Dienstag, 4. Dezember 2018

Global Blackout - Are We Prepared?

Ministries of Defense of many countries are aware of a blackout lasting for several days or weeks.

What may sound hypothetical in today's tech-savvy world characterized by digitization, stored data in clouds, on external data carriers, hangs over our heads as many are  widely unprepared for this emergency, anytime possible for various reasons, given how highly energy-dependent our world has become.

Sure, data-saving backup systems do exist, but they all depend on electricity, and it's questionable, if your data is considered by officials important enough to survive even EMP emergencies?

As author publishing digitally I'm pondering not only about a local, but a global blackout? Sure, I do regularly backup my data but mainly physically, not on paper, since - like many - I find it convenient to write my texts digitally and I don't print them all the time. Many do save their data electronically, but few think about how to gain access to their data without electricity. A blackout with destructive effects on our data reminds of book burnings, this time digitally.

Power generators will provide electricity in emergencies, but during a blackout it's still questionable, how long and to whom? Regarding those relying on generators, who have their own power generator and who only rely on government measures?

Sure, there are generators run by the government and corporations but during a blackout for how long these generators will work, and would not the government give priority to public interest over providing you access to your data?

So, it's questionable if you are considered system-relevant to save your data, with granted access to your data at scarce electricity, or will they abandon your data not hanging in the cloud but in limbo then?

Imagine, coordinated cyber attacks suddenly cloaking wide regions in darkness. Are we prepared for this, given how we managed past disasters?

Are we only within a fair weather period, governed by well-paid "fair weather politicians" rarely tested on reality with bureaucracy and managerial competence to protect us during a broad, even global blackout?

Why so dark thoughts? Well, nothing in life is certain - well, death and taxes, but that's another story - neither dying before experiencing a broad blackout, nor being spared. But one is certain: Those never considering a broad blackout - or only trusting in their governments' preparations for this case - are taken by complete surprise how then things are handled, prioritized, reminding of those in blind faith never anticipated the once mighty USSR to collapse someday, not even on the eve of the fall of the Berlin Wall, though history shows, all empires fell someday.

However, those not being into anticipatory thoughts, but to live unburdened from "worst case scenarios" usually prolong their naivety with belittling those speaking out and raising inconvenient questions, not trusting in their governments' emergency plans. Trust is important, but what's wrong with precautions?

Many take precautions today, but is it really best to invest your hard-earned money in expensive home security, promising via the media prominently to protect your home against intruders, through modifying, upgrading your home - a "ring" at your doorbell, alarming you on your mobile of "uninvited guests" gaining entry to your property detected by installed sensors and cameras. Sounds great, right?

Another trend: Locking your entire home with one click on your mobile. Convenient? Not so fast. What about prominently advertised companies making money with luring people to fall for relying their security concept on their technology, making them think implicitly their home was save, while downplaying the dangers to them and their home during a blackout after replacing all mechanic locks by digital ones. Imagine a blackout, don't these "secure homes" stay unprotected then, meaning wide open?

Maybe I'm old-school - into real stuff, a kid of the '80s - not afraid of appearing conservative, individualistic, reluctant, but I don't feel like following every trend only because it's fashionable. Oscar Wilde, the Irish poet and playwright, once put it as follows: "Be yourself, everyone else is already taken."

Today many are busy jumping on the tech-bandwagon pushed by their environment and corporations advertising their products media-effectively. Personally, I don't feel more secure when spending much money on modifying my home to follow the latest security trend, run and promoted by geeks pretending to know they knew what they were doing, to have thought of everything but while they think their thinking was thoughtful and driven by wisdom and responsibility are only driven by making money fast. Seriously, am I supposed to entrust my home security to those money-driven and easy to enthuse, whose security concept only works with enough energy, whereas without electricity my home stays wide open inviting plunderers during a broad blackout?

Mechanical locks, as unsexy as they might seem, defy blackouts and plunderers, even extended electricity outages.

Not forgetting, how being "old-school" - rather "well prepared" - suddenly will be "sexy" again, as well as those still able to write with pen and paper - even when it's "dark" - when things created to make our life easier suddenly turn against us, making life hostile in seconds, as electronics don't work anymore. Books last for centuries, electronic storage for years. So it's handy to still master cultural achievements like writing in the old-fashioned way, knowing how to live without "intelligent devices", withstanding to feel "stupid" when not following the "smart" trend. I suppose, you will feel saver still locking your home the traditional way and your mechanical locks hold back looters coming after you during blackouts.

Instantaneously this becomes reality, when governments and corporations fail to protect you from coordinated EMP attacks (electromagnetic pulse) or even a "global blackout" caused by a major solar storm hitting Earth's magnetic field, wiping out our technology and data in seconds, a matter of "when, not if", and due anytime as scientists sound the alarm.

No electronic cash, paying with cards, smartphones, computers, no electric heating, lights, water supply, refrigerator, cooking, no electronic security, phones, elevators, airplanes, electric cars, trains etc. Shouldn't we prepare ourselves for such a life-threatening blackout?

Philosopher and Systemic Analyst
Dr. Dr. Immanuel Fruhmann