Saturday, February 5, 2011

Cyberspace: I Love You and Loathe You

I've been thinking about the internet recently.  I have been reading a book on cyber war and how unprepared the U.S. is for protecting itself against cyber attack.  The book is on a list propagated each year by the Air Force as "professional reading".  Reading this book has been an eye opening experience that has me worried.  Sure, it would be disruptive if the power grid were shut down or elevators suddenly dropped dozens of floors without braking, but didn't we already face those fears with Y2K?  Now we have much bigger disruptions to worry about.  Like what if I can't play "Angry Birds"?  Or what if Pandora stops working and I have to listen to my local radio station DJs blathering on again?  Does Obama know how angry American citizens can get?  If we are cyber attacked and lose our connectivity we may just riot in the streets, especially if we can't access the comments sections of e-articles to vent. 

Ok, maybe rioting is a bit overly ambitious for Americans, but  so help me if someone creates an app for rioting I am so shelling out the 99 cents to digitally express my vehement opposition to this flagrant disregard for my cyber security.  Although if they put out a free "lite" version that only allows protesting without escalating to rioting I would go for that first, just to make sure I like it before I commit.

Another reason I've been thinking about the internet is because I can't help but notice how pervasive it has become in our lives.  Can you remember the last time you went a whole day without surfing the web?  At least 3 times in the day?  If you're snickering at the number 3 we're in even deeper trouble than I thought.  For many of us it's one of the first things we do in the morning and last things we do before returning to bed at night.  Now with smart phones we aren't even limited to being tied down to a hot-spot.  I find it's quicker to look something up on Wikipedia than trying to comb the recesses of my mind to recall a fact I once knew.  Will the internet make us more knowledgeable by putting terabytes of information at our fingertips while reducing our ability to cognitively process said information?  I know, I'm overthinking this one, but I have to do it while I still can.

I've thought about doing an experiment where I go unplugged for a period of time, maybe a month, or possibly even a year.  But how would I do my banking, or read the news, check the weather or look up directions?  I may as well sell my car and buy a horse and buggy, or dig a well in the back yard.  Could I handle doing sudoku in a book again?  Perhaps some day I will carry out my experiment, if only for a week.  When do you think would be the easiest week of the year to take such a thing on?  I wonder where I could find some info on that on the web...