What about the world outside the plane? Didn't the pilots see where they were going?
Actually, no. By the time they opened their laptops, it was dark outside, and clouds covered Minneapolis. They were flying blind.
OK, so they couldn't see and weren't watching their flight computers. But what about the other humans onboard? Didn't the flight attendants talk to the pilots?
Not much. Since 9/11, cockpits have been sealed to keep out hijackers. Pilots live in their own little world. The first officer told investigators that he and the captain "were only required to talk to the flight attendants before takeoff," according to the NTSB report. Once the laptops were open, the flight attendants didn't speak up till the plane was past its destination. That's when the pilots looked at their displays and realized where they were.
In his interview with investigators, the captain profusely apologized. He said he had "let another force come from the outside and distract me." But that isn't what happened on Flight 188. The force didn't come from outside. It came from inside. It enveloped the pilots' minds and shut down their senses. They lost touch with everything outside: their displays, the world beyond their windshield, the passengers behind the cockpit door.
And the pilots weren't distracted. They were impervious to distractions. They were completely focused on their laptops.
That's what worries me most about our journey into cyberspace. Going in may prove to be a lot easier than getting out.