The Best Worst Thing

Mikko Hypponen

Playlists: 'MCH2022' videos starting here / audio

This is a submission for a keynote talk at MCH2022. The Internet is both a familiar, comfortable place as well as a bottomless rabbit hole you can lose yourself in. The Internet has always been like this from its inception, the difference now is the scale and consequences are almost immeasurable - and it tests the limits of human imagination. When you look into the mirror of the Internet what you see reflected back depends on what you are looking for. It has become largely a reflection of yourself.

Some inventions are so good that they change the world. When a new innovation is useful enough, we no longer want to live without it – and once a technology is practical enough, it soon becomes compulsory.

Electrical networks are a good example of this. While it is hard to imagine modern life without electricity, electrical networks are a fairly recent invention. Nowadays, a power outage brings everything to a halt. If an outage is extensive, not only homes will be affected – shops and factories also close. Once these networks are down, society will be offline. Modern society could only last for a few days in a complete power outage.

If the Internet were to fail, the impacts would be much less dramatic. Society would not stop during a network outage. Factories would continue to operate. Information would flow via TV antennas and FM radio. Of course, work would be much more difficult without network connections. Most monetary transactions would also cease. In a nutshell, internet outages are expensive, but they don't kill people.

I predict that, before long, the information network and electrical network will be equally important to our society. Before long, much like a power outage, a network outage will bring life to a halt. In fact, before long, a network outage will also mean a power outage.

Electrical networks have been highly beneficial, but we have become highly dependent on them. The same is now happening in relation to information networks. The electrical network needs the information network to work, and vice versa. Technological development is changing our society in a fundamental way. This dependency is happening on our watch.