Nowadays, having an internet access is not a luxury but a necessity for everyone. We use the internet for entertainment, to connect with friends, for research or running a business. Disruption of this service would mean a huge setback for all of us.
The Internet is strong. It does not depend on a cable or a single machine to make it work. The Internet’s structure is composed of interrelated computer networks that are widespread across the globe.
Continents are connected by underwater cables; areas that are impossible for wired connection use a satellite connection to have an internet access. Throughout the years, internet dependency became high. We are the living witnesses of this reality; we often check our computers or other gizmos to receive updates from friends, colleagues, and things that are close to our interest. These things include news portals, tech trends, business insiders, fashion trends, newest music, celebrity scoops, and a lot more.
The connection to the internet is very flexible. We can use a variety of gizmos, computers, and other machines capable of internet access. With these electronics, we can communicate with other devices easily, or access information fast. Sending or receiving data will pass through a single pathway, coming from the millions of reserved data paths. When you download something into your device, the file will come in a form of electronic data packets that are swiftly transported throughout the internet. Transported data doesn’t travel on the same path; instead, they are re-routed on dynamic traffic routes, making data possible to cross over intermittent or damaged connections. If that happens, the transported data can follow another path to reach the device that requested the file. This made the internet a reliable resource for communication.
If there’s a natural calamity that suddenly knocks out the internet; it will not affect other nearby areas. The other sectors of the grid will remain functional. It is possible that the data stored in the machines that were hit by the calamity will be lost, if backups were not properly maintained. Once the ISPs restore their services, the internet will be up in no time.
Widespread internet breakdown is hard to imagine. But, that doesn’t mean that it’s not possible. There’s still a chance that it will happen. For now, that would be the least for us to worry. So here are some the big questions: What if the internet suddenly collapses? Which will be the most affected market? Is the setback enough to change our lives drastically? Let’s find the answers, one at a time.
Things that could happen if the Internet collapses
Economic fallout would loom
A widespread internet outage could deliver a devastating blow to the economy. The interruption of electronic services such as banking and other online transactions would cause a huge loss for businesses.
One good example for this is Paypal; most of their transactions are made online. If the internet breaks down, Paypal will be useless. Other companies like Amazon, Google, and Microsoft would suffer the same fate; this will cause a huge operational loss for them. Most of the companies that rely too much on the internet will be on the verge of extinction.
Okay, let’s assume that the outage lasts for a week or the worst case scenario – permanently; many companies will suffer tremendous losses, they will be out in the game. Thousands of people will lose their jobs. Google alone has nearly 20,000 employees. With thousands of companies laying off their employees, hunger will follow, government agencies will not be able to sustain the support for the people affected by the recession; civil disturbance will brew, riots and demonstration will be seen everywhere.
A data from the U.S Census Bureau collected in 2007 shows that 35 percent of manufacturing shipments were from e-commerce websites. That was happening back in 2007. When we expand further our analysis, will see a humongous industry that generates 1.8 trillion dollars each year. The income generation could have been quadrupled by now. The commerce on the internet is a huge business; collapsing the internet would cause a global recession. There won’t be an instant recovery of investment because trillions of dollars will be lost.
Some countries would feel the unforgiving effect of the economic breakdown. Developed countries will experience the lashes of economic crisis resulting in the struggle and disappearance of different industrial sectors. Countries that are not too reliant on the internet will suffer small or no losses from a major country’s economic collapse. But, that doesn’t mean that they are safe from the equation. The major factor that will be affected is trading between other countries. There’s also a huge possibility that the pledges of aid are halted.
Only a few companies would remain resistant to the collapse of the internet.
Political crisis will follow
An economic collapse is the first thing that world leaders will battle. But, that doesn’t mean that it’ll be over; there will be more.
In the United States, the power grid is converted into a smart grid. These power plants are capable of automated power restriction, conservation, and distribution. The smart grids can also communicate with other power plants with the use of the internet; with the constant communication with other power grids, the power plants can reduce power outages and maximize the efficiency of power production and distribution.
If the internet goes down, operations in the smart grid are affected; massive power outages will follow. Other countries could seize that opportunity to spy on the affected country. Internet breakdown is a fatal blow to the intelligence agencies. The flow and sharing of information are slow and if that happens major countries could respond precariously. The unpredictable response of an affected a country could lead to confrontation or conflict with other countries.
Okay, let’s say that the world leaders restrain themselves from starting a world war; other major issues would emerge. The internet had been a major hub for education. Knocking it out will only mean that we’ll need to fill the huge gap and that gap is a major setback. The loss of internet means finding an expensive alternative way to make things work; with our life dependent to the internet, the gaps are impossible to fill. It’s like turning the clock counterclockwise, returning from our digital time to the analog era.
US government agencies such as the military, police, and other research organizations are connected to an exclusive network, outside the regular internet. If the internet fails, the government can resume its office. Data transmission and communication would still be operational. But, if the reserved network is also knocked out; the government will be vulnerable to any kinds of attack.
Commerce would slow massively
Without internet, all the online sellers would feel like they are in a horror movie. Let’s think about Amazon, Alibaba, eBay and the other sellers, the online selling would be stopped. Even if they have sections of offline business, these can’t function without the online ones.
If just a small section of internet would collapse, it’s still a big problem. Even in this case the international trade would undergo. Because almost every business works with online payment or cloud computing.
In addition, the groceries shops would have a lot of problems. The absence of connections, even if it’s for one day, would slow the future food supplies, plus the food suppliers would no longer be able to monitor all the transports, which are continuously on the move.
The setback is enough to change our lives?
Not really! For the moment, this would be a big problem, but not with permanent consequences. For a weeks the delivery system would be disorganized and the stock market would be affected. But we will still use currency to buy things, that specialization of humans would still exist and all the automated/semi-automated processes will be converted to manual labor.
Total Internet collapse, is it really possible?
Good news – a total internet collapse is not possible. The internet is not like a simple switch whereas you can easily turn it ON and OFF. It isn’t based on a physical thing, but a collection of physical networks that constantly changes. The internet is not a constant entity; it changes as it goes to the next machine. The only relation of machines to the internet is through a connection. A machine connects to the internet and leaves once the data is processed or transferred.
So far, the known factors that knock out the internet are the rebooting servers and the creatures of the deep. You might wonder, how does it happen? Curious & hungry sharks bite the underwater cables. These cables are huge data hubs that connect a country to another country which is separated by the vast ocean. If this happens, the internet disruption would be temporary, but eventually things will be repaired.
Have you heard about the Internet backbone? This a collection of servers and cables that transports huge volumes of data across other networks. If your thinking of a magic cable that could be cut or pulled out to create a global internet outage, that is impossible and there’s no such fairy tale.
A global internet outage will only happen if the protocol that is used by the servers to communicate with other networks stops from working. Other cause would be major damages suffered by the network infrastructure (man inflicted or made by mother nature).
The protocols used can’t really stop from working, at least not immediately; so we’ll rule that out of the possible eventualities that could knock the internet offline. If we go with the natural calamity scenario, one reasonable thing that is capable of doing such damage isa giant asteroid colliding with our planet.
For those of you who think of more artistic ways of knocking down the internet, here’s a brief list:
- the gamma radiations and electromagnetic fluctuations from the sun could set offline the whole grid (but there’s a catch, the earth will be lifeless). Yeah, the internet will not matter for all of us if those events happen.
- massive nuclear attacks
- alien invasion
- zombies outbreak
We can look at it from the bright side, the people who made the internet did a great job on creating a tool that would connect the world and at the same time, provided a infrastructure which is stable and flexible. Even though there are some technical issues along the way, these will not affect the internet as a whole!
Yes, we all get it. The collapse of the internet would be catastrophic, but that is the least thing that you should worry about. Focus on doing good for yourself and the people around you. Try to be the significant person rather than living under the shadow of the WWW.
What do you think? Would you freak out if the internet would knocked down for a day?