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LIFE WITHOUT THE INTERNET
4With all hope of repair to the Internet gone, people turn on each other. At least, so predicts Wacker. A social scientist
by training, he says that the five tenets of civilization---a belief system, faith system, lifestyle, modes of communi-
cation, and how we treat one another---would collapse under the stress of having to revert to an era that too many
digital natives never knew. Wacker suspects the U.S. doesn't have the tools to respond to a crisis, sans Internet. The result:
panic. "How we treat other members of our species would go to hell in a heartbeat," he said.
Lucky for us, then, that a long-term loss of the Internet, even by accident, is unlikely. "We've seen some pretty nasty
cyber attacks, and we sur vive them," said Schneier.
2People travel everywhere with hard drives in lieu of
being able to send information through e-mail, or to
store it in the cloud. Road warriors and students
use them to store documents that they can later share with
a team. Not so bad, considering it was just five years ago
that people carried USB thumb drives everywhere. (Re-
portedly, Peter Jackson carried a hard drive everywhere
while filming The Lord of the Rings in rural New Zealand
because the Internet connection there was too slow to send
The next stage: panic. With online banking dead and the
virtual disintegration of publicly traded companies, cash
will become the hot commodity. Cue an almost instanta-
neous run on banks, and violence when they eventually
shut their doors.
Toward the end of the first week, says Buckell, people
will have to rethink currency. After all, how can someone
earn money if their profession is suddenly meaningless? And
without money, how can one buy food, shelter, toilet paper,
and diapers? A barter system emerges in local communities.
Crime goes up as people begin stealing out of desperation
(not unlike the rise in petty crime during the most recent
recession). Some people, though, gather at churches and other
community centers to form neighborhood watches. Buckell
says this happened in the Virgin Islands, where he grew up,
after hurricanes. Reasonable and entrepreneurial people start
learning new skills and trades, but most folks keep their money
in sight while they consider future livelihoods. Friends mean
people you can see, and don't mind speaking to.
Smaller companies are crippled. Larger businesses,
such as McDonald's, splinter into smaller companies, which
each operate as somewhat independent franchises; orders
from corporate headquarters take time to filter down to
various branches. Phone trees are organized to help keep
everyone infor med.
1E-commerce, e-mail, instant messages, and video
calls become impossible, while calendars and shared
web documents are now inaccessible. Productivity
screeches to a halt, and almost everyone's livelihoods freeze.
None are more affected than people whose jobs don't just
require the Internet, but are the Internet. From web design-
ers to online advertisers to bloggers, many jobs disappear
outright in an instant. As a result, says Buckell, mechanical
engineers and more hands-on professionals (read: blue-collar
workers) suddenly become essential.
3Wacker argues that within weeks, what started as local
panic will spread to international relations. "Thank God
we have a nice relationship with Canada," he said.
Even on a domestic scale, he warned there are fringe groups
waiting to pounce on weaknesses in the federal administra-
tion. Take, for instance, the Michigan-based radical Christian
group busted back in March on charges of conspiring to kill
police officers and then attack a funeral so that they could kill
more law enforcement officials when they eventually showed
up (all this in the name of fighting the antichrist). "This fringe of
society has been preparing for this from the get-go," Wacker
said. "People would die."
While local businesses take the reigns from multinational
corporations, the local food movement takes off, predicts Buck-
ell. After all, the Internet helped coordinate food delivering
logistics over long distances. Farmers' markets get swamped
with people, and whatever international food Wal-Mart and
other grocery stores have will soon fly off the shelves. People
can survive on stocked food for a couple weeks before true
desperation shows itself, and before geographic relocation to
various food sources becomes a more pressing option.
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