Tuesday, September 26, 2006

The Man Who Saved The World

Today is the 23rd anniversay of the day Stanislav Petrov a USSR colonel averted a potential nuclear disaster by refusing to believe computer warnings that the US had launched a missile attack against the Soviet Union. His judgement to disregard the warnings as false proved sound; the warnings were in erorr. But had Petrov acted on the warnings and notified his superiors, it is not a stretch of the imagination to think that the anxious Soviet command would have launched a full "retaliatory" counterattack and ensuring MAD.

Anyway when I first heard this story, my first reaction was that it seemed that it was straight out of War Games or any other Cold War era film built around the nuclear war hype. Another more recent movie that came to mind was Denzel Washington's Crimson Tide. I was shocked. These scenarios which sound so fantastical and hilarious when you're watching a movie were appallingly real. What was most disturbing was the eery similarity between reality and fantasy. Those who have watched War Games will remember that the plot also centered around a human decision to not accept a computer warning which was later shown to be in error.

Petrov's story was only declassified eight years ago and it is now set to appear in a documentary: "The Red Button & The Man Who Saved the World". Here's to Petrov and the hope that our luck will hold out.

-- Arkajit

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