It’s no secret that I am fascinated by the potential of IT to improve lives. And for the most part, IT has delivered by improving quality of life, creating entertainment, simplifying banking, reducing costs, enabling new medicines and therapies, and reducing energy use. And so I find concepts like the digital divide, the lack of penetration of IT into schools, and the distribution of high-end equipment and architectures to highly profitable enterprises very troubling, in much the same way that I wonder why movie stars and some athletes command much higher salaries than most everyone else.

Computerization, of course, has created new vulnerabilities. IT systems, in the wrong hands, enable identity theft, industrial sabotage, and fraud on an unprecedented scale by enabling hackers and terrorists to exploit the vulnerabilities of other IT systems.

So, as a journalist in the mission-critical I look for the IT connection in almost every story in almost every article I read. And there are quite a few.

  • New cure for cancer? There are almost too angles to count.
  • Baseball? Moneyball. Sabermetrics. Need I say more.
  • Bernie Madoff. Both in the commission of the crime and the detective work afterword.

I suppose, given our shared interest in data centers, we are accustomed to seeing the good in data centers and the systems they support. They do, in fact, bring us good. For instance, I’m chatting online using Facebook, while I write, with my 90-year old aunt in County Donegal, Ireland.

And I suppose that the cocoon computers build around us can make us feel a false sense of security, isolated as we are in a world in which we have to venture out only rarely.

As a result, violence and evil can be seen as out there and avoidable, if we forget potential misuse. But what about the trouble that ensues because of our dependence on devices? Or just our naïve faith that problems can be kept at a distance?

In recent weeks, the Northeast has been tormented with problems of all sorts, and in each case, victims felt safe and secure in their homes or at work.

Computers and IT are wonderful things, and I am blessed to be in the field. They are, however, no better than the humans who build and run them and their outputs no replacement for good judgment.