Occasionally it is good to pull the plug

The Internet is everywhere. As educated citizens of the modern information age, we believe we know what we are doing when we sign up for online Internet services. But we (too) often ignore the fact that we also collectively work towards a world where without the Internet, we are nowhere. Back in a day, before the digital revolution, people were buying and thus owning content, nowadays we get content streamed but we do not own it anymore. Or, even more interestingly, we buy (and hence “own”) content in formats that can only be accessed if we are online. And it does not stop with just content. Nowadays, people deploy advanced home automation systems and many of them depend on cloud backends for regular operations. Just recently, I prepared a document for a meeting (in which I participated online) and only an unexpected downtime of my Internet uplink revealed that the recommended text formatting tool requires to be online to use it. These often hidden mashups are showing up increasingly in tools where one would not expect them. This is worrying me since these hidden mashups create a complex network of dependencies that lead to new and unknown risks through the possibility of cascading failures. Perhaps it is a good idea to pull the plug occasionally just to see what all stops working if the Internet is not everywhere anymore.