Friday, April 10, 2009

Example of our societal dependence on online access?

Interesting article out of the West Coast today about some fiber-optic vandalism with crippling effects:

Police are hunting for vandals who chopped fiber-optic cables and killed landlines, cell phones and Internet service for tens of thousands of people in Santa Clara, Santa Cruz and San Benito counties on Thursday.

The sabotage essentially froze operations in parts of the three counties at hospitals, stores, banks and police and fire departments that rely on 911 calls, computerized medical records, ATMs and credit and debit cards.

The full extent of the havoc might not be known for days, emergency officials said as they finished repairing the damage late Thursday.

Find the full story from the San Francisco Chronicle. Reactions?


  1. That's like someone stealing stop signs, stupid and sadistic in one fell swoop. And it's a reminder of how vital communication technologies have become to the everyday workings of life. In movies, if someone wants to inspire fear and confusion, they'll cut the power. And if the digital is symbolic of the connected modern world, then the de-digitized world is a wilderness of stuff. Fuckers.

  2. This seems suggest that the distributed nature of the net, so often pointed to as a failsafe against single points of failure, isn't much help when access _to_ that network is eliminated.

    I suspect we'll see more and more of these types of actions in the near future.

  3. Anonymous6:22 PM

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  4. Anonymous6:42 PM

    I think this experience, as horrific as it is, puts into perspective how privileged the U.S. is in regard to ICT access. The reality of not being able to call for an ambulance or retrieve money from an ATM is a reality that millions, if not billions, of people in the world face.

    That said, I'm curious to hear what people think about how dependent our culture (and I use the term "our" loosely) has become on technology. When disasters happen, whether natural or man-made, how adaptable are people without access to technology? Has our culture of convenience allowed us to lose sight of basic logic and critical thinking skills? When the systems go down, is your money safer in a bank or tucked underneath your mattress?

  5. Anonymous11:08 PM

    Oh, dear. I just noticed that my main question happened to be the subject of the initial post. (I was referring to technology in various forms and not just online access though.) I guess that's what I get for jumping straight to the article rather than noting the finer details of the blog entry. :(

  6. Although this event caused some suffering, as with not being able to call an ambulance and such, in a way I think it was absolutely brilliant and awesome. Even though I can see and experience the benefits and advantages of technology, I simultaneously hate how depend our society is on it. It's definitely not my preferred mode of communication or way to absorb information or conduct business. I can't stand the fact that I feel I cannot live as conveniently as I desire to when my internet is not working, because in order to accomplish the goals I want to, I am forced to use technology constantly.

    I really liked the questions that Shauna posed- I believe the fact that our culture is so dependent on technology that is sometimes stunts our natural instincts and abilities. I wonder what we could accomplish if people stopped spending 8-10 hours a day staring at various "screens."

  7. It just seems to be indicative of how fragile that infrastructure really is, if that is all it takes to have such a big impact.