The Internet as we know it today really came into its own in 1997, and even then most Internet sites were crude. In the last decade or so, broadband has become commonplace and mobile devices are now highly integrated with the Internet.
That’s changed everything. We have become increasingly dependent on the Internet for things we need to maintain our normal life. If this trend continues, as most expect it will, we may not be able to survive so easily without the Internet.
And this is a huge risk we are taking. As recently as last July, Keith Alexander, the head of the country’s Cyber Command and the head and the National Security Agency announced that we are unprepared. Cyberattacks are on the increase, and a recent Defense Department report now assesses the risk as “grave.” And Congress has again failed to act to take any decisive measures to defend against this risk.
It seems very plausible that one day there may indeed be a catastrophic failure of the Internet, and it may be one that we cannot recover from quickly. It’s possible we could be without the Internet for weeks, months—or even years—in the case of an attack from something more serious like an EMP Bomb.
Given this, our culture really needs to reassess our dependence on the Internet and the rush to put everything in the cloud. As we connect more things to the Internet, our infrastructure may perform better, but it’s also greatly weakened.
It’s distinctly possible that we could, in one fell swoop, lose all services like the electric grid, water and sewer and almost all communications (telephone and television). Now picture this world, and picture how we’ll be able to survive if all of our assets have moved to the cloud. Not only could we be without utilities, but as we move to ebooks and online documentation, we could find ourselves without reference materials and without access to the instructions we’ll need to repair the damage. And if we need to travel and GPS and online maps are down, how will we find our way?
Everyone understands the concept of backing up and knows how important is, but where are our backups for the Internet? In fact, they are the old-school things that we have been steadily losing and replacing with the Internet, and if our culture continues this blind race to digitize everything, we could lose it all.
I suggest we all rethink just a bit and remember that we do need backups. Do go to a bookstore and buy printed books now and then. Do buy a printed atlas and printed maps, and keep them available. Do keep that old radio around. You may find one day you actually need them. They are the backups.
Remember, we live in a market-driven society, so if we don’t buy them, we may find no one will make them any longer. It’s ironic but true: The single best thing we may have to secure our future is to maintain some of the old-school ways from our past.