Is It Time for a Healer?

In my community in Fla., we have a new Salvador Dali museum on the waterfront of Tampa Bay, designed and built by the HOK/Moore/Beck team. Being in Fla., this structure has to sustain storm surges up to 25 feet high, winds of (Category 5) 165 MPH, and bi-polar weather that can drive engineers crazy.

Among the challenges the design team addressed was to leave the exterior concrete wall unpainted, but still remain waterproofed. They fortified the concrete using Penetron Admix, a crystalline waterproofing admixture that is able to withstand high hydrostatic pressure and deterioration in our Florida weather by employing self-healing microcracks, pores, and capillaries so as the structure expands and contracts.

Call me a sucker for a good idea, but I get upset when I encounter someone that has the idea that concrete is simply a commodity material, with nothing needed to be understood about the microstructure. People like Penetron have started to change the game with their technology, which is in my opinion, just in time, as it has been recognized that much of the concrete in the infrastructure in the U.S., Europe, and elsewhere has been deteriorating faster than expected.

Beyond concrete, each year we are watching our industry innovate with new materials, methods, and technologies. And in the IT world, we are increasingly dependent upon mesh networks, the IoT (Internet of Things), and AI (artificial intelligence), which are providing “self-healing” information systems and infrastructure.

I personally welcome these changes. When you live in Fla., a land resplendent with unpredictable weather, retirees, foreign tourists, vacationers, and snowbirds, I have had more than my fair share of “white knuckle” experiences on our highways. The National Safety Council, www.nsc.org, Itasca, Ill., reports 40,100 traffic-related deaths happened in 2017, and I hope autonomous vehicles and smart highways can reduce this number of deaths in the future. When that happens we’ll soon be able to go anywhere we want to go, near or far, with little effort on our part. Simply plug in (or say) our destination, sit back, and enjoy the ride. We’ll no longer have to worry about people driving half-asleep or drunk, or being distracted and cutting off other vehicles with sudden lane changes, or failing to yield the right of way. But humans will have to accept the reality that technology is making many decisions for them. And that can be scary.

We fight technology taking control in several ways. A survey has shown that IT workers tend to be more likely than the average employee to engage in risky online behaviors (trying to “beat the system of safeguards” as it were). A recent Wall Street Journal article noted many companies are sending out fake “phishing” emails to workers and then penalizing those who open them, monitoring employees’ social media for sensitive data, and prohibiting out of office email replies.

This approach feels like a stick—punishing those who are reluctant to embracing change. Perhaps we need more of a carrot to help people accept the newer technologies that include many self-healing features. Will self-healing technology enable us to have safer computing environments, as is being done with safer roads, and structures? It may all depend upon whether the tech we use is as accommodating as the human interacting with it.