American security depends on non-tech skills

Science fiction writers always speculated that one day, in the not so distant future, computers and robots would take over the earth. Of course, this is just fantasy, right? Lately it seems as though people are so interconnected with computers and technology that it would be difficult to separate them.

When computers first entered the American home, they were primitive video games. Batting an electronic ball across an electronic court with a couple of electronic “racquets” swept the early 1980s like the latest iPhone does today.

Once accepted into the home, the electronic wonders just kept coming until it wasn’t enough just to have access to the information stored in the computer on the desk. Eventually those machines needed to speak to the outside world, and so it was. The Internet was born (and no, Al Gore didn’t invent it).

The development of the Internet provided a way for computers to talk to each other all over the world. Having that much interconnectivity was like dangling the keys to the vault in front of would-be thieves and terrorists. Today, seemingly endless broadband networks connect cell phones, computers, and entire networks making it easy for criminals to hack in and do their worst.

Cyber terrorism is a very real, very dangerous concern in the world right now. The idea that the bad guys could bring down an entire country by attacking its technological infrastructure is no longer the stuff of science fiction.

Every day government anti-terrorism groups are working to develop countermeasures against cyber attacks, but the trick will always be to keep that technology ahead of whatever the enemy has prepared. When technology advances, so does the criminal opportunity to exploit it.

Sometimes, however, media reports amplify levels of concern regarding these issues and many people are in a constant state of worry, particularly those with limited technical understanding. That lack of knowledge might be the real problem, but it’s not as much technological education that’s needed, but a return to some of the old ways to help prepare for when all the smart phones and laptops go belly-up.

As interactive personal computer technology grows a larger foothold on the nation, core educational systems are moving farther and farther from the basics. Language and hands-on skill seem to suffer the most in favor of technology-based training.

Cursive handwriting skills, agricultural and vocational training, industrial arts and basic reading and writing are disappearing from public school curricula throughout the country. Many students are being transitioned away from ink and paper books to rely solely on tablet computers and Wi-Fi connections.

The simple fact is, if the country’s silicon-dependent infrastructure is compromised, there won’t be enough people who know how to do things with pencil and paper to keep things going. But, there is an easy solution: put real-world education back into the classroom.

Once upon a time, and not so long ago, a radio would have been considered advanced technology, so the term is relative to a particular point of development. Without regard to the basic knowledge that led to its development, no further advancement will be possible and that problem is starting to show already.

If America’s infrastructure is taken down by coordinated cyber attacks, how would the country recover without more people with hands-on skills? Nearly every level of communication and utility management is computer-controlled and depends on advanced technology just to perform something as basic as making a telephone call.

It may never be possible to fully eliminate the threat of cyber terrorism so the best thing Americans can do is to be prepared for it. Being ready is not a paranoid, “doomsday prepper” way of thinking, it’s just common sense. Think about it, people today freak out when the power goes off for a few minutes during a storm; imagine what it would be like if everything shut down for months?

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