Klaus Walther, Lufthansa’s corporate spokesman, believes in technology. So when he looks up at the empty sky over Europe and bemoans the want of intuition and common sense that grounded the planes, ears perk up. Walther just wants to fly. And yet his protest against the flight ban is a milestone in the nascent criticism of digital-age technology, a chapter in the history of modern society’s systematic handing-over of power to computer models. Needless to say, the airlines have their own interests at heart. But Walther has never been known to put profit before safety. And those unwilling to board a plane at the moment ought to get this straight: the invisible cloud completely paralysing air traffic is not composed of ash and dust, but of numbers crunched in a computer. The chain reaction unleashed by a volcanic eruption today might be triggered by plenty of different eruptions tomorrow: geological, economic, social, you name it.

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