Back home I took a taxi last night. I was lucky enough to take one of those who hold a chair from knowledge, an enlightened professional in the trade of life, without a doubt; each opinion a certain pang to the present time; well-constructed and well-argued speech, the consequence of various filters after dozens of hours a day of tuning into gatherings from both ideological fields; with discretion when shaping your own opinion. After an exposition fueled by argumentation, he crowned the first part of the journey with a “These are going to teach me what it is to work”In reference to the political class in general. Once I ran into a taxi driver with a degree in philosophy and he didn’t know as much as the one who took me home yesterday. I ended up talking to the philosopher about rock history. I knew more than he did, although the ride was pleasant.
In the middle of a downtown street, my taxi driver got a wasap that he did not look at, which led the conversation to the blackout that days ago they suffered throughout the world the three great platforms of Mark Zuckerberg, WhatsApp, Facebook and Instagram. Since we had already taken certain reassurances after two roundabouts and a couple of intersections, the driver descended to the language of the earthly to summarize the matter: “In one of these we are all going to fuck”. And basically that’s the summary of the biggest fall in history of instant messaging platforms and social networks, the extreme dependence on the internet into which the global world has plunged and the real possibility that a prolonged blackout in the internet would lead us back, no longer to the middle ages, but to the ice age.
The journalist Esther Paniagua has just released a book that I recommend only for references and for some interviews that the taxi driver and I have heard on the radio. Its title is “Error 404: Are we ready for a world without internet?“In 352 pages, Paniagua and the taxi driver reach the same conclusion, although surely in the book the journalist goes into more detail and develops more profusely the assertion of my favorite driver from Madrid.
In its pages, and I quote the author, the brief reflection of a director of Google when the question of how western civilization could be ended as we know it today: “Turning off the internet.” In that case, the least of it would be to stop receiving the funny meme of the gang of friends for six hours. Imagine: payroll payments, travel reservations, purchase of tickets, bank transfers, real-time communications, online commerce and consumption, stock transactions, media editing, interactions with the Administration and between administrations, television platforms, leisure and services during a pandemic, telephony in general, health and education services, security forces. Add up and keep going.
There are two elements that are permanently around us regardless of where we are: one is the internet and the other is any product made in China. There is always one nearby, from brand name pants made in the Asian country to the mobile phone case. China, answered Esther Paniagua in one of the interviews granted to the radio, explaining that it is the only country that in its day took the precaution – basically as a form of control of its population – of creating its own network, with a language different from that which allows operate with the Internet in the rest of the world and shielded from possible technological invasions of other powers, so that it would be less likely that any other “enemy” would manage to cross the Chinese digital wall than the opposite fact, in the event that that government would give to turn off the communications of his opponents. India, for example, “punished” its population without internet for several months and that almost ended in bankruptcy.
The blackout of the main global messaging network it was taken in equal parts with relief and panic, especially among that population that seems to have forgotten that the telephone also allows you to make the call of a lifetime. However, it should help us to reflect on the extent to which we depend on the network to survive. At this point, and as I left the taxi, I seemed to see its owner dialing a phone number to speak with the sender of the wasap. In his day, we all should have done the same. Now it is too late.