Friday, June 11, 2010

I bet my anchor can beat up your global telecommunications network

So, in a fight between low tech and high, who do you think will win?
Considering how much people freak out when a single big site goes down (everyone remember the Great Gmail Outage of '09?) it's clear that most of us think of the Internet in general as pretty much invincible. If an asteroid smashed into the Earth tomorrow, millions of us would immediately pull out our phones to try to get Twitter updates from the affected area.

"It must be pretty bad. Ashton Kutcher hasn't tweeted in days."

But the truth is, the Internet travels from continent to continent by way of a network of trans-oceanic cables, each thousands of miles long and only as thick around as a thumb. If enough of these high-pressure porn hoses were compromised, international Internet communication could collapse entirely.

Since these cables are the backbone of a huge portion of the global economy, they must be pretty well protected, right? Guards in armored diving suits, badass nuclear submarines inexplicably captained by Scotsmen, Kraken...

We're pretty sure AT&T has at least one of these at their disposal.


As it turns out, the cables aren't protected at all.

And it's not like they're impervious to damage either. The largest of them, hilariously named "SEA-ME-WE-3" was severed by a 7.1 magnitude earthquake, and in December of 2008 a boat anchor sliced it and three other cables in half. The disaster cut communications capacity between Europe, the Middle East and India by around 75 percent.

Hundreds of millions of people spent weeks without reliable (or, in some cases, any) Internet access.

Because of an anchor.

An anchor. A big hunk of metal the most important and sophisticated quality of which is that weighs a lot.

All this Internetland stuff gone. In the blink of an eye.


But hey, at least I still remember how to bake bread and decorate cakes.

As I was just noting to a colleague, it seems weird to do for a living something so ephemeral. It really rubs against my grain, actually. I used to do something real for a living.

I wrote:
"When you get old, time seems to get sort of truncated
I sat down and figured it out and I've worked for LifeSite for about six years, and for Campaign Life for four years before that.

Then I did the math and realised that means I haven't had a normal job in TEN YEARS!!!!

Six plus four is TEN!!!

P_____ says:
lol...Well, that's something to be proud of, I'd say.

Hilary says:
I dunno. I used to go home from work thinking, "OK, I've made 10 dozen loaves of bread and made 20 birthday cakes" that's a concrete accomplishment. I've fed people and made little kids happy.

What we do could disappear forever in the time it takes solar radiation to hit the internet cables. One flare, and we're out of a job and all my work goes poof.

I was thinking about my many years of desire to be in the religious life. (It's gone poof, btw, along with most of my religious inclinations). One of the things that really appealed about it was that it was life in The Real. No falsity, nothing artificial. Just daily focused attention on Real things.

Truth is, I live such a weird life that it is sometimes hard to keep a grip. It seems artificial and precarious and hopelessly unreal. And I don't really know what to do about this now.


Dang. Caught me sharing...



Sean M. Brooks said...

Gee whiz, Hilary! Are you trying to scare us Internet junkies out of our pajamas? As tho wild eyed liberal fascists, fanatical jihadists, and late mail deliverers were not enough, we now have to worry about ANCHORS cutting us off? Dang!

Sincerely, Sean

Anonymous said...


I don't think Chesterton, the patron of true journalists, would agree with your estimation of a career where every, keystroke, in the service of protecting the Great Unprotected was "artificial" and not "normal."

Stay in the trench, smite them hip and thigh.