Posted by: nickgerlich | February 4, 2008

Wireless

My imagination likes to run wild with ideas that will probably never happen, but at least hypothetically, could occur. Last semester I droned on and on in one blog considering what would happen if everyone (and I mean everyone) in the world–all 6+ billion–came to Texas. While I cannot lay claim to the kernel idea (as it was supplied by one of my students), I admit to having fun cranking out population density numbers on the calculator. It was a sobering thought, and thankfully it will never happen.

But let’s look at another possibility (and this idea also came to me following an email dialogue with the same student): What would happen if we lost the internet? And, as this student asked, is the internet part of our infrastructure?

I replied in a most emphatic Yes! But it is more than just infrastructure, as it is a vital part of our defense, our commerce, our education, and our communications. Remove the internet, and life comes to a crawl.

Undersea CableRemote possibility? Maybe, but consider that it actually happened yesterday in parts of Egypt, India, and several Arabic nations (read more). Turns out an undersea cable was cut somehow, disrupting this vital digital pipeline. India was able to reconnect fairly quickly by redirecting its inflow via other parts of Asia, but the disruption must have been severe nonetheless.

So how important is the internet to the US? In commerce alone, approximately $130 billion in online retail sales was racked up in the US in 2007. That amounts to $356 million on an average day.

And then consider that you would not be able to “come to class” (at least this class!). While you may not consider this to be too much of an inconvenience, you would not be able to do much other academic work, either. No Googling. No research. No emailing.

It’s mind boggling.

And it just gets worse from there. It would be like everyone ran out of digital gasoline, our computers and laptops coasting to a halt on the breakdown lane of the information superhighway.

Naysayers will reply by saying that we once lived without the internet. Why, just tune in to an episode of The Andy Griffith Show to see what life was like a mere 45 years ago. If they could make it, so could we.

But that was then, and this is now. Although I agree we all need to take the time to just sit on the front porch after supper, and maybe pick a few songs on the guitar, our lives are different now.

I’m just glad I don’t live in Egypt.

Dr “Just Call Me Moses” Gerlich

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