“The Internet is the first thing that humanity has built that humanity doesn’t understand, the largest experiment in anarchy that we have ever had.”
– Eric Schmidt
A few years ago, humanity’s trajectory changed.
On December 21, 2012 at 11:11am Greenwich Time, a mysterious event occurred that shut down all electronic technology for 1 minute and 17 seconds. After that alarming blip, most electronics returned to normal. However, all traces of the Internet vanished, and computer networks only functioned if the devices were in close, wired proximity to each other. Both mystical and technological forces worked from within the shadows to ensure that the electronic connectivity that the prior generation grew accustomed to would not return. Electronic devices – even if they didn’t rely on the Internet – would occasionally malfunction for periods of time. Thus, the Digital Dark Age began.
What Works? (and what doesn’t?)
All mechanical devices, whether powered by combustion or electricity, occasionally go through periods where they cease working. Most return to normal functioning after a short period of time. No one knows why these man-made devices temporarily stop working.
Most methods of transmitting data over longer distances ceased to function. Modems were able to receive and transmit tones, but were somehow unable to translate those tones into data. Wired connections functioned as long as the computers were within approximately 25 feet of each other. One-way transmissions via infrared (like from remote controls) also continued to work. Digital cable ceased to function, while analog cable and tv-antennas still worked. Cell phones still functioned for taking and receiving calls, but the ability to send text messages was spotty at best. Government agencies and the super-elite are among the few rumored to have reliable text messaging.
The freedom, speed, and open access of the Internet was gone.
Smaller, independent artists lost their means of connecting and sharing their work with fans across the globe. Communities and activists focused on furthering human rights causes lost their primary platform for communication and organizing. Social progress slowed to a crawl (and in some cases, backslid) and commercial media again became the dominant voice. Nations and communities became more insular. Carrying weapons became commonplace, as unreliable technology meant that one could not always rely on the police arriving on time, if at all.
Data transfer devices – like flash drives – still functioned normally. Some took advantage of this by learning how to insert malicious code into flash drives in order to compromise individual computers and smaller networks. Others found a potential business opportunity and created a new form of cyber-security, focusing on the secure transportation of flash drives of confidential data from one location to another.
Industries that were reliant on the Internet or digital record-keeping took a major hit. Even 5 years later, the health care industry is still trying to recover. There were numerous deaths during Day 0 due to life support machines malfunctioning. In the months that followed, the sick and injured received substandard care due to the loss of their past medical records. Banks also suffered, as their customers realized that their own financial records had vanished into the ether. Many of the chain banks failed within the first year, replaced by smaller, neighborhood banks. Likewise, large multi-campus corporations broke into smaller, more manageable companies. Businesses that relied on overseas labor – manufacturing and call centers – brought those jobs back to the United States.