Tuesday, February 15, 2011

Internet meltdown: 'Plan B' from science fiction?

In yesterday's post (If I were a jihadist, Part II), I argued for the inevitable malicious destruction of our existing Internet. I also promised that today I would consider the contribution of several science fiction authors to getting our brains around a "Plan B" for climbing out of the ashes of such an Internet doomsday. I've previously talked about military science fiction as the cyber privateer road map, and credited Piers Anthony's Macroscope as my inspiration for principle #7 of The Perfect Virus, namely Black Box Portability. My question today:
Have you ever considered what you would do if the Internet were absolutely, instantly, and irretrievably destroyed? I'm not talking for an hour, or for a week or month, but for at least a year? Do you have a "Plan B" for your life, your livelihood, and for your family?
For those of you with any kind of acute anxiety disorder, one or more schizophrenic personalities prone to violence, psychotic paranoia, or even a mild neurosis that causes insomnia, I suggest you quit reading, close this window, and delete your browser history file and all bookmarks to this site. Because however bad you think it will be, let me assure you it's going to be a whole lot worse. There are quite a few data points in the world of science fiction that have affected my own thinking. These are only illustrative and not at all intended to be a complete bibliography of the field. In fact, I'll add to this list as I get email from various science fiction fans.

  1. My first vision of the future came from the late Frank Herbert, author of Dune. We became friends after I referenced him in an ad for one of my inventions. Over many lunches and while floating in his Port Townsend, WA swimming pool, I "grokked" that is idea of the future was fairly daunting, where technology was so advanced that any individual could destroy a government or even a planet. He said I reminded him of another of his characters, Jorj X. McKie, in his short story The Tactful Saboteur. McKie was kind of an non-violent IRA type who was hired by the BuSab (the Bureau of Sabotage) to slow down a legislature who had too much technology and too much ability to pass laws before they could consider the unintended consequences of those laws. Frank even talked me into running for the U.S. Congress from Washington in 1978. I lost the race, even though I carried Frank's district. But his lessons stuck, and I went into guerrilla warfare marketing. You can see where this is going, eh? His desert Freemen (jihadists) in Dune combined with Jorj X. McKie in my psyche to yield my own best solution to a serious modern dilemma: cyber privateers.
  2. My next seminal influence was Piers Anthony and his book Macroscope, mentioned above as the genesis for Black Box Portability, of which I have blogged several times on the topic of infecting an alien intelligence, the last of which was Part IV on Feburary 2nd (links to parts I, II and III are in that blog.
  3. When it comes to the end of the world as we know it, however, top honors go to Larry Niven and Jerry Pournelle for their seminal book, Lucifer's Hammer. Several well-placed meteorites take out the whole planet and most (but not all) the people. How do you rebuild from zero? Heck, how do you eat? I am amused that some religious zealot got converts by forcing cannibalism on his growing army, thus making them pariahs to civilized people evermore. More importantly, though, is the problem faced by the good guys, of how to build an infrastructure from…zilch. You know, the Internet going down is one thing, but a sufficiently effective EMP-based attack could completely fry everything electronic (see my post on the new cyber security center being built about 10 miles from my house). By the way, I spent some time with Jerry Pournelle in his SoCal home, and have never before or since seen a more magnificent personal library. His shelves-upon-shelves of books were a magnificent maze. 
  4. I have previously posted on David Drake's Hammer's Slammers and David Weber's Bolo series. But I have just finished John Ringo's second installment, Citadel, about our recovery from an alien invasion in Live Free or Die. And I'm anxiously awaiting the third installment, The Hot Gate on May 3rd. Talk about a "Plan-B" mentality! Not only did entrepreneur Tyler Vernon have to come up with an infrastructure, but he had to figure out a method of commerce that aliens would accept in order to provide him with Galaxy-class technology with which to battle other colonizing aliens.
The above are just a few examples of the problem mind-set we'd face if we lost the things we take for granted. Today's Computerworld reports that President Obama is seeking "a big boost in cybersecurity spending." At the risk of echoing past rants, what he wants to spend my hard-earned tax dollars on is silly and stupid. How about a new, built-from-the-ground-up, super-secure Internet (I posted on the UUU)? Let's not only have cyber privateers buy us some time on today's Internet, but they could also dump a serious amount of cash into our deficit-ridden treasury. Because the extended collapse of my Internet window to the world would leave me rather…as my Canadian friends might say…seriously hosed.

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Implementation suggestions for THE MORGAN DOCTRINE are most welcome. What are the "Got'chas!"? What questions would some future Cyber Privateering Czar have to answer about this in a Senate confirmation hearing?