Tuesday, June 19, 2012
In one basket
I woke up to the Internet being down. That doesn’t happen very often, but it does happen. That’s bad enough, but my phone is through an Internet provider, so that was out too. We do get some TV news channels -also through the Internet, so no TV news either.
My main source of information and my only form of outside communication was out of order. We don’t have cell phone service here, wrong side of the mountain. If it wasn’t for radio, I’d have no idea what the heck was going on in the world.
Why do I have all my eggs in one basket? Efficiency and economy, that’s why. I had satellite Internet at one time. It worked well enough, but it was about 40% more expensive than fiber. Also, I couldn’t take advantage of Internet phone services. My land line was almost twice the price and provided fewer features. That’s how just about everything got funnel through the Internet service.
For me, it was a mild inconvenience, but it did make something clear to me. The whole world has gone to the most efficient and economical systems. Like me, the world budgets are tight. There’s no economic incentive for redundancy. Whoever can provide services or goods at the most lowest price wins. Everyone else fades away.
That’s how the world became dominated by a small number of large companies. In your daily life look how Walmart has come to dominate. It’s not just a department store. It’s were a goodly percentage of people get their groceries, pharmacy drugs, and even financial services. They are a one stop shop.
I hear there’s a city in China that makes most of the world’s socks. You’d be surprised to find out how many different brands of computers are actually made in Taiwan. Certain key electronic components are only manufactured by one company.
Even forests, as they mature, get more efficient and streamlined. Certain ecological niches get dominated by the most efficient exploiter. Eventually, it’s the only critter doing that job.
A few hours later the Internet came back up. Booting up the wifi router and phone box got all systems running again. No big problem -this time. Had it gone away I’d have to do without for a period of time. Eventually, some sort of partial work around might get cobbled together.
It’s not a big crisis on an individual level. On a world wide scale, that’s a different story. Today’s little service outage got me thinking about our complex systems. It’s only natural for our eggs to end up in one basket. It’s more efficient and cheaper, so that’s what happens.
Sure, I could get backup systems for everything, but I’d have to give up something else. My budget doesn’t have the wiggle room it once had. Only thing is, the world doesn’t have any wiggle room either.