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21.12.12 – What If The Internet Ended On 21st December?

Chris Simmance

by Chris Simmance on 11th December 2012

Image 1 -Mayan CalendarAccording to the Mayans, and a lot of people who believe in their prophecy, the world is going to end on the 21st of this month. If they are right then this could very well be my last Koozai Blog post ever!

But what if they weren’t completely wrong? What if the world doesn’t end with a mass extinction or alien attack but with the destruction of the internet? What would happen??

Day 1
So you wake up in the morning on the 21st of December, grab your phone to see what interesting status updates your friends have made on Facebook in the few hours that you were asleep only to find you can’t log in. Strange, the WiFi connection is there but the internet connection seems to be playing up. Not to worry, it will fix itself pretty soon.
As soon as the internet died, all internet based communication died along with it. No websites, no e-mails no Search Engines and no Instagram (every cloud!).

This would mean that during your normal routine of getting ready for work wouldn’t involve getting your internet fix. You open your News App to check what’s going on in the world and find that you aren’t getting any new stories. You can’t even read the news! Grumpy and a little perplexed as to why everything internet connected in your house has stopped working, you get in your car and head to work.

At work you switch on the computer ready for a full day of online marketing only to find the internet is not working there either; you can’t even connect to your files as they are on a cloud server. Is it localised to the area you live in? You get the phone out to give your boss a call but it doesn’t dial. The internet connection that the VOIP phone uses to manage its calls is also down!

So your day’s work is out of the window! You are all sent home with instructions to come back tomorrow in the hope it’s all fixed. You go home and turn the TV on to see if you can find out what’s going on to find that it’s not a local thing, not even national. It’s worldwide! The internet has died.

In an effort to find something to do with your unexpected day off you get out your phone, flick to Google and… Damn!

The Realities Of A World With No Internet
Of course that is fictional but it is quite interesting to think about how the world might be if the internet were to suddenly die. There is an interesting article about how difficult it would be to ‘Destroy The Internet‘  but it is amazing how much of our day to day life is dictated by the internet.

So what would change? Well I think for at least a short time, quite a lot. Below are some of the day-to-day things that I think would change and the effects it could have on the world.

Image 2 - Armageddon Scene The Banks
Nearly all of modern day banking and trading is done using the internet. The stock exchange and publicly traded companies would pretty much cease to function.
With the banks pretty much done, people would flock to them to try and withdraw all of their cash as it would once again become the main commodity for trading and paying for goods. The banks would have to close their doors due to the demand leaving millions with no access to their money. – On the plus side, you don’t have to worry about the mortgage or credit card any more.

The Travel Industry
As with the banks, the travel industry is reliant on the internet’s infrastructure for coordination of their network and for their reservations systems (not to mention that most of the larger companies are PLCs). Tickets will be pretty much useless as the people checking them will have nothing to check them against. Even if the companies could print out every passenger manifest, they would have no way to get them to the correct departure and arrival destination in time. As a temporary solution this has worked in the past for one-off occurrences (i.e. one flight in one airport) but not on a global scale.

Day-to-Day Travel
Nearly all of us use the internet for our daily travel in one way or another. Whether it be on our daily commute using the train network or using Google Maps (I’m not sure how much more inaccurate Apple Maps would be without the internet) to plan a route. Without the internet the train network would work on a scaled back basis, operating to the published times where possible however things like interchanges and signalling networks would be heavily affected. The tube in London just wouldn’t function as it currently does with logistics and ticketing both being impacted.

Using your phone to plan a route for a car journey would be fine initially as long as the entire map was stored on the device; however this is not usually the case as most maps are too data rich. You would have to go back to the old crumpled up map that’s rolling around the boot of your car or nip down to the nearest garage for one and hope you remember how to read a map that doesn’t tell you how many metres on the left the next junction is.

Search
It seems pretty obvious but people are extremely reliant on search engines for large parts of their daily life. People search for answers to the things they don’t know about, for the latest news, for the weather and hundreds of other things. Search these days often makes up for knowledge gaps and helps us access the information we need without having to remember the exact location that it’s in or the facts/figures involved.

Recent studies have been conducted into the effect the internet and search engines are having on our memories and the general belief (although there is much more to learn) is that because the information is so easy to come by, people are less likely to retain it. In a world without the internet how will people manage without access to the information they need? The last printed encyclopedias are still mostly accurate albeit out of date already.

The News
Without the internet, the news as we know it would no longer exist. Not in the sense of news websites, but in the sense of the type of news we are able to read and how timely it would be. For example, even if the print news companies continued to function, their story-gathering abilities would be severely reduced. The time it would take to get full prin-worthy articles to reader would be dramatically increased and some news would go un-reported due to poor communications or socio-political issues in countries. There are some countries that only generated news due to the likes of YouTube or Bloggers as governments in some countries censor the information that the outside world sees.

Social Life
Without the internet it’s likely that the company that manages your mobile phone account wouldn’t function. Either as a result of not being unable to use their systems or because they would dissolve as they are publicly traded and unable to pay staff. So that’s sending text messages or calling people to remain connected out of the window. The Social Media culture would literally die overnight meaning you wouldn’t be able to tell people your friends what dinner you had or comment on an embarrassing photo (which no longer exists… phew). People would have to resign themselves to the old fashioned face-to-face style of communication and get their diaries out to remember birthdays. Sadly people will have to go back to agreeing a place to meet at a time and stick to it far enough in advance to organise an event.
You wouldn’t even be able to take part in a Google+ hangout! – Social devastation!

It goes without saying that there are many other elements of the things I have written about above that would also be affected should the internet ‘die’ on the 21st of December. There are also a lot of other things that would change that I haven’t mentioned. If you can think of any then feel free to add them to this Blog.

I think that although the internet is arguably the one of the greatest and most successful inventions in human history it is important to consider how much of your day-to-day life involves it in one way or another. Not to say that it is a bad thing, far from it! The internet is great, it has limitless uses and applications in the world but it’s just worth thinking before you use something ‘how does this work’ or ‘if this stopped working what would I do?’.

Paul Miller, a writer for The Verge, is currently attempting to complete a year without the internet. His final post on The Verge was way back in April and you can see the progress he is having on their site. It’s quite an interesting experiment as it is further highlighting the reach the internet is having in our everyday lives.

If you have any comments or can think of any other world devastating things our lives would be without if the internet died please feel free to talk about them on here!
I hope you all have a great Christmas… If we make it!

Image Credits: Aztec Stone Calendar & Armageddon type scene- From Big Stock Photo.

Chris Simmance

Chris Simmance

Chris has worked in the travel industry for the last 8 years, much of that working overseas in ski resorts, so he has a fantastic understanding of thriving in competitive sectors. His last project was social media management and website development for a leading travel company.

19 Comments

  • Amy Fowler 11th December 2012

    Really interesting article Chris. Scary stuff. What on earth would all of us digital marketing people do for work if the internet ceased to exist?

    Reply to this comment

  • Chris Simmance

    Chris Simmance 11th December 2012

    Thanks Amy. It is a little scary how much we rely on the Internet.

    I think if the Internet died we might have to look into other lines of work…. We are all a pretty innovative bunch so we would find something I’m sure!

    What would you miss the most if it did die??

    Reply to this comment

  • Amy Fowler 11th December 2012

    In terms of the internet generally, I think what I’d miss most is the ability to read countless reviews on hotels/restaurants/etc before spending my money.

    I’d have to go back to trusting a travel agent’s word before booking a holiday.

    In terms of my job, I think I’d most miss the buzzing community that surrounds our industry. Of course it’s inevitable that this industry would have a massively active online community around it. But I still love it. I doubt there’s any other industry where competitors are so genuinely friendly to each other.

    What about you?

    Reply to this comment

  • Chris Simmance

    Chris Simmance 11th December 2012

    I definitely agree with what you said about the industry and would miss that. I think that, being a complete self-confessed gadget obsessive I would miss everything that comes from the internet connectivity they have.

    Not to mention that if the internet died, banks collapsed and we lost our jobs I don’t think I could afford or even charge my beloved Nexus 4 and 7 ;-)

    There are so many things that would be affected this post could have been a lot longer!

    Reply to this comment

  • Amy Fowler 11th December 2012

    Well you wouldn’t have much use for the Nexus so…. I guess every cloud has its silver lining!

    Reply to this comment

  • Matt Burnett 12th December 2012

    Very simply the biggest obstacles would be not being able to make a phone call or send a text. If you think deeply about it – networks are now part of our societal DNA. They’re used for managing power, organising emergency response, buying products etc etc. So much so that there is almost no going back unless you want to live like someone out of the film “The Village”.

    Here’s an interesting article of a guy trying to build everyday items free of any corporate patents – http://www.businessweek.com/articles/2012-11-01/the-post-apocalypse-survival-machine-nerd-farm

    I suppose we’d have to stop saying “Google it” and start saying “Britannica it”. Doesn’t quite have the same ring to it…

    Reply to this comment

  • Chris Simmance

    Chris Simmance 12th December 2012

    Haha, I agree Matt it would be a big step backwards. All I can say is that in 10 days we’ll know for sure!

    I think that the other issue with ‘Britannica-ing it’ would be the one of portability. We can gain access to information through small phones or tablets so easily. I’m not sure how we would all manage with carrying around all the volumes ‘just in case’ we need an answer. :-)

    There would be positives to not having the internet though. wouldn’t there?

    Reply to this comment

    • Matt Burnett 12th December 2012

      Some positives might include spending more time with your thoughts (and friends), improved interpersonal communication skills, no cheating at the pub quiz.

      Also, I have friends who like to settle an argument by simply querying Google. No Internet would put an end to that type of point-scoring!

      Reply to this comment

      • Amy Fowler 12th December 2012

        Definitely like those first three positives. I don’t even bother with pub quizzes nowadays because I just presume everyone that beat my team must be cheating (me being crap at pub quizzes obviously has nothing to do with it).

        And the amount of times I look up when I’m sitting around with my mates, and realise we’re all on our smartphones. It makes me really sad.

        However I love being able to settle an argument thanks to Google. I’d definitely miss being able to prove I’m write at the touch of a button!

    • Matt Burnett 13th December 2012

      Amy, It’s nice to know that someone agrees with me on those points. It’s a shame (and somewhat annoying) when friends are more absorbed in their phones than the conversation in front of them. (At least we know where we stand though!)

      As for the last point – settling arguments with Google – we’ll have to agree to disagree. I’d “Google it”, but then I might get a biased result… ;)

      Reply to this comment

      • Amy Fowler 13th December 2012

        I don’t think it’s just a shame; I think it’s really depressing, and a sad reflection of life today. I dread to think what we’ll all be like in a few years as smart technology advances even more.

        And yes, we’ll agree to disagree on the other one :-)

  • Chris Simmance

    Chris Simmance 13th December 2012

    Hi Guys, I have to agree that it is quite depressing to see people (sometimes married couples even) sat at a table on their devices rather than talking.

    I am still pretty keen to get my hands on some of the new devises as they are released. Augmented reality will be amazing… Obviously depending on the situation you would have to use proper etiquette as to whether or not you use it.

    I think with newer tech these questions will continue to be raised.

    Wouldn’t you love a nice pair of ‘Google Glasses’ when they are released? I would love them!

    Reply to this comment

    • Amy Fowler 13th December 2012

      Am I alone in not wanting Google glasses?

      Firstly, they look stupid. And secondly, I don’t want to have Google suggesting what I do while I go about my business.

      Augmented reality actually scares me a little. I’m probably (hopefully) being rather dramatic but it seems like the whole idea is to create something that can think for us.

      “Do I want a Big Mac? Nope, no I don’t.”

      “Google glasses say you do.”

      “Oh. Maybe I do then.”

      “There’s one just round that corner.”

      “Oh go on then, you talked me into it.”

      Do we need this? Can’t we just think for ourselves?!

      Reply to this comment

      • Matt Burnett 13th December 2012

        Amy, I agree. I don’t quite see the point in them – yet. Not being a hardware company I’m not sure how good Google will be at making these just “blend” into the everyday. It will likely take someone like Apple to develop a more mass market acceptable product.

        And that’s before we discuss the potential privacy implications of it all.

  • J 19th December 2012

    What felt like the end of the world was last year in Japan when the mega quake hit. Surprisingly communications were back in force quite promptly. Without them, it would have been quite hard for us to know what was actually going on (lots of conflicting information from numerous sources).

    There are a couple of immediate advantages I see if the Internet were to kick the bucket this Friday, but not many. One thing for sure, a lot of us could free up more time in the day. It’s taken me about 45 minutes to reply to this article.

    Worse case scenario is typing “where did the Internet go?” Into Google on Friday/Saturday morning only to get a 404 screen. If that!

    Nice article though. Something I hadn’t thought about with the ‘impending doom’ on the 21st. Been too busy stocking up on beans…

    Reply to this comment

  • Chris Simmance

    Chris Simmance 20th December 2012

    Hi J,

    Glad you have plenty of beans! I am quite confident you won’t need them haha

    I do think there will be plenty of free time, especially given that there will be no money to be made and nobody to control many of the systems we take for granted. I expect we’d find a way.

    What would you miss the most though? Aside from work ;-)

    Reply to this comment

    • J 21st December 2012

      Hi Chris,

      Given that I’m typing this on Friday 21st, it’s safe to say all is swell in the land of t’internet.

      Saying that, work aside, I think I would miss YouTube the most. Sure there are more productive things to do, shopping, research and general ‘Googling’, but the lack of finding tv shows from my youth such as Round The Bend or watching Japanese shows with my daughter (no other way other than importing from Japan again) would be a somewhat gloomy predicament.

      On a minor note, I noticed that you guys are based around the corner from me. I had no idea you were In the UK as I found the site via an article on bounce rates. Now, if we didn’t have the Internet, I would have had no way of knowing any of that information! Funny old digital world. For now at least ;)

      Reply to this comment

  • Chris Simmance

    Chris Simmance 21st December 2012

    Hi J (and everyone still online),

    Okay so the internet didn’t end today but I still think that regardless of it ending or not it is important to think about how much of our lives are reliant on it.

    From the important applications that run the things we take for granted to the random ‘Googleing’ we all do daily!

    J, it is a small world in digital isn’t it?! Like Amy mentioned earlier, it’s also a friendly community too! Lets hope it remains that way ;-)

    Reply to this comment

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