Where Does The Internet Rank As A Utility?

from the air-water-food-shelter dept

Network World has written up a somewhat interesting article speculating on what the world would be like if the Internet was taken away somehow, asking various "futurists" what the ramifications would be. Fortunately, most of the respondents don't see such a thing happening -- unless a major catastrophic disaster occurred in which losing the Internet would be the least of our worries. But from there, they go on to predict the failure of web-based businesses such as eBay, Google and then just about any business that processes credit cards in a modern way. The futurists also discuss how society has become dependent on offshoots of the Internet, citing examples such as people's addiction to email, online dating and MMORPGs.

None of the predictions are particularly surprising, but the story does bring up the question of how vital the Internet is (or isn't, depending on your point of view). A couple examples come to mind where the Internet has been shut down temporarily. In mid-2007, the tactics of cyberwarfare were demonstrated against Estonia. After those cyberattacks, though, attention focused more on who was responsible rather than on the damage, since the actual effects to the country were pretty minor given that the interruptions only lasted a few hours, and not days or weeks. Closer to home, there was the 2003 power outage in the Northeast -- but that was electricity, not just the Internet. So based on these examples, it seems like the Internet isn't quite as important as water, gas or electricity, but perhaps it could be gaining on the power grid. Additionally, it's reassuring to know that futurists aren't projecting a 'Max Headroom' dystopia where telecommunications are more important than Maslow's hierarchy of needs.

Filed Under: cyberattack, estonia, internet

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  1. identicon
    Hoeppner, 25 Jan 2008 @ 6:21pm

    looks like I'd need to open up a D&D book, and start working for a different degree.

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