Friday, June 30, 2006

fyi Would the bird flu kill the Internet, too?


Found content:

My take:

One of the things I love about a free press is how creative it is in exploring every last sensationalistic ramification of every fearmongering topic.

This headline put me in mind of the immediate weeks after 9/11. Back when the nation’s commercial air system was shut down temporarily, and many of us had little choice but to cancel travel, jump on the trusty Internet, and sit home coddling new visions of postmodern Armageddon. It was then that I realized the Internet is a great societal shock absorber, allowing us to carry on reasonably well in business, entertainment, and life when the analog world goes temporarily loco.

Considering that a pandemic would drive people into their caves indefinitely, the Internet would be their periscope for safely monitoring the emergency and coordinating life in the shadow of universal death. In the found content, one of the core theses is “The idea of everyone working from home appears untenable.” Which is certainly true, unless people redefine “home” to refer to any place that offers food/shelter and currently lacks the physical presence of other human germ-carriers. To the extent that ISP and other data centers everywhere are evacuated of all but the most essential staff, and those people are incentivized to camp out in those locations 24x7 until the pandemic subsides, then the Internet might be kept up and running to a degree.

Another core thesis is: “You can see the Internet as a self-regulating supply-and-demand mechanism….The more people use it, the slower it gets, so the less people use it.” Which is also true. The Internet is a rationing mechanism, like any market. To the extent that, in a pandemic, the Internet is evacuated of all but the most essential traffic (through QoS-driven user self-interested patience, forebearance, and abandonment of the ‘Net), then the Internet will keep running 24x7 to an acceptable degree, from the point of view of the world community as a whole.

The Internet wouldn’t “shut down” entirely, but it would certainly be hammered by universal hysteria. Society wouldn’t collapse, nor would infrastructure, but it would certainly be a nasty spell for all of us trying to hold body and soul together.

I’m fatalistic about all this. Anybody who lost their parents young would understand where I’m coming from.