The recent US election has people in many countries taking a good hard look at their current lifestyles. Sales of “survival” items like guns, ammunition, prepackaged food, and vacuum-sealed even heirloom seeds are advertised everywhere you turn, and articles about stockpiling cash, gold, and other barter items are popping up on prepper sites.
For the more rationally minded, there has been at least a cautious questioning of the current state of technology, or more accurately, our dependency on technology. It’s not just that consumers are becoming fearful of their dependence on a network that could be shut down, but more that we need to take a serious look at how dependent we’ve become on technology that can be hacked, deregulated, or “tweeted” into bankruptcy.
Case in point – and not to appear as though any particular side is being taken – a few random tweets from the US President-elect have resulted in serious stock devaluation for major companies. Both Boeing and Lockheed Martin suffered significant price dips after Trump’s recent critical tweets; Lockheed’s stock devaluation was initially registered at 4%, around a $2 billion loss. So what happens when future tweets end up affecting a company to the point that it closes its doors, leaving consumers holding a now useless piece of vital technology?
Alex Roy for Yahoo News posed a similar look at the automotive industry, comparing it to other device manufacturers who’ve closed their doors and left their customers with a very expensive paperweight: what if the uncertainty of the economic climate costs us the software developers that power our vehicles? It’s one thing to discover you jumped on board the PalmPilot craze and had to invest in a tablet ten years later, but it’s something else altogether when the company whose software makes your anti-lock brakes work goes out of business. Your expensive bag phone from the ’90s is now a pop culture joke, but losing the software that literally runs your car – and the trucks that transport our food and supplies around the country – can have crisis-proportion consequences.
The short answer to a very complex and largely hypothetical problem is to welcome the open-source and third-party developers, helping to ensure that there is someone who can keep our tech running if those who created it are no longer in the game. Of course, while the internet is still a thing, it might not be a bad idea to read up on some of those prepper sites, just in case.
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