In the aftermath of Hurricane Irene, we were fortunate that we didn’t ose power or get more than a few drips in our basement. Several hors after the storm, when things turned sunny and beautiful outside, our Comcast connection went out, and there’s no timetable for its return currently.
As a person who has a business based on connectivity, being “cut off”and “reduced” to getting messages and email on my smart phone with unreliable connectivity, I feel like I’m thrown back into 1983. We have power, but no TV or Phone or internet, thanks to our great idea to consolidate our services. It makes sense 98% of the time- but in cases like this one, having all our eggs in one basket makes us vulnerable.
M husband has a more important example of the danger of putting all your eggs in one basket. Several years ago, a big hurricane ripped through Mexico severely damaging the one plant on the planet than manufactures penicillin. You can understand this. it’s a drug with tremendous usefulness, but limited profit margin, so there aren’t manufacturers all over the world willing to invest what it takes to make the drug. But as a result, for a good period of time until they could get up and running, physicians had to rely on more expensive and sometimes less effective antibiotics to treat disease. This single point of failure put lives at risk because we were complacent about our ability to rely on one source for a global supply.
During a recent trip, I was struggling with what to pack, and my husband reminded me we weren’t going to deepest, darkest Peru or any place that did not have every modern convenience, so anything I forgot I could replace if I had to. It made me feel silly for spending so much time fretting over things like if we had enough shampoo, when such things did not have to originate from home.
Connection to everything we need is often so close, we take it for granted, but our caveman brains still assume we have to tote all our stuff with us, reinforced by all that boy scout ” be prepared” stuff we learn. Finding the balance between self-reliance and providing for ourselves and trusting others to provide service, supply and resources for us is a tension based on trust. How much can I rely on others, and how much do I need to rely solely on myself? how much of this tension is based on the trust we have and systems we have in place, and when do we need to provide redundancies to ensure everything goes off without a hitch? These are fundamental questions we ask when we do everything from make a cake to plan an event, to sending our kids to school in the morning… how many alternative plans do we need to have in place in case of a problem, how many can we easily improvise on the spot, and how many redundancies do we need to avoid single point of failure problems?
My lack of connection is small and silly in the big picture. Lack of medicine to save lives is another extreme. But common to both is the question of how much we trust others to do for us, and how much we should have even small emergency redundancy in mind for when a problem occurs. The magnitude of the issues caused by the single point of failure problem should probably guide us . Inconvenience and using wifi at my favorite coffee shop seems more like a treat that a problem, but lack of medicine to save lives is clearly on another scale.
Something worth thinking about especially as folks deal with the vulnerabilities Mother Nature dealt the East Coast this week with earthquakes, hurricanes and Tornados.