There is nothing new under the sun…turn, turn, turn

Hurricane Sandy – are we better off than we were four hundred years ago?

It is currently election season in the United States, and at this time we Americans often ask ourselves the question that Ronald Reagan asked during his campaign against President Jimmy Carter in 1980 – are we better off today than we were four years ago?

We can ask the same question in other areas, and for other time periods. The tymshft blog does exactly that.

Four hundred years ago, people here in the Americas and throughout the world were often at the mercy of the weather, or other natural events. A severe storm, hurricane, earthquake, or volcanic eruption could play havoc with people.

And it isn’t much better today.

As I write this, Hurricane Sandy is approaching the east coast of the United States. Airline flights in the area are at a standsill. Local mass transportation services in Washington, New York, and other areas are shut down. Many government offices, as well as private businesses are shut down.

Do we know exactly what’s going to happen to the east coast over the next few days? We haven’t the slightest idea. My employer’s travel service sent out a bulletin yesterday (Sunday) that included the words “Weather is difficult to predict.” And that’s just the weather – there’s no way to predict exactly which tree will fall on which power line, or which car will slam into which power generator.

In one way, we are worse off than we were four hundred years ago. If a severe thunderstorm hit Virginia in 1612, California was unaffected. Today, I know someone who is having problems accessing video on one of her websites. The error message that appears when she tries to access the videos happens to include the name of a well-known cloud provider in its URL. And it’s not just this particular website that’s threatened:

The entertainment industry is heavily reliant on online infrastructure for a wide variety of tasks from promoting movie titles to carrying out daily communication. Many millions of websites hosted on the U.S east coast are housed in a few large data centers, that will have to cope with a fierce hurricane.

Remember how all of the movie companies flocked to Hollywood because of the good weather? Well, at least some entertainment properties are apparently in harm’s way – and even if all of the industry’s servers were located here, they could easily be taken out in an earthquake.

Basically, we are at the mercy of the weather today. In fact, our technologically advanced society is probably subject to more weather disruptions than the society of four hundred years ago.

P.S. Sharp-eyed readers will recall that I discussed this same issue back in June. There truly is nothing new under the sun, even in the tymshft blog. Ann Landers would have had a field day writing for this blog.

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