Tuesday, June 22, 2010

I fear the "unconscious" internet.

So I'm reading this article in The Observer (which is a supplement to The Guardian, I guess) by John Naughton, "The internet: Everything you ever need to know" where he asks us to,
"imagine what it would be like if, one day, you suddenly found yourself unable to book flights, transfer funds from your bank account, check bus timetables, send email, search Google, call your family using Skype, buy music from Apple or books from Amazon, buy or sell stuff on eBay, watch clips on YouTube or BBC programmes on the iPlayer – or do the 1,001 other things that have become as natural as breathing."
Ah, breathing.

Every other activity he mentions if a conscious one, but breathing is not. Breathing happens whether we want to or not. Hold your breath, pass out, resume breathing. You can't help it. Our bodies need air.

But immediately I start thinking of the "unconscious internet" where common tasks, like making a phone call are dependent on the internet for the connection. And the computer in my car, what if the computer can't perform some required update from the satellite and refuses to start, or worse, shuts off on a busy highway?

Are more essential tasks being transferred to the internet? Is my surgery paperwork that's flying through the hospital wireless network going to get to the operating room in time to keep the surgeon from giving me that appendectomy when all I wanted was a nice pair of D-cups? Not if you could see me now, it didn't. I'm in love with these puppies.

But is the electrical grid totally dependent on an internet connection? Our fuel supply? Our food and water supply? If the internet went down for 2 days, would it become complete chaos?

In that Die Hard 4 movie, the hacker kid talked about how some essential systems still require local access to disrupt them: but for how much longer? With bandwidth becoming more widespread, what is the temptation to move these local systems controls online for remote access and control?

I think some of this may have been discussed in Daniel Suarez's "Bot-Mediated Reality" presentation where the bots we create beget new bots which may not follow the programmed intent of the original bots.

There is the conscious internet where Facebook users protest, hackers control hordes of zombie computers, and your mom downloads Eminem's latest, but what about the unconscious one? Is it real? And if it's real, should I be worried?

Or am I just imaging this? Please tell me I am and that I shouldn't worry. But tell me by looking into my eyes... Hey, hey, up here fella. Quit staring at those.