way back to prehistory, evolving technologies have altered human beings and their relationship one to another.

Let's imagine for a moment the impact when early humans first worked out how to start a fire to stay warm; and that it made food more palatable and more easily digested.

Over the last few 100 years, and especially over the last century, rapidly changing technologies have had radical effect. Aeroplanes, cars, transformational medical advances, terrible weapons of mass destruction, computers, etc, all came into prevalence, if not being, since the turn of the 20th century, with extraordinary consequences.

Nowadays, the sight of people walking around with eyes or ears glued to hand-held digital communication devices, hardly noticing each other, has become commonplace.

For many people the growing prominence of artificial intelligence and its displacement of human labour in a range of areas provide a source of genuine alarm.

Even more frightening and bewildering, perhaps, is the growing potential for scientists to delve into the genetic modification of life forms, including humans.

It must be said that, on the whole, modern technologies, including artificial intelligence and genetic engineering, have lifted the quality of life across the globe in countless ways.

Not many modern humans living it up in the planet's more advanced, fast-moving societies could countenance a return to the 19th century.

We have been drawn into this contemplation of technology's unstoppable march and its effects following news last week that video replays are likely to be used to arrive at important on-field decisions during the FIFA World Cup football tournament in Russia later this year.

For many years several other sporting disciplines, including cricket, have used video replays as an aid to adjudication at the highest level.

However, though the so-called video assistant referee (VAR) system has been trialled in various football competitions, there has been strong resistance from those who suggest it will endanger the flowing, fast-moving nature of the 'beautiful game'.

On the other hand, there is increasing public impatience with the number of human refereeing errors which, in many cases, alter the result of a game in situations where people watching on TV can see for themselves. While the VAR system is not foolproof, it is widely accepted that its use will significantly reduce such errors.

It is expected that the proposed VAR system for this summer's World Cup Finals will be rubber-stamped by the FIFA executive in mid-March.

“As of today, video refereeing is part of football,” FIFA President Mr Gianni Infantino was reported as saying last week.

The system will help on-field referees to determine the legitimacy of goals, penalty awards, red cards, and in resolving uncertainties regarding player identity.

Former Australian goalkeeper Mr Mark Schwarzer perhaps summed up the situation best. Said he: “If we can limit the errors… to lose some fluency is worth it…”

From this newspaper's perspective, the message is that, like it or not, and for better or worse, there is no stopping technology.




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