What if the Internet collapsed tomorrow?

What impact would a comprehensive malfunction of the Internet have on the world economy and every person on the globe? An intriguing question. While a permanent loss, which of course is highly unlikely, would require for entire systems and communication networks to be reinvented, the truly interesting question is, what would happen if the Internet were down for only a couple of hours.

Everybody knows or at least senses that we are hugely dependent of the web, but
it is surprisingly arduous to find any specifics. No prognostications of what exactly would be the chain of events triggered by a complete loss of the Internet for a few hours. Not that there are too few discussions on the topic, on the contrary, it is a topic that stirs up conversations all over the web, but most are cut short by an educated consolation that such an event were as impossible as a camel passing through the eye of a needle. But is it?

The Internet is hugely robust due to the diversification of its communication channels and, thus, only a very large scale disaster could topple it completely. Research conducted by scientists of the Ohio State University suggests that an attack on central routers would suffice to inflict that dreaded disaster. In their simulations the scientists, led by Dr. Grubesic, found that in a couple of steps the entire Internet could be brought down, first impacting more remote areas and then cutting off entire cities through cyber attacks.
While this does become quite technical, a global power outage would achieve the same results without the hassles. I will not detail theories of possible causes for such an outage here, though there seem to be plenty around.

The main question has yet to be answered: What would happen?
Besides the phone bills sky rocketing (that is where telephony is not yet dependent on the same communication network as the Internet) and collective slimming of people no longer able to doodle away hours staring at a monitor, a very likely result would be the complete collapse of entire industries and markets. Airlines would cease to operate, financial markets would crash and the global village would be subjected to instantaneous expansion beyond common perception.

Would civilization plummet to an anarchic chaos, as neuroscientist David Eagleman suggests, or are we prepared? Regardless of how unlikely the event may be, it is worth taking a moment to consider and to realize the scale of the impact it would have on each of us.

Johann Pfitzinger

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2 Responses to What if the Internet collapsed tomorrow?

  1. moonjungkoo says:

    Hi Johann, a truly interesting topic! I could not imagine my life without internet, particulary emails. Though I had been brought up without internet, I don’t really want to give up benefits of using emails. On the other hand, even if internet doesn’t work, people can survive eventually. They just need to open a book again, learn to write without using a spelling checker, and be a little bit slower with learning of news and events around the world, etc. But, still we would be able to survive at the end and save our eyes from getting weak! I rather would like to bright side of it. Anyway, many thanks for this. It is definitely worth taking a moment to think about our lives without internet! Moon

  2. Hi Johann,
    So unbelievable interesting topic! I could not imagine my life without internet, even early morning my day begins by pressing on my laptop’s button without opening my eyes, after it I’ll take a shower. So, it is relevant in my daily necessity. I got really used with it. Though I had been brought up without internet; I don’t really want to give up benefits of using emails.
    Don’t make me angry by your negative imagination. (spass)

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