Musing on the social impact of disasters

I can’t seem to get to Google. Or Gmail. Yahoo is slow too. And I was having trouble getting to my blog.

It makes me wonder, what would it be like if Google went down for an hour. Or a day. Or a week. What would be the economic repercussions? Or the social ones. Would people step out of their apartments en masse and ask each other “Is Google down for you too?”

Update: I stepped out of my apartment, virtually. Boingboing confirms that Two tier-one ISPs are scr0d today.

Given the recent spat of hurricanes and earthquakes, I’m curious about the hundreds of thousands of people having to rely on strangers as much for their basic needs as for a sense of common reality.

On NPR this evening I heard a report that there are 100,000 new people living in Baton Rouge, LA. They focused on the increased traffic, but I’m more interested in hearing about the new relationships forming as a result and the “Katrina babies” we’ll start seeing 8 months from now. In a few years I expect a lot of people will admit that Katrina was an awful catalyst that changed their lives for the better.

Is the fact that it takes a natural disaster to break us out of our routines a uniquely American phenomenon? Kind of makes me want to engineer a national kick in the pants just to mix things up. But even that would be hard to force above the noise of daily life. Something has to be at stake. Everything is so explained and anticipated nowadays that it seems to take large-scale destruction of life and property to pique our interest in the people around us.

I see this pattern when it comes to meeting people. I could meet someone once and be interested, but if things are such that it’s unlikely we’ll cross paths again, it makes no sense to rearrange my life to improve the probability of a second chance encounter. Instead I’d rather that any future interaction be dependent on who I really am (the places I go and the things I do) and leave it up to chance (much like a natural disaster) that our paths cross again.

1 Comment

Okay. I did have a point and it was a good one, too. I talked about the Singularity and hubris and everything. As it stands, however, I am less smrat smart than I’d hoped and, as a result, have no real point to make other than this: Mardi Gras is going to suck this year.

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