Chris Simmance

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

11th Dec 2012 SEO Blog, Social Media 7 minutes to read

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.

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.

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