Here is a quote from my AWAD (A Word A Day) feed this morning:
“The skylines lit up at dead of night, the air-conditioning systems cooling empty hotels in the desert and artificial light in the middle of the day all have something both demented and admirable about them. The mindless luxury of a rich civilization, and yet of a civilization perhaps as scared to see the lights go out as was the hunter in his primitive night.” -Jean Baudrillard, sociologist and philosopher (1929-2007)
I am guilty of being somewhat of a Jeremiah (which was the word of the day today), in that I have been frightened about the fragility of the internet. While I have been worrying about this for some time, my closest community has sort of rolled eyes and chalked it up to my being a worry-wart, as they say.
But now the headlines are talking about the very real threat of cyber warfare. I was not really crying wolf, it seems.
This does not make me cheerful (as in “I was right…see?”) but rather really really worried now. The Information Age hangs on such a corruptible thread! We have been joyfully reveling in the ability to communicate freely and often and somewhat “securely” with anyone in the world at any time we want for a decade or more now. The old fashioned means of interaction have nearly become obsolete by virtue of inactivity. When was the last time I wrote a handwritten note and sent it by USPS? Well, even so, the USPS is using computerized systems to sort and route mail, and if those failed, even an express-mail letter would have a very difficult time getting from my place to, say, some place in the middle of New Mexico, or Taipei.
How easy is it to disrupt a whole hunk of country simply by weather damage to power stations and transmission towers? In my part of the country we still have outages that can last for days and days, simply by virtue of a wind, or ice storm.
Batteries only last a little while. The gas pump works by computer. So does the checkout station at the gas station and at the supermarket. Our phones are dependent on systems that are computerized, and radio and TV stations are too.
So do we remember how to wash clothes without washing machines? Do we even have clothes pins to hang up the clothes after we are finished using the washboard? Can we cook over a fire anymore? Do we have fuel for such things? When we run out, are there alternative fuels we might use? On our property?
Would we be able to function without banks dispensing money to us on demand?
I am seeing a frozen world, in my imagination, here in Seattle WA, with nothing moving but anxious and panicky people…moving desperately around in a wilderness with no amenities. I am visualizing a world that puts everyone on the same democratic level as everyone else, with many of us asking the street people for tips on how to get from one day to another without heat, food, clothing.
Not a bomb would need to drop to disable an entire country. Are we vulnerable?