How would you get by if the internet went down permanently tomorrow? It’s an interesting question simply because the outcome is such a plausible one. We’ve all had our WiFi go down at work and at home, or had our smartphone’s internet become a little temperamental – it’s undoubtedly a pain, too! No more checking of important emails, no watching videos on YouTube, liking posts on Facebook, streaming music using Spotify or checking the football scores on the BBC website when the internet’s down. We use the internet for more than we realise, but just how dependent are we on this still young digital resource, and what would happen if it went down permanently?
Perhaps the most obvious consequence if the internet were to fail permanently is the effect it would have on us as individuals. How many of our actions are governed by online information, I wonder? These days, we check cinema times online, use mapping apps rather than printed maps to find our destinations, wouldn’t even consider checking a paper train or bus timetable and often communicate with the majority of our social contacts almost exclusively online. Would we even know where to start to get ourselves organised without the internet? The majority of us have very quickly integrated the web into the essential day-to-day workings of our lives.
The loss of the internet would not affect individuals alone, however. Many of the world’s top institutions rely on web access to function normally. These days, schools and universities worldwide depend on the internet to set lesson schedules and receive coursework submissions, and they aren’t the only ones. Online banking allows us to transfer funds and receive payments automatically while 89% of people prefer to shop online than visit the shops themselves. Businesses and offices manage accounts and invoices online, communicate with others across the nation using email and web messaging services and generally rely on the worldwide web to operate effectively. Without it, many companies would simply grind to a halt.
You may not even realise it, but much of the societal infrastructure we take for granted depends on the web to run smoothly. Meteorological data is captured, compared and processed online to generate our weather forecasts. Traffic control systems are fed with online data, while train and tube networks are now governed using networked systems. Without the data crunching power and communicatory prowess of the net, the house of cards we’ve spent so long building could easily come crashing down around us.
The internet is still a relatively new tool, but society has acted fast to make it an integral part of our everyday lives. Intelligent malware and denial-of-service attacks are being used by cybercriminals to prevent access to websites and online systems with the intention of causing as much chaos as possible, but even on a small scale, loss of access to the internet can be a major inconvenience.