Each of us asked the question: "What will happen if the Internet disappears all over the world, at least for a day?" Today, for many people, it is simply unthinkable to live without the Internet, even for several hours, without checking mail or social networks. If this happens and the internet stops working, the impact may not be what you expected. Hurry up to read before the global shutdown.
Jeff Hancock, a professor at Stanford University, enjoys giving students weekend assignments that allow them to experience the concepts discussed in class in real life. Until 2008, he often encouraged his students to live “offline” (without the Internet) for 48 hours, and then discuss how this restriction affected them. In 2009, everything changed.
“When I posed the same challenge to an audience, I immediately got a backlash - a class revolt, ” says Hancock, who studies the psychological and social processes involved in online communication. "The students strongly stated that 'homework' was impossible and simply absurd."
Students argued that going offline without internet, even on weekends, would prevent them from completing assignments in other subjects, ruin their social life, and make friends and family worry about something terrible happened to them. Hancock had to give in and cancel the activity - and he never tried to repeat it again. “It was in 2009, and now it’s 2018. With the progress in the mobile industry as it is now, I don’t even know what students will do if I ask them to give up the Internet for 2 days, ” says is he. "They'll probably write a bunch of reports on me, the president of the university."
With our constant “stay-connected” lifestyle, the question “What happens if the internet stops for one day?” Has become more relevant than ever.
In 1995, less than 1% of the world's population was online. The Internet was a curiosity used mainly by people in the West. If you quickly rewind the “tape” 20 years ahead, we see that today more than 3.5 billion people have an Internet connection - almost half of all people on the planet. This number is growing at a rate of about 10 people per second.
According to the Pew Research Center, a fifth of all Americans say they use the Internet "almost all the time, " and 73% say they use it at least daily. The numbers in the UK are similar, with a 2016 study showing that nearly 90% of adults said they had used the internet in the previous three months. For many, it is now almost impossible to imagine life without the Internet.
“One of the biggest problems on the Internet today is that people take it for granted, but they don't understand to what extent we've allowed the essence to creep into all aspects of our lives, ” says William Dutton of Michigan State University, who is the author of Society and the Internet. "They don't even think about the fact that they may not have access to the network."
The Internet is not untouchable and invulnerable. Theoretically, it could be "taken away" on a global or national scale for a certain time. Cyber attacks are one such opportunity. Malicious hackers can force the Internet to slow down by releasing software that aggressively targets vulnerabilities in routers - devices that forward Internet traffic. Shutting down domain name servers - address books on the Internet - will also cause massive disruptions, such as preventing websites from loading (404).
Cutting deep-sea cables that carry huge volumes of internet traffic between continents will also cause significant disruption, disconnecting one part of the world from another. These cables can be more than just targets for intruders, they sometimes happen "by accident." In 2008, people in the Middle East, India and Southeast Asia suffered major network outages due to cut cables.
Some governments also have "killer switches" that can effectively shut off the Internet in their country. for example, Egypt did so during the 2011 Arab Spring Uprising to make it harder for protesters to coordinate their activities. Turkey and Iran also cut internet connections during the protests. It is rumored that China also has its own switch. US senators have also proposed creating one switch for the US as a means of protecting the country from a possible global cyberattack, as in the movie Die Hard.
In fact, it is not so easy to create such a "killer toggle switch". The larger and more developed a country is, the more difficult it is to completely block the Internet — there are too many connections between networks both within and outside national borders.
The most devastating blows can come from space. A large solar storm that sent flares in our direction would blow out satellites, electrical grids, and computer systems. “What bombs and terrorism cannot do can be accomplished in moments of solar flare, ” says David Eagleman, a neuroscientist at Stanford University and author of Why the Web Matters. "The next major geomagnetic storms are approaching, for your information."
But most blackouts won't last long. “There is an army of people ready to make things right, ” says Scott Borg of the nonprofit Cyber Consequences in the United States. “Internet service providers and companies that manufacture routing equipment have plans and personnel to start up the equipment and resume their services in the event of unexpected vulnerabilities (cyberattacks or other adverse events”). We are so used to having a constant internet connection that even relatively short outages can be quite overwhelming. This may not be what you expect.
To start. The impact on the economy may not be overwhelming or severe. In 2017, the US Department of Homeland Security asked Borg to see what could happen if the Internet went down. Borg and his colleagues analyzed the economic impact of computer and internet blackouts in the United States since 2000. Looking at the quarterly financial statements from the 20 allegedly hardest hit companies, as well as looking at the overall situation, analysts found the financial impact of the shutdown was surprisingly small. The maximum shutdown period was 4 days.
It turned out that the loss of internet access for several days was simply causing people to lag behind their jobs. “People did all the same things they did on the Internet, but they did it after two or three days, ” says Borg. "The economy is built to handle what essentially looks like a holiday weekend."
In some cases, turning off the internet for a short period of time can even improve performance. In another study, Borg and colleagues looked at what happened when a company had an Internet break of four hours or more. Instead of showing the “blowing to the Gorobians, ” the employees did what they usually put off, for example, took care of paperwork. In most cases, the result was the same -
business stimulation. “We jokingly assumed that if every company turned off their computers for a few hours each month and thus got people to do the tasks they had postponed, it would make a huge contribution to increased productivity, ” says Borg. "I see no reason why this should not be extended to the entire economy."
The travel industry probably won't be too much affected in the short term - as long as the outage lasts no more than one day. Airplanes can fly without the Internet, and trains and buses can continue to move. Longer outages can start to have a measurable impact on logistics. It will be difficult for a business to work without the Internet. “I assumed that people and businesses should have a plan for the long-term disappearance of the internet, but I haven't heard of anyone doing that yet, ” says Eagleman.
A large communication breakdown will disproportionately affect small businesses and workers. In 1998, 90% of the 50 million pagers in the US stopped working due to satellite failure. In the days following the power outage, Dutton interviewed 250 pager users in Los Angeles and found clear socioeconomic divisions in people's reactions to being "cut off from the world." Middle class people with managerial or professional jobs did not perceive the event to a large extent. “It was like a winter, snowy day for them, ” says Dutton. Moreover, they even experienced some relief.
At the same time, many freelancers, like plumbers and carpenters, relied solely on their pagers to provide them with order information. Many mothers who left their children in kindergarten also reported significant anxiety about not being able to notify them that something had happened to their child. Therefore, you must understand that your reaction to the internet disconnection is likely to be based on your socioeconomic status, ”says Dutton.
Psychological effects such as feelings of isolation and anxiety can affect people across the board. “Most of the Internet is for one purpose: so we can communicate with each other, ” Hancock says. We're used to being able to connect to anyone, anywhere, anytime. "Failure to do so will create feelings of anxiety and concern." Even learned minds are exposed to this, Borg admits. “I understand that I left my smartphone in the car or in the office, I feel a little uncomfortable and vulnerable, ” he says. Man is a social creature and the Internet helps him to keep in touch with the world.
History supports this. In 1975, a fire at the New York telephone company cut off the telephone service in the Manhattan area by 300 blocks for 23 days. In a survey of 190 people conducted immediately after the lines were restored, the researchers found that four-fifths of respondents said they missed the phone, especially its ability to connect with friends and family. More than two-thirds of residents said that not having a work phone made them feel "isolated" and nearly three-quarters said they felt more in control when the phone was restored.
“There’s an idea that maybe people would be more social and connect more with friends and family if they didn’t have the internet, but I think this is actually a mistake, ” Dutton says. "Most people who use the internet are actually more social than those who don't use the internet."
Steen Lomborg of Copenhagen University agrees. “It doesn't seem like we're more likely to talk to strangers at the bus stop if we didn't have our smartphones - not at all, ” she says. Losing internet connectivity can make people more social in specific situations, such as forcing employees to talk to each other rather than sending emails, but overall the experience is likely to be unsettling. “The world won't fall apart if we don't have internet access during the day, ” she says. "But for most people, I think even one day without him will be terrible."
Such a feeling would be fleeting. Losing the internet can make people recognize its importance in their lives, but we'll soon take that for granted, ”Hancock says. "I would like to say that turning off the internet will cause a shift in our thinking, but I don't think that will happen." Despite this, it is still impossible to convince students to stop using the Internet for the weekend.