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  • Rob Butterfield

WHAT IF THE WORLD WIDE WEB GOES DOWN?

Would it be the end of the world as we know it?


Imagine if you can a day when the world wide web goes down. A day when none of us can get ‘on-line’ to check our e-mails or our social media. We have no way of making contact with anyone outside of shouting distance, we no longer have access to our digital entertainment channels, the sat-nav won’t work as there’s no gps signal, we can’t access any of our work or data that is so safely backed-up to ‘the cloud’. No contact details, no diary dates, no fitness apps, no access to news and the inability to shop from your armchair. And forget shopping ‘traditionally’ as the whole banking system is on lock-down and you can’t access your hard-earned cash or whatever crypto currency you use. On a larger scale, the economic impact would be calamitous.


Just take a minute to consider how pretty much everything we do could be affected by such an outage. Remember the blind panic reported when Facebook recently went down for a few hours? People actually had to eat a meal without sharing a picture of it with their friends first!


It’s a scary thought isn’t it? (not the bit about being unable to post a picture of your food, I’m talking about the wider consequences). I actually Googled ‘what would happen if the internet went down’ out of interest. There’s plenty of stuff out there (about 156,000,000 search results in fact). It’s all available… on the web… that you wouldn’t be able to access.


An interesting read is https://computer.howstuffworks.com/internet/basics/internet-collapse.htm an article by Jonathan Strickland who concludes that “It's almost impossible to imagine a set of circumstances that could cause the Internet to collapse. It would require destruction on such a widespread scale that the loss of the Internet would probably be the least of our worries.” Which, in a way, is kind of comforting.


However, the article was from 2010 and in that short nine years ‘cyber crime’ and ‘cyber terrorism’ has moved to a whole new level so I’m not totally convinced that an outage on a colossal scale is something that could only be as a result of a larger cataclysmic event. I’m certain that ‘evil forces’ could deliberately instigate such a circumstance if they wanted to.


Even that article from 2010 comments “Think of the businesses that depend upon the Internet. Every Web site would be offline. Huge companies like Google or Amazon would become obsolete instantly. Other companies like Microsoft would see enormous sections of their operations disappear.” And that is just the tip of the a very quickly melting online iceberg! It goes on to observe that “Some governments might react to such a situation rashly. It's impossible to predict how each government would react; however, it's not hard to imagine a series of events that could escalate into a conflict.” And that is the really, really scary side of it.


Another interesting and more recent article from the BBC can be found at http://www.bbc.com/future/story/20170207-what-if-the-internet-stopped-for-a-day.


And if you’re not one for reading this kind of stuff this YouTube video gives quite a concise oversight: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=SXPOTqnkiuM which concludes “If the internet went down it would be the end of the world as we know it today.” Nothing to worry about then!


Ok, so economic disaster and global warfare aside, would it be such a bad thing? Writing letters, going to libraries to research and learn stuff, only having three terrestrial tv channels via an antenna, reading maps on a journey, shopping in high street stores with cash, going outside to see what the weather is like, going to see bands live, buying records… you see where I’m heading with this? For those of us who remember a time before the internet I’m sure we’d adapt. It might take time for sure, but that nostalgic trip might just be fun. In fact, we can still do most of that stuff today – it’s just that we choose not to.


For the younger generation that has grown up in a world where the internet has always existed such a change may be a little more challenging. But I’m sure that they would embrace the old as the new in the same way that they’ve championed the inconceivable growth of the digital age.


Apologies if I’ve gone a bit thoughtful and maudlin on this post. It’s just that, although not keeping me awake at night, it’s something that I’ve pondered in my more deep and meaningful moments. I’ll lighten things up with my next post, promise!

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