We’re alive today because AI was not in control 30 years ago

Stanislav Petrov A back-lit red screen flashed the word ‘LAUNCH’

Sept 26, 1983:

It was just after midnight when the alarm bells began sounding. One of the system’s satellites had detected that the United States had launched five ballistic missiles. And they were heading toward the USSR. Electronic maps flashed; bells screamed; reports streamed in. A back-lit red screen flashed the word ‘LAUNCH.’

[Stanislav] Petrov, however, had a hunch — “a funny feeling in my gut,” he would later recall– that the alarm ringing through the bunker was a false one. It was an intuition that was based on common sense:  The alarm indicated that only five missiles were headed toward the USSR. Had the U.S. actually been launching a nuclear attack, however, Petrov figured, it would be extensive — much more, certainly, than five. Soviet ground radar, meanwhile, had failed to pick up corroborative evidence of incoming missiles — even after several minutes had elapsed. The larger matter, however, was that Petrov didn’t fully trust the accuracy of the Soviet technology when it came to bomb-detection. He would later describe the alert system as “raw.”

Petrov’s colleagues were professional soldiers with purely military training; they would, being trained to follow instructions at all costs, likely have reported a missile strike had they been on shift at the time. Petrov, on the other hand, trusted his own intelligence, his own instincts, his own gut. He made the brave decision to do nothing.

One thing that seems clear, however, is that the world carried on into September 27, 1983 in some part because Stanislav Petrov decided to trust himself over malfunctioning machines. And that may have made, in a very broad and cosmic sense, all the difference.
The Atlantic

PL – What a story about irrational versus rational thinking! Humans versus machines. Now, for fun, let’s jump to a blog post about Google’s new self-driving cars, still in the testing/developing phase, which could be great for humans, but at present, they are facing the same dilemmas as the professional soldiers mentioned above.