Three lessons from a man who averted nuclear war by not trusting a computer
On September 26, 1983, Stanislav Petrov made the correct decision to not trust a computer. The early warning system at command center Serpukhov-15, loudly alerting of a nuclear attack from the United States, was of course modern and up-to-date. Stanislav Petrov was in charge, working his second shift in place of a colleague who was ill. Many officers facing the same situation would have called their superiors to alert them of the need for a counter-attack. Especially as fellow officers were shouting at him to retaliate quickly before it was too late. Petrov did not succumb.
I’ve shared Petrov’s story before. A huge number of people have him to thank for their lives. And yet he remains to the general public largely unknown. Truly, if we are to avoid placing false and misguided trust in machines, algorithms and AI we need to be learning from people like Stanislav Petrov.