An Omen….

Like most of you who read this blog, I’ve been sequestered for several weeks now. And also like most of you, my link to the outside world–to work, family, news, commerce–has been the Internet.

I think there’s a song about not appreciating what you have until it’s gone…

A few days ago, in the midst of end-of-semester grading and other academic “wrap-up” obligations, our Internet went out. The timing was particularly bad, because I’d agreed to participate in a FaceBook “town hall” on voting that night, and the next morning a doctoral committee on which I’ve been serving was meeting via Zoom for the candidate’s all-important dissertation defense.

Thanks to my phone, I was able to participate in both, at least to a degree. But when I drew a breath of relief, it occurred to me that I had seen a highly plausible version of the future.

Think about just how dependent we have become on the Internet.

In our house, we have a “smart” thermostat. We open and close our front door with an Internet-enabled Amazon Key. Our new water softener uses the Internet to tell us when it needs salt. We bank online–remote depositing the occasional checks that still come via snail mail, and paying bills through the bank or PayPal. If we run out of some household good–batteries, furnace filters, vacuum-cleaner bags, whatever–we order replacements on line.

Our burglar alarm is online. We pay our taxes online. We stream television online.

The pharmacy that fills our standard medications is online. Amazon is there for so many purchases–especially during the Coronavirus lockdown. And during this lockdown, we’ve been able to order groceries online and have occasional dinners delivered by ClusterTruck and the like.

Communication and information? All online.

After my panicky episode (lasting a whole day!), I started to think about what America would look like if huge numbers of our citizens lost access to the Internet.

We are already seeing the problems caused by the so-called “digital divide.” As schools and universities have moved to online instruction, poor children and children in rural areas without access broadband have been significantly disadvantaged, further driving a wedge between the haves and have-nots.

In my more idle times, I’ve wondered what would happen if America was attacked not by guns or bombs, but by a successful effort to take down the country’s Internet. I don’t know whether that’s possible–whether there is sufficient redundancy in the system to foil such an effort–but the consequences would be disastrous. It would bring all the country’s systems and commerce to a screeching halt.

What is far more likely is that, when we finally emerge from this pandemic, it will be into an economy where unemployment is at Depression-era levels. Millions of people would be hard-pressed to pay for food and a roof over their heads–let alone IPhones and Internet service.

What would that America look like?

This pandemic has brought so many of our national weaknesses into sharp focus, and not just our inexplicable refusal to adopt universal healthcare. Chief among those weaknesses is a longstanding inattention to aspects of our constitutional system that no longer serve us; glaring examples are the Electoral College and the way our federalist system currently allocates responsibility/jurisdiction between the federal government and the states–especially responsibility for conducting elections. Along with gerrymandering and the widespread lack of both civic literacy and civic responsibility,  outdated constitutional structures are a major reason we have both a President and a Senate utterly incapable of doing their jobs, let alone handling the crisis we are now facing.

Meanwhile, social media promotes the conspiracy theories and “alternate facts” these officials depend upon for their continued political viability.

Think Nero was bad?

Our own mad leader doesn’t fiddle; he tweets while America burns–continuing to squander America’s global credibility, endanger the lives and livelihoods of millions of our citizens, and demonstrate un-self-aware buffoonery.

What would he and his pathetic crew do if more than half of America lost access to the Internet?

 

33 thoughts on “An Omen….

  1. For me the internet is not a necessity in any practical sense, but rather a necessity for my soul. Given enough time I can do my taxes by hand with forms from the library, and I have never used it for banking. But my life would be diminished if there was not a way to communicate with my friend JoAnn, stay in touch with my grandchildren’s lives, or read the blog each morning so that I had some big thing to think on all day. I would not be able to read the news from around the world or get the latest weather report. And then there is You Tube and enough entertainment to last the rest of my life time.
    I could get by without the internet. We all could, but our worlds would not be as big, our wolds would not be as interesting, and our worlds would definitely not be as entertaining.

  2. Suggested reading – Lights Out, by Ted Kopple. It is probably not if, but when.

  3. I don’t how we survived without the internet. It gives us a world of continuous learning and reach. I am grateful that I moved to Europe after the internet was available everywhere as long as you could pay for it. How lonely life would be if I couldn’t keep in touch with family and friends worldwide? I’m a 21st Century woman, for sure!

  4. One good consequence of the Internet going down for an extended period, is that our dear leader would not be able to vent his ire via Tweets several times a day. On the other hand, without being able to spend several hours on cable, he would get reckless and find branches of the government he has not screwed up yet, and would have at it with them.

  5. One of the most feared war strategies is an adversary setting off thermonuclear explosions in space creating an EMP (Electro-Magnetic Pulse) that would basically wipe out the satellites that receive and transmit trillions of bits of data every second. All the computers would go dark instantly.

    Oh, and it’s not just social media that drives the lunatic fascists and anarchists. There are wretched, irresponsible on-line entities like Judicial Watch, The Washington Examiner, whatever Mike Huckabee uses, and a host of other “news” outputs that do NOTHING but feed the drooling masses of right-wing dummies who live on conspiracy theories. Why do they exist? Because there is a market for them. Why is there a market for these wretches? Because of the aggrieved white male need for justification. The internet has allowed that monster to escape the darkness of its cage and come roaring out to attack responsible ideals and sound government.

    Donald Trump is the extant monster that our non-participatory voters have allowed out of his bat cave. Speaking of which….in yesterday’s special election in California, the Republican candidate is leading by 12 points. Why? Democrats didn’t vote. WAKE UP DEMOCRATS.

  6. I just sent a lengthy post which disappeared; it contained problems aside from the loss of Internet issues which will effect many of us.

  7. The Banking System: If / When that goes down. HOW do we buy anything?
    Gas Station? Grocery? Basic stuff. THAT is what I worry about
    also
    At SOME point, might our large national corporations have SOME humanity
    and STOP funding the crazy (Fox/Rush etc)? Not yet

  8. If nothing else, the internet is an outlet to vent, rant and rave to release tension and sustain mental stability. When I witness road rage, and it seems more often now, I say that arrogant lost soul needs some Facebook time. Could lights out happen? The adversary would have to know where and how to hack the tight security of redundant systems off site from the main central. My retirement fund offices were located across the street at eye level to witness the horror of 911. Personnel immediately prepared for evacuation while IT activated switch to an off site redundant information system where all the current and archival data is stored and secure. Our retirement did not miss a check and support service. Some folk like to rant and rave about government “duplication” until a crisis to appreciate strategic redundancy kicks in to support continued operations. We will learn about the efficacy of even redundant outsourcing in a global pandemic. I am part of a team that edits and publishes a global newsletter to retirees world wide. Many have no access to the internet, so we have relied on airmail to maintain contact. Our most recent mailing during the pandemic had an 80% return rate that normally would be less than 5%. We will wait a bit to mail with the surplus of newsletters already printed. Next time you worry about “duplication” … might better reflect on “strategic redundancy”. 😇

  9. After Irma, I was without electricity and internet for four days. I lived through it without much trouble. I missed it, but I continued to read, cook on my grill, and clean up around the outside of the house. At least I could go to any store that was open and spend time with friends and neighbors. There wasn’t any gasoline to be had, so travel was limited to that which was essential.

    It’s interesting to realize that we can get by without those things. Most of us remember a time when we didn’t have any of it to begin with, so just think of it as revisiting the days of our youth.

  10. There was a day in our past that many books were written and articles penned about the eventual takedown of our grid or internet. I believe those days have passed.

    The global networks are too connected.

    While the GOP strategy is to blame China for everything to distract voters from the buffoon in the White House, the Walton family imports hundreds of billions of dollars from China. I believe Walmart uses an automated inventory system like most large retailers who also get their products from China.

    The global commodities markets are also too connected for one country to play with our grid or satellites. Look at what happened to the global oil market when the Saudi’s and Russia unloaded oil.

    By the way, there are a few companies leaving China for other cheap labor markets in the name of “diversification.” I would keep an eye on the exodus of the corporate conglomerates from China.

    The Democratic base is asleep because the DNC has “Sleepy Joe Biden” as their presumptive nominee which excites nobody. If you think Tara Reade was a problem wait until #RussiaGate implodes on the DNC. Speaking of “omens,” Crowdstrike just admitted they found NO evidence of Russia hacking the DNC which some of us already knew. From this point, when it all unravels, it will get very ugly for the DNC and Biden was very much a part of it.

  11. Todd,

    Who is Crowdstrike? What validates them and their research over reports from our own CIA and FBI? Please don’t fall into the trap that many journalists do by creating stories that don’t exist.

  12. I spent most of my professional career as an IT Network Engineer. I am a Cisco Certified Network Professional, and I actually know how the Internet works. For the most part it works amazingly well for how it is screwed together, but I do know there are A LOT of things that could break it.

    As for my household, I have avoided many of the Internet attached devices. I don’t have Internet connected thermostats. I don’t have garage door openers, or door locks, or water softeners that connect to the Internet. My alarm system uses the wireless cellular network because you can’t cut a wire to disable it. I know how many pieces and parts have to be in working order to make all of those things functional and I value functionality over convenience.

    I would lack entertainment, and be isolated without my Internet, but my house hold would continue to function. Maybe because of my IT background, when those things quit working, it gets to be hugely frustrating for me since I am THE tech support guy.

    When my sisters phone pinged and she stopped to look at it, and I said what was that? She said “Oh… the clothes in the dryer are done”. Really? Is it worth it to be that connected?

    Unless there is some feature that will absolutely transform your life, save the $100 and buy the cheaper model. There is something to be said for simplicity.

  13. Vernon,

    Crowdstrike was the independent contractor who DWS called to check out the computers at the DNC after she suspected their computers were hacked. The FBI actually took the word of Crowdstrike ignoring what was already said by Julian Assange and what he promised in October 2016.

    Security and former agents already analyzed the data and said it was an inside job. The data was downloaded due to the speed it traveled. No way it was a hack across the internet.

    It’s why I never got suckered into the whole #RussiaGate mess. It was a scam and yes, our IC went along for the ride. It’s starting to unravel as more information is dumped from Washington.

    It’s also why Assange has been treated so poorly. One has to ask why Julian has never been interviewed by our press in the USA/UK, or why Mueller didn’t interview him.

    As I said, the whole RussiaGate story will begin unraveling this summer leading up to the election and Biden/DNC will feel the negative impact.

  14. living on a old farm site in nowhere NoDak is essential..it reminds me to not,be overcome by the tech. no face or twit, a few blogs like this is all i allow myself …,go off grid for my own needs. though i spend hours doing work around caretaking,remember that contact? its allowed me to spend my time in quiet,non rat race world i work in.being tied to the net,i foreseen decades ago, the writing on the tube. i still prefer social interaction in real life,i throw a smoke out every labor day,smoked on real mesquite,with a hog,briskets,ribs and this year a lamb will be the fare,along with veggie skewers,and corn on da cob… this keeps my sanity,and allows the locals and other const workers i deal with, who drop in,a feast,at no cost. (no amazon)Labor day is my special day to reflect on the working class,and those who,are not able to work. many where i live at use the net for family whatevers, and some news. (fox) to keep em amused. this new way to social contact, the net,was never devised until the recent decades,man went with drums,telegraph and media directed at them. now its directed at you,from you.. somewhere we didnt figure out a learning curve,how this would command your life,and deploy issues,that would devide the people,nation,customs. its merely came aboard,and we wrestle with its demands,over ours. driving atruck is now common to be tracked,set up for a schedual and make reports,and tell your dispatcher to GFY! few companies like the one i work for understand,we are not machines,we are human,and the phone call still rules..after all,a place to remember,you can not get a adiquate desision made,if you can not hear the voice of the person your relating to..like a bad day at the office,or personal problems,maybe it was better to talk to,the person and intervene,i can only imagine how many tragedies became real over a simple intervention,one on one…
    anyone here is invited to my labor day BBq in NoDak,,(p.s. no ties,we have rules to ya know)
    best wishes,im back at work, fixin your beat up roads,again…

  15. Bill Bailey — that was a very scary & informative book.

    I too recommend Ted Koppel’s Lights Out.

  16. Is it not interesting that this world operated fairly well without internet for centuries? Then, within a mere 25 or 30 years, we feel we cannot survive without it?

    I am an artist at heart (studied mural painting with the great Eric Bransby). So I see myself going back to basics with no internet. Go outside and REALLY look at the trees, flowers, birds, clouds, REALLY look at the colors and light, the sun cast upon the various greens, browns and purples of nature. There is SO MUCH to learn by mere observation and taking TIME.

    “The world went and got itself into a big damn hurry,” I think is a line from the movie The Shawshank Redemption where an old man was released from prison after many decades of incarceration. He was overwhelmed by how society had changed. He ended up hanging himself because he could not adapt, going from relative silence and predictability to the madness and speed of modernity.

    My mother was a bookkeeper most of her working life. She had to balance millions of dollars of debits/credits each year, hopefully to the penny. She did it ALL by hand (she did have 10 key “machines”). Everything was notated and filed with penciled line items and balance sheets. She retired in 1986, never having the chance to have a computer do it all for her!

    Her generation (the so-called “Greatest” by Tom Brokaw) was probably the last to do such tasks that had not changed for virtually thousands of years (is not record keeping some of the oldest script known in the history of civilization?).

    I guess, like others here, I get nostalgic of days gone by when there was no technological gadget to interfere with my day dreaming or drawing and painting. I remember sitting in life drawing class and 3 hours seemed like 20 minutes. Nothing disrupted the class except Bransby’s radio playing K.U. classical music seemingly non-stop.

    Yes, the internet is an incredible thing that allows us access to a world of history, culture, news, arts, etc. Quite the library! But I STILL prefer books! Living trees sharing the thoughts and views of a current or past voice. The printing press shook the world in the 15th century (perhaps more so) as the advent of today’s computer. Ha! I wonder if there were people 30 years after it’s explosion into culture who thought they could never live without it?

    Well, thanks for the article Sheila! Gave me a good trip sitting on my chair and going nowhere…behind a stupid computer!

  17. The Internet opened up a vast new World to me. I could perform research on the Internet during my business career and also for my personal interests. The Internet and various other programs beats going to the library and searching through index cards to find out if the library carries a certain book or searching the paper periodical index.

    The amount of raw information on the Internet is enormous. The problem is this availability once again highlights the inequalities in our Capitalistic system – You can have the Internet in all it’s glory – if you can afford it.

    I am always surprised when I observe other people fooling around with their “Smart Phones” on some application. Texting instead of talking, just for starters. There may already be an “App” that tells you when to take a Crap. The Crap App we could call it.

    Even though many people would not want the Government tracking their whereabouts they allow Google or some other app to track you. Express an interest in Night Vision Goggles and you will start seeing ads for them on Facebook.

    Also since the the cable providers were given monopolies in a given territory they could charge what ever the market would bear. The cable providers were given a monopoly like the utilities but were not governed by any regulatory agency in terms of justifying cost to the customer.

  18. Todd,

    It still sounds a lot like “he said, she said”. DWS was a terrible DNC chair as is Tom Perez. They couldn’t manage a keg party inside a brewery. Anything involving Assange is specious, so I’m not getting too excited about him not being interviewed.

    Again, we’d better be VERY careful what we ask for. Digging dirt on specious, unsubstantiated suspicions could send the idiot non-voters back under their rocks in November, thus giving the world another four years of destruction, lies and outright fascism.

    My advice is to move away from the tabloid level of journalism and find ways to motivate voters to get Republicans the hell out of office….even if you despise the DNC. Our politics have been broken ever since the egregious Citizens United v. FEC decision by SCOTUS. But, like it or not, the DNC is now the only hope our Constitution has of being preserved.

    Sometimes you just gotta chew the undercooked rice.

  19. I am smiling as most of us are showing our age since there are so many who have mentioned they could live without the internet because at one point none of us had it and never dreamed all this was coming down the pipeline. I don’t know if we can say this about the younger generation where they have grown up with information at their fingertips.

    Last week a group of us were talking about the card catalog at the library and having to do research papers and finding sources. I struggled with the early versions of the online card catalog and so for my research papers I would just go to their area of my research paper interest and pulled off journals to find articles that fit what I wanted to say. 🙂

    Yesterday I was reaching out to some educators because I am worried about my 11 year old daughters education. Our county in Tennessee has many, many places where there is no internet access–NO INTERNET access and so since March 1st when the tornado hit and then 2 weeks later Covid-19 lockdown orders came into our county my daughter has had some zoom meetings w/ teachers but her 6th grade education came to a halt. This virus is not going anywhere for a LONG time if ever and I am worried about this coming year and if again there is no school. If it wasn’t for someone paying $25,000 to extend an internet line my home would not have internet and we live 25 miles from the center of Nashville. So, I am researching home school options because unfortunately public schools in our area can not offer the education needed. We are also looking into private schools (there are not alot down here but a few) and may have to bite the cost for it.

  20. Crowdstrike’s findings that Russia did the hacking was confirmed by others.

    I can’t believe Americans are actually advocating for Russia despite obvious guilt. And, no, what every intelligence agency found about the hacking, and Mueller confirmed, is not “unraveling.” That’s just Trump talking points based on no evidence.

  21. Thinking.
    Internet folks as on Facebook and this blog please me much more than live people.

    With internet folks I don’t have to smell them. I don’t have to touch them. See their lying eyes dart to the side. See those eyes search the environs for someone else to talk to because they don’t want to hear what I have to say. Make judgement or avoid judgement about the appropriateness of their attire or my attire. Miss the signs of their stupidity. Feel accepted or rejected. Validated or invalidated. Deal with their presence rather than their thoughts. Barter strokes.

    With Internet folk I can read their intelligence and willingness to think without being fooled by their appearance.

    The Internet is perhaps the greatest stimulus in terms of scale of thinking ever. No matter how dumb some idiot’s post, he or she likely had to think in order to write it. Some more than others, but thinking had to occur. Upon reading a dumb post, think in terms of multiplication–like multiply that post in that moment by 100 million; 100 million people worldwide have stretched their long-atrophied thinking muscles. Writing one’s thoughts as opposed to blurting them audibly tends to force thought and organize thought.

    So, also, argument forces thought, even among the lowest of deplorables, even in the deepest intellectual gutter. Small increments of thought, if only to better phrase their cliches or pack more bitch-slap in their insult.

    Due to the Internet and to nasty arguments, we shall see an increase in human thinking ability…if we can survive long enough. Not to mention human knowledge increasing due to forced Google searches to find the silver bullet to shut those Liberal SOBs up.

  22. Oh, and the “download speed” argument for why it was an “inside job” instead of a Russian hack was thoroughly discredited long ago.

    https://thehill.com/policy/cybersecurity/346468-why-the-latest-theory-about-the-dnc-not-being-a-hack-is-probably-wrong

    I haven’t heard this argument for awhile. I’m surprised it is now coming back. This is like the 9/11 conspiracy theories. You shoot them down one at a time and when they run out of those theories, they just cycle back to the first one and you begin the process again.

  23. It appears I have been using the wrong tense of the verb when lamenting that AI is going to take us over. I have been using the future tense when I should be using the past or at best present tense, and one of the problems is that I understand we ain’t seen nuthin’ yet, as in, when does the monster we have created devour its creators?

    Just what we need – another thing to worry about to go along with pandemics and humans (?) such as Trump, McConnell and other lusters after power and money. . . However, we can do something about these humans, like vote them out of office in a landslide, but as to stemming innovation and “progress,” we seem to have no weapon, or desire. So where do we go from here with additional certainties of further encroachments by Silicon Valley in our already
    tumultuous lives? It’s beyond my pay grade even to guess, so I’ll leave that to the sociologists.

  24. ONE SECOND AFTER by William R. Forstchen is fiction based on the idea that an EMP would disable our entire way of living, including taking out all cars built with computers in their innards. Book dates back to 2009 and we’re told it was cited in Congress in effort to promote “hardening” of vital facilities like the power grid. Was that done?

  25. Three lifetimes ago the average building had no services in or out of it. Today virtually all buildings have energy in (electricity and/or gas and/or coal and/or oil) and heat and CO2 out; water in and sanitary and storm sewage out; and information in (cable, fiber, phone, over the air).

    That’s just individual buildings. Connecting buildings around the world we have supply chains of immense capability and complexity to move us and our stuff around.

    Obviously three lifetimes ago and now we got by. Today though we get very stressed and whiney when any of those systems fail us even for an hour.

    Progress has created immense comfort and convenience at the cost of independence. We could elect individually to negate that trade off but virtually none of us do. In fact, many of us couldn’t survive alone.

    What all that progress has created though is an unsustainable human population. The earth can’t support our load.

    The fact of unsustainability will be enforced by natural forces that we have little control over. Or, we could collectively manage it to less temporary through more comfortable and convenient means.

    So far we seem not collectively smart enough to take the easy road.

    That leaves only the hard road.

  26. May I repost this on Facebook? Such a great quite.
    “Our own mad leader doesn’t fiddle; he tweets while America burns–continuing to squander America’s global credibility, endanger the lives and livelihoods of millions of our citizens, and demonstrate un-self-aware buffoonery.”

  27. LOL Sheila!

    Absolutely, Nero was bad with his fiddling, and our own personal Nero has his version of fiddling, right on with that.

    I saw Todd thinks that the Russians might not be as guilty as many think they are, but, Putin is well known for pulling the same shenanigans in other countries, he did it with the British and brexit, he did it with the Ukraine before he invaded, he tried it in France, even tried to use his surrogate Russian Orthodox lunatics Church to start trouble with the French. So believing that Russia is somehow innocent in this whole fiasco, it’s not very likely or comprehensible.

    We know the Russians were underwriting Trump’s loans with German and Russian Banks. Why else would Trump have a server in his residence communicating with one of the Russian Banks?

    Trump protest way too much, we already know he’s nowhere close to as wealthy as he claims, and, his dirty dealings are in the details of his tax returns! that’s why he’s fighting tooth-and-nail not to release them. although, I would bring out to the supreme Court, he claims that once his audits were over, he would release them! And, I believe his audits are over now, so we should get his tax returns!

    Too bad, we let social media become the big Man on campus, and we didn’t try and support The fifth estate. We need the muckrakers, those crawling through alleys and dumpsters, looking for a story, looking for the truth!

    You are correct in referencing the buffoonery going on, and the need for these buffoons to broadcast their buffoonery across social media! That way they can continue to muddy the waters and have control over the narrative rather than fighting with news organizations that have a different agenda than they do. This is not going to turn out well, and, you could pin this on the GOP, they refused and still refuse to remove someone who is mentally ill. What will history say? Well depending on what history will be left by time these stunads get done with whatever they’re plotting, we might find out the answer to that question.

    The incompetence and willful ignorance on display on a consistent level, really plays badly to the world. And all it does is encourage every other near do well that is thinking about a political career, to become powerful and consolidate as much as possible when they get into The fray.

    This is not going to turn out well for anyone in this country, and, I think there’s going to be a great deal of conflict before it’s all said and done. And, there definitely will be a reckoning for those who blindly follow their blind leader, because they’ll both fall into the pit! See how I put that scripture in there? Maybe you can find it, lol.

    Like I said the other day, no cohesion, no cohesion between the citizenry and government, no cohesion with other governments, no cohesion with different ethnic groups, no cohesion in the family unit, and the church has no cohesion with its beliefs. No cohesion, no society! No society, chaos! And chaos will equal Extinction!

  28. This pandemic is exposing many of our weaknesses. I have been disturbed by farmers dumping out milk, euthanizing pigs, letting vegetables rot. And then inspired by farmers giving to food banks in their local communities. I wonder how we would do with our food supply if we still had family farms and we ate seasonally and bought locally.

    There is an episode in Voyager where their ship is stolen by a group of alien thugs and they are left to survive on a volcanic planet with NO technology. They start collaborating with a small tribe of people that live there which helps them survive. One of the crew manages to stay on the ship and undermine the thieves. He colludes with the holographic doctor to get the ship back.

    I too have wondered what would happen if we experienced a devastating cyber attack. Then I stop myself. Because “the only thing to fear is fear itself.” I grew up before the internet so if it went down, I think I would find people who would join with me and help me cope with such a terrible travesty. What would be really difficult is if I had no electricity. I recall one time in my childhood when we had no electricity for 3 days. The neighbors came over and we helped each other. Hmmm. I’d have to cook on my charcoal grill if I had no electricity and figure out how to deal with no air conditioning. I grew up without air conditioning so I could probably manage.

    And in the meantime, I keep practicing breath relaxation and gratitude. 2 groups I am part of will be zooming this month and I am so thankful we can do that. And Shiela your worry about the internet has reminded me of how spoiled I am by all our modern conveniences.

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