We have become so immensely dependent on access to the internet. What to do if the internet just doesn’t work anymore? Do we have a plan B? Tek Tok founder Chris ‘t Hof explores this daunting question in his guest contribution below.
The internet protocol was once designed as a military communication system that could even function after a nuclear strike, so… Thing is, we are increasingly using it for things it was not designed for in the first place. Still, we keep connecting new devices to it, abandoning other channels and are now utterly depending on it.
Scenarios for a collapse of the internet are abundant, but we can still cope with them. Running out of IPv4 addresses, while implementation of IPv6 just won’t take off? We just put some addresses in between using Network Address Translation. Are addresses being abused so we can’t trust the Domain Name System anymore? We now have DNS SEC to prove who we are. Congestion on the thin phone lines? Just pull a big ethernet cable from one content provider to another through an internet exchange. Are you being DDoSed? Sinkhole the attack or just temporarily close of traffic from certain IP addresses. Cyber warfare? Don’t worry, our government has bought zero-day exploits too to strike back at whatever is coming our way…
Still, those are the problems we see coming. How about the ones we just cannot anticipate? The complexity of the internet, in terms of connections, devices and content as well as its governance, has grown so rapidly, we may as well perceive it as new life form. Call it networked intelligence, emergent behaviour, or whatever – we are currently depending on a system we cannot control anymore, let alone switch off and start anew. Or even more fundamentally: what if ‘digital’, the ones and zeros with their endless capability of being copied and quantified, just does not seem viable anymore? Can we go back to analogue? I guess not.
So, what is our plan B? Just in case. If I ask the technicians, policymakers or businesses that try to govern the internet, the answer is plain and simple: there is none. We just trust it will work and if not, we will try to fix it. To me that is not a satisfactory answer. Who can help me with a better one?