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March 14
2016 年 3 月 14 日

2015年的生活風險

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處身高科技的世界,互聯網、生物科技、新能源、政治宗教差異 ... 等許多有機會改善生活環境的機制,若是使用不當,反而讓世人未蒙其利、先受其害。其所帶來鉅大的嶄新風險,值得審視。就讓我們看看2015年各地存在的風險和發生的危機隱患。

上海與麥加
與發生於1993年1月1日蘭桂坊,釀成21死62傷的踩踏事故類似,上海外灘跨年活動,2014年12月31日,群眾躋踏,導致36死、49傷,夠淒慘的。另一邊廂,沙地阿拉伯聖城麥加2015年9月24日的年度朝聖,踩踏死亡人數達769名。朝聖活動歷來事故不斷,此一25年以來最嚴重的悲劇「意外」,預防不足,簡直可以「意內」視之。

馬來西亞、德國、埃及
2015年1月29日,馬來西亞政府宣佈,不能確定2014年3月8日神秘失蹤的馬航 MH370,究竟發生了什麼事情。這是一個無關天候、機件,飛航受到威脅的可怕例子,卻並非唯一的個案。2015年3月24日,廉航「德國之翼」(Germanwings)從巴塞隆納飛往德國杜塞道夫的航機副機師蓄意撞山,全機150人罹難。同年10月31日,俄羅斯科加雷姆航空公司(Kogalymavia Airlines)客機墜毀埃及東部的西奈半島,224名乘客和機組人員罹難;伊斯蘭國(IS)聲稱擊落該機。

巴黎、美國、土耳其
2015年1月7日,兩名蒙面槍手襲擊諷刺漫畫雜誌《查理周刊》的巴黎辦公室,報復其刊載嘲笑伊斯蘭先知穆罕默德的漫畫。造成12人身亡,11人受傷。巴黎郊區蒙魯日,亦發生相關襲擊,導致5人死亡。恐怖襲擊,引發巴黎1月11日舉行「團結」反恐遊行,兩百萬民眾和40多位國際政要參加。

繼《查理周刊》事件後,11月13日晚間,在巴黎巴塔克蘭劇院、足球場等場地遭到自殺恐怖攻擊,造成129人死亡,多人輕重傷。

2015年10月1日,美國奧勒岡安普瓜社區大學校園發生槍擊慘案,10 人喪生,20 多人受傷。總統奧巴馬憤怒、悲傷:這類事件在美國經常發生。言猶在耳,加州聖伯納迪諾12月2日近午時,發生槍擊案,死亡14人、傷17人。僅 2015 年,美國發生了至少45宗校園槍擊案,全國近萬人因各類槍械事件喪生,遠超過當年因恐怖襲擊死亡人數的百十倍。

無獨有偶,土耳其首都安卡拉2015 年10月10日下午遭自殺炸彈客襲擊,約100人死亡,200人受傷。非洲奈及利亞、喀麥隆、查德、尼日四國邊境的查德湖,12月5日發生三起自殺炸彈爆炸案,造成15人死亡、逾130人傷。此外,還有倫敦、泰國、... 一件件事故。

紐約市、阿富汗、伊拉克、巴基斯坦
根據「全球恐怖主義數據庫」,全球的恐怖襲擊事件從2007年少於3,000宗,飊升至今至少4倍之多。襲擊的手法層出不窮,包括武裝攻擊、炸彈爆炸、綁架以及襲擊設施與基建。

單以美國來說,最嚴重的恐怖襲擊應是2001年的「911」事件。2015 年的資源顯示,紐約市因此事件而造成的經濟損失達1,050億美元,共有 2,977人喪生,這數字並未計入在恐襲現場或事後進行清理時吸入毒氣、18,462 需接受治療的受害者。因911事件而患上創傷後壓力症的紐約人估計多達422,000人。

布朗大學「戰爭的代價」研究計劃指出,若把需要長期照顧的退伍軍人計算在內,美國為911而引發的兩場中東戰爭已付出高達4兆美元的經濟代價。截至2013年2月,美國有6,600多軍人陣亡,報告估計,至少200,000名阿富汗、伊拉克及巴基斯坦的平民喪生。戰事至今未了。

生態武器與空污
未來學家托夫勒(A Toffler)在1995年出版的《戰爭與反戰爭》一書中,構想了一些尖端武器。其實,生態武器未至,可怕的是自找的麻煩。空污就是一個自找的麻煩。

據世界衛生組織(WHO)2015年2月25日的報告,全球2012年約700萬人死於空氣污染,也即每8名死亡者中就有1人死於空污。僅中國大陸,每天就有 4000 人死於空氣污染,佔中國總死亡人數的 17%。

2015年空污造成的死亡人數,千百倍於同年因以上所有危機而致死人數的總合。然而,大眾似乎不太關心火力發電威脅每年近千萬的人員傷亡,何況火力發電還加速全球暖化、生態破壞等致命性。回顧 2011 年 3 月 11 日因地震引發的日本福島核電事故,基於各種考慮,日本決定於2015年7月7日恢復核電運轉。

新科技新挑戰
享受互聯網帶來方便及好處的同時,大眾受到網絡犯罪的困擾。如今,談論雲端計算,可知雲端計算的安全性與可靠度如何?如果不夠嚴重,為何中國國家主席習近平遠渡重洋,於今年 9 月 27 問路於華盛頓特區,與美國總統奧巴馬就網路駭客問題建立對話熱線?

以上所述,只是2015年發生於地球各角落的一些日常事例,甚至未及於聞之喪膽的伊波拉、愛滋、禽流感、... 等病疫。風險評估,須要端正輕重緩急,確定潛在危機事件發生的原因,制訂疏解措施以減少發生的機會與影響。

2015年1月26日,一架兩呎闊的遙控小飛機(drone)撞落白宮空地。雖然該飛行器純為耍樂用,正當總統和家人訪問印度,並無危險,但玩樂小飛機突破白宮的保安防線,要是被恐怖分子利用,將會帶來不堪設想的後果。

凡事只要可能出錯,最終就會出錯。走筆至此,深圳光明新區12月20日山崩,失聯91人,經調查,非天災,又是人禍。說到底,「人」是一切問題的根源,深度近視眼的各級政府應該帶上眼鏡,避免老在小節上打轉,找錯了病根、用錯了藥(barking up the wrong tree)。也許這才是我們面臨的最大挑戰呢!

註:
此文根據作者 2015 年 11月 3日應 IEEE 軟體可靠性年度大會之邀,以 "Risk and Reliability Are Part of Our Life" 在美國國家標準及技術局(NIST) 做的主題演講。
本文曾載於明報(2015年12月30日)。


Real life risks in 2015

We are living in a highly complex world, surrounded by the Internet, biological technologies, new energy sources, and political and religious differences, among others, which may either improve our living environment or threaten it if they are not properly utilised. The challenges that come with technological development are not to be neglected.

Let us take a look at the various risks and hazards from around the world in 2015.

Shanghai and Mecca
The stampede that killed 36 people and injured 49 on 31 December 2014 at the Bund in Shanghai was reminiscent of a similar tragedy in Lan Kwai Fong in Hong Kong, which killed 21 people and injured 62 on New Year's Day in 1993. The worst event took place on 24 September 2015 when 769 people were killed during a stampede that broke out at the annual Hajj pilgrimage in Mina on the outskirts of the Arabic holy city of Mecca. Accidents during the pilgrimage are not uncommon. This worst "unexpected" tragedy in 25 years could very well be considered "expected" due to negligence in prevention measures.

Egypt, Germany and Malaysia
On 29 January 2015, Malaysia's government officially announced that the mysterious disappearance of Malaysia Airlines Flight MH370 on 8 March 2014 had been an accident. No one knows for sure what really happened. What we do know is that it was a frightening, but not unique, incident in which the weather or mechanical failures are highly unlikely to have been involved.

On 24 March 2015, the co-pilot of Germanwings Flight 4U9525 crashed in the French Alps on the way from Barcelona to Düsseldorf, killing all 150 people on board. On 31 October the same year, Kogalymavia Airlines Flight KGL9268 crashed in central Sinai in eastern Egypt, killing 224 passengers and crew on board. Islamic State later claimed that it had brought down the airliner.

Paris, Turkey and the US
Two masked gunmen attacked the offices of the Paris-based satirical magazine Charlie Hebdo on 7 January 2015, killing 12 people and wounding 11 others. In a separate but related attack in Montrouge, a suburb of Paris, another five people were killed. The attacks prompted two million people, including more than 40 world leaders, to rally for national unity in the French capital.

After the Charlie Hebdo incident, a series of coordinated suicide attacks occurred on 13 November 2015 at the Bataclan Theatre, a football stadium and other places in Paris, killing 129 people and wounding many others.

Ten people were killed and more than 20 wounded in a shooting at Umpqua Community College, in the US state of Oregon on 1 October 2015. President Barack Obama expressed his frustration that such shootings had become all too routine. Before long, another shooting happened in San Bernardino, California around noon on 2 December, killing 14 people and injuring 17. In 2015 alone, there were 45 shootings on US campuses; and nearly 10,000 people died nation-wide in gun-related violence, far exceeding the number of casualties from terrorist attacks in the same year. According to data from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, 406,496 people died by firearms (including homicide, accidents and suicide) on US soil between 2001 and 2013. During the same period, only 3,380 US citizens were killed as a result of terrorist attacks both overseas and inside the US.

Parallel to what happened in the US, a twin suicide bombing in Ankara, the capital of Turkey, on 10 October 2015 killed approximately 100 people and wounded around 200. Two months later, on 5 December, a triple suicide bombing on an island in Lake Chad in the border areas between Nigeria, Cameroon, Chad and Niger killed at least 15 people and wounded more than 130. In addition, there were similar attacks in London, Thailand, among others.

Afghanistan, Iraq, New York and Pakistan
According to the Global Terrorist Database, the number of terrorist attacks in the form of assassinations, armed assaults, bombings and explosion, kidnappings, hijackings and attacks on facility and infrastructure has increased four-fold since 2007.

Take the US for example. The worst terrorist attacks so far in US history were the 9/11 attacks in 2001. The economic losses to New York have amounted to $105 billion. A total of 2,977 people were killed in the attacks and a further 18,462 people who were exposed to toxic dust either at the site during the attacks or during the subsequent cleanups have sought medical treatment. The total number of New Yorkers suffering from post-traumatic-stress disorders as a result of the 9/11 attacks is estimated at 422,000, according to CNN September 11th Fast Facts.

Even more alarming is the economic cost and human losses caused by the wars triggered directly or indirectly by the 9/11 attacks. According to Brown University's "Cost of War" project, the total economic cost of the two wars in the Middle East (the Gulf War between 1990-1991 and the Iraq War between 2003-2011) may amount to $4 trillion, if long-term veteran care is also taken into consideration, while more than 6,600 US service members and 200,000 civilians in Afghanistan, Iraq and Pakistan are estimated to have been killed, according to a Brown University report in 2013. And the wars are still not yet over.

Ecological weapons and air pollution
The American authors Alvin and Heidi Toffler envisioned sophisticated weapons of the future in their 1995 book War and Anti-War. While ecological weapons may not be a reality yet, some man-made disasters are already wreaking havoc. Air pollution is one such example.

According to a WHO report released on 25 February 2015, around 7 million people died – one in eight of total global deaths – as a result of air-pollution exposure. In China alone, 4,000 people die from air pollution every day, accounting for 17% of total deaths in China.

The total death toll from air pollution in 2015 is roughly 100 times greater than the number of people who died in the wars, terrorist attacks and tragedies outlined above in the same year. And yet few people seem to care about the threat that fossil fuel, in terms of global warming and ecological destruction, poses to human life. It didn't come as a surprise, therefore, when Japan's government decided to resume nuclear power generation on 7 July 2015, having shut down all its nuclear power plants after the earthquake-triggered Fukushima nuclear accident on 11 March 2011.

New science and technology, new challenges
We enjoy the convenience and other benefits of the Internet, but we are also plagued by cybercrimes. We are all talking about what cloud computing can do for us, but how secure is it? That's why China's President Xi Jinping is committed to the creation of a "hotline" with the US President Barack Obama that will help to avoid an "escalation of issues that may arise in the course of responding to cybercrime and other malicious cyber activities".

The above are only a few examples of the hazards that took place in 2015, without including the casualties resulting from such horrifying epidemics as Ebola, Aids and Avian influenza, among others. In risk assessment, we must prioritise all possibilities, determine how undesirable events can occur and develop mitigation measures that can minimise unwanted events from taking place.

A two-foot wide, low-flying drone crashed on the White House grounds in Washington DC in the early hours of 26 January 2015. Even though the drone was being flown for recreational purposes when it breached the security perimetre, and President Obama and his family were not in any danger (the First Family was visiting India), many people wondered what would happen if such devices were used by terrorists or others.

Anything that can go wrong will go wrong, eventually. In fact, when this article was being written in December 2015, news came of a landslide in Shenzhen, China that killed around 70 people with around 25 persons reported missing. This accident, which involved construction waste, was caused by human negligence rather than being a natural disaster, which means yet another man-made disaster. Human beings seem to be the root cause of so many problems today.

Seriously short-sighted governments should equip themselves with glasses to help them see what the real problems are, rather than just focus on the details and go barking up the wrong tree.

Perhaps this is the biggest challenge for all of us!

Note:
This article is based on the author's keynote speech, entitled Risk and Reliability Are Part of our Life, delivered at the 26th IEEE International Symposium on Software Reliability Engineering (ISSRE) held at the National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST) on 3 November 2015.
This article was originally published in Chinese in the Ming Pao Daily News (30 December, 2015).

14 March, 2016

 

 

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