The deadly soul of a new machine

Try to imagine the last 11 minutes of Lion Air Flight 610 in October. The plane is a new machine, Boeing's sleek and intelligent 737 Max 8, fitted with an advanced electronic brain. After take-off, this cyber pilot senses that something is wrong with the angle of ascent and starts to force the jetliner down.

A tug of war follows between men and computer, at 720kmh - the human pilots trying to right the downward plunge, the automatic pilot taking it back from them. The bot wins. The jetliner crashes into the Java Sea. All 189 on board are killed.

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A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Sunday Times on December 09, 2018, with the headline 'The deadly soul of a new machine'. Print Edition | Subscribe