Wednesday, January 25, 2023

Corrupted Data

My An Arkie's Faith column from the January 25, 2023, issue of The Polk County Pulse.

I rode the elevator down to the motel lobby and walked into the breakfast area. The few options on the breakfast bar were mainly mediocre-tasting carbs. I tried to make a meal even though the selections were minimal. I was heading to the airport and wanted to avoid the overpriced food there. As I was eating, I looked at the television on the wall. The morning news was playing with the sound muted. The headline on the bottom of the screen read, "FAA Grounds All Flights From Taking Off."

I almost choked on my cereal as I read the headline. We were supposed to be at DFW for our flight to Portland in an hour. "What is going on," I thought. I took out my phone to see what I could find out and soon learned that there was an outage of an FAA computer system that sends safety notices to pilots. The outage triggered the FAA to halt all US departing flights. As I read further, I found that the FAA planned to resume flights in about an hour. I checked with American Airlines, and it showed that our flight was still on schedule. Maybe this would still work out okay, but I felt anxious as we headed to the airport.

After going through the TSA checkpoint with only a minor delay, the TSA agent couldn't tell what our selfie stick was on his x-ray screen; we made our way to our gate. We learned that the airline had delayed our flight for one hour. "That's not too bad," I thought, "I feared it might be longer." We contacted our family in Portland, that was going to pick us up at the airport, to let them know of the delay.

When it was five minutes from the new boarding time, and passengers were beginning to line up to board the plane, the information screen at the gate flashed a new departure time. Everyone sat back down to wait for the new time. Two more times, the airline pushed the departure time forward at the last minute. Each time we contacted our family in Portland with the updated information. Finally, after a couple of hours, the boarding time came, and the information screen didn't change. In a few minutes, the airline employees announced that it was time to board the plane. We were finally able to board the plane and find our seats. In a few minutes, we were in the air, headed for Portland.

That evening, I was curious about the cause and severity of the nationwide stoppage of all plane departures. As I read, I learned that over 10,000 flights were delayed and over 1,300 canceled in the first national grounding of flights since 9/11. I felt fortunate that even though we had to wait several hours, we still made it to our destination the same day. Our trip to the Oregon coast the following day was not affected.

The computer failure that led the FAA to halt all US flight departures was caused when a data file was damaged. According to a Fortune article, "unspecified personnel" were responsible for corrupting the file, which led to the outage of an FAA computer system that sends safety notices to pilots, the agency said in a statement. That triggered the FAA to order a halt to all US departing flights, causing thousands of delays and cancellations Wednesday.

The preliminary indications are that two people working for a contractor introduced errors into the core data used on the system known as Notice to Air Missions, or Notam, according to a person familiar with the FAA review. A complete shutdown was required to restore the system, leading the FAA to halt all flight departures for roughly 90 minutes Wednesday morning."

As I read about the computer shutdown required to repair the issues caused by corrupted data, I thought about how much data we consume and dispense daily. When we receive corrupted data, it affects our actions and decisions. All too often, we disseminate corrupted data. Sometimes it is accidental, but many times it is intentional.

It seems to me that lying has become acceptable in our culture. Every day, newscasters put their spin on stories; adults cheat on their spouses or income tax forms; students cheat in school. Many people tolerate or even applaud lying if it benefits them or their agenda. As our culture has accepted lying, so have many Christians. I have felt the sting of fellow Christians spreading lies about me. But God has made it very clear how he feels about lying. In Psalm 34:13 (NLT), the Bible tells us to "keep your tongue from speaking evil and your lips from telling lies!" And in Proverbs 12:22 (NLT), we read, "the Lord detests lying lips, but he delights in those who tell the truth."

Proverbs 19:5 (VOICE) teaches us, "A false witness will not escape punishment, and one who breathes lies will not go free." Knowing this, it is incredible that we, as Christians, would continue to lie and promote lies. It seems that we don't only lie but dismiss it as if it was not a sin at all. 

Lies are like masks we wear to conceal the inside, and we all do it! Sometimes we think that it is to our advantage to lie. But we all have been a victim of deception, fooled by other people's lies. We don't like it when others deceive us. We live in a distorted world where we lie to others, and they lie to us. But what can we do about it?

To begin with, be honest. Stop deceiving yourself and others. Lies will make you feel good for a moment but, eventually, become a heavy burden. And be careful about the information that you choose to pass on. Are you sure that the juicy story you heard about your neighbor is true? Is the social media post that you are sharing factual? Remember, "liars take no pity on those they crush with their lies, and flattery spoils everyone it touches." Proverbs 26:28 (VOICE)

Gentle Reader, let's make sure we are not disseminating corrupted data. Sometimes that corrupt data can have widespread consequences. We need to listen to the advice of the Apostle Paul; "stop telling lies. Let us tell our neighbors the truth, for we are all parts of the same body." Ephesians 4:25 (NLT)

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