The loss of citizen authority over the digital sphere, which has been supplanted by the demands of the state, is an apocalypse from which humanity can never recover. Should we be worried about the next digital apocalypse?
Everyone enjoys a good apocalypse, and in 2022, everyone will face the end of the world. Some apocalypses are made up, which is ideal for corporate lobbying and political ambition. Others are exaggerated as a “get rich quick” scheme that evaporates without a trace.
However, true apocalypses, those that constitute an actual threat to civilisation, are rarely published. And besides, there is a distinction between fear and terror, and no rational politician wants to incite panic.
In the same way that desert civilizations fear cloudless skies, societies founded on technology grow subject to its defects.
At the current rate of evolution of human civilisation, a truly digital disaster would very certainly result in a Year Zero event, an epoch characterized by digital darkness.
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If critical data was lost—assets cleansed and identification data destroyed—civilisation would be reset. However, it would be naive to believe that humans can recuperate as rapidly as computer operating systems.
Humanity has come dangerously near to digital disaster before, but not since crawling into Silicon Valley’s womb.
The digital revolution occurred in a single lifetime, and we now find ourselves in the uncomfortable situation of wanting to embrace technology without becoming enslaved by it.
While we are preoccupied evading the government’s virtual mouse traps, we must take care to maintain redundancies within society to safeguard against inevitable moments of digital failure. After all, a week without power is enough to bring advanced cities to their knees.
Teams of perspiring programmers, red-eyed and trembling in the din of the world’s server rooms, will not be able to stop the next digital apocalypse.
The Y2K Bug
Some of us can recall the panic that was sparked in 1999 by an innocent error made in the early days of computers.
When four-digit dates were condensed into two digits to conserve space during calculations, this basic error led to the “Y2K bug.” This was fine from 1960 to 1999, but when the year 2000 drew near, programmers were forced to put an end to their procrastination and fix the flaw, which impacted the security of everything from banking to nuclear power plants, airplanes, factory equipment, and the commercial world, while satellite systems and GPS presented a real threat to safety.
During this period, the entire tech sector was at sea, repairing micro-cracks on a listing cruise liner. It was an unusual apocalypse given that there was nothing you could do if you weren’t a programmer.
Unlike the climate change “bend the knee” mantra, December 1999 concluded with an almost Norse fatalism finishing in a big party beneath the Sydney Harbour Bridge (at least in Australia).
The audience was decked out in glitter, neon glow sticks, and ridiculous heart-antenna headbands—three sheets to the wind on champagne. Most people predicted that their city would go dark and that the world’s computers would wheeze and die.
They failed to. Those programmers labored until the clock struck midnight. Gunpowder burst on the bridge in bright plumes. The end of the world was so peaceful that 22 years later, there still stories that incorrectly downplay the threat.
Nobody stood to gain anything from the Y2K bug. Every administration brutally eradicated it as a pest. (Shhhh. Let us avoid discussing the 2038 issue.)
The Next Digital Apocalypse May Lead to a ‘Great Reset’
Our data might be sacrificed for “the greater good” if the upcoming, long-foretold digital disaster benefits those looking to “reset” the world economy.
A “fair system” of recovery—a “re-distribution” of assets—would be necessary in the event of a catastrophic loss of data, similar to what would happen if a toddler knocked over a Monopoly board and the parents decided to “fairly” place the houses back on all of the squares regardless of who purchased them. The parties in contention are given to the bank. Loan forgiveness in exchange for property acquisition may be possible, depending on a country’s debt level.
Physical damage to the world’s greatest server farms, rather than cyber warfare, would most likely cause a digital apocalypse of this magnitude. It is far more effective to demolish a building, break a cable, or even perpetuate a natural occurrence like the Carrington Event of 1859.
Although an unstable energy grid would not be permanently harmful, it would cause intervals of digital interference, which could change our economy’s reliance on high-tech solutions.
After an hour of outages, retailers are swift to switch to cash.
The next digital catastrophe will not be malevolent attacks from our buddies in North Korea, if the IT industry is truthful with the public. It will not be a Nigerian Prince with a dearly departed relative or a gremlin from the 1970s gnawing on the cords.
Lobbyists and politicians who are quickly turning the internet world into an intangible prison block will construct our apocalypse, which will take place in the Parliamentary chambers.
The loss of citizen authority over the digital sphere, which has been supplanted by the demands of the state, is an apocalypse from which humanity can never recover. It would signify the end of the free market Eden that gave birth to our greatest technological triumphs.
Instead, we will encounter a battle for control that penetrates both the surface of our skin and our thoughts.