Vertesi said that the rise of smartphones and their uncanny ability to both locate and connect to anyone, anytime -- combined with unrealistic depictions of fictional super-sleuths on TV programs like CSI -- have lulled us into a sense that tech can do anything.
But reality is quite different.
"Technology is always very local and limited," said Vertesi, who has worked with NASA to study the human teams who control robotic missions to Mars. "It's built to solve particular kinds of problems, but it has limitations. It's unevenly distributed. Not all countries, states or cities have access to the same databases, satellites and computing resources. You are not always working in a world with no constraints."
The search for Flight 370 has already faced these constraints. Transponders either failed or were turned off, air traffic controllers lost the plane and aviation experts haven't found evidence of hijacking or pilot suicide.
There's also been a lag between the time that satellites spot debris, to when the images made available to aerial search teams, and then how quickly ships can plow through rugged seas to the objects.