It’s been ten days since adventurer Steve Fossett disappeared in the Nevada desert. Millionaire Richard Branson was using Google Earth to try to located him and now Amazon is involved. The company has set up a Mechanical Turk project where volunteers can view recent satellite photos and search for the plane. The project is located here. A similar project was created to search for computer scientist Jim Gray when he was lost at sea earlier this year, but Gray was never found.
When I heard about this story I had a slightly jaded response- ah yes, another cocky kabillionaire killed off by his own arrogance. But that dark knee-jerk reaction soon gave way to a sense of awe, I mean, absolutely how cool is this technology? This is beyond Transporter cool, beyond Cylon cool, beyond Transwarp drive cool. This is ubercool.
The next thing that struck me was the results this undertaking have revealed. So far, searchers have found half a dozen previously unknown crash sites, but no sign of Fossett’s plane. Wait a second, how can we have SIX previously unknown crash sites? How does that work exactly? We must assume at least one person was aboard- likely more than one, how is that person was not missed by someone? Homeless men/women don't fly planes, prison escapees (except those off Prison Break it seems) don't have the means to fly either, and these pilots ain't runaways. This is not a person who is off the grid. A person who can fly a plane is a person of some means, likely a person who should be missed, even if we assume these folks failed to file a flight plan. Surely someone somewhere approached authorities and said: "Um, We are missing my dad, and a plane can you look into this for us?"
I find it so odd that half a dozen crashes went unreported and missing until now. And while it is amazing to consider what can be done when people put time and effort into something, it strikes me as profoundly sad that no less than six individuals were left to mummify in the heat of the desert because they didn't have the high profile name and face to warrant the effort.
If I have an accident in the desert nobody but my family would use this technology to look for me. I am not famous, I am not rich, and as such my worth as a person on this planet is limited only to my circle of family and friends. Perhaps the attention generated from this will make it easier in the future for people to conduct searches for ‘average’ people, but I doubt it.