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An epic cultural disaster – possibly exaggerated in scale and in the details of accounts – it supposedly saw “hard copies” of most classical knowledge in the Western world destroyed in 391 AD (if not before – again, accounts vary).
This, at least, is the narrative as told by Carl Sagan in the opening of his book Cosmos – with special emphasis on the martyrdom of a woman scientist named Hypatia, the last librarian, ostensibly at the hands of a science-hating early-Christian mob.
Myth or not, I’ve always been fascinated by the idea of all the world’s knowledge being in one place, awaiting a disaster that leaves humanity with no past and no sense of self.
Could some disaster wipe out “The Cloud” and the various servers and hard-drives – a “network of networks” (or “a series of tubes”) – that combine to form the ‘Net? Could all the world’s information be deleted?
Because there’s certainly been a lot of breaking of the Internet going on.
In fact, so many photos involving KK (including pics of husband Kanye West and son North) have blown up in cyberspace, that the Webby Awards last year gave her their first-ever Break The Internet Award.
A few days earlier, an Amazon Web Services tech pressed the wrong button while performing a debugging procedure and really did break the Internet. The Cloud was out for several hours, with repercussions across the net and hundreds of millions of lost dollars from that one cock-up.
And, of course, host Ellen DeGeneres really did bring Twitter to its knees with her famous selfie-retweeted-round-the-world at the 2014 Oscars. The selfie she took, with Bradley Cooper, Jennifer Lawrence, Julia Roberts, Brad Pitt and Meryl Streep among others, was retweeted 255,000 times in a minute (3.3 million overall).
What if that had finally broken the Internet once and for all? Decades later – as we huddled around dumpster fires and adjusted the rabbit ears on that old cathode ray tube TV we found in a landfill – we would tell stories of the vengeful Hollywood gods whose faces were the last things we saw before “Error code 404” filled our screens forever, ushering in a thousand years of analog.
Things we were told “broke the Internet” included Gangnam Style, the ALS Ice Bucket Challenge, Warren Beatty messing up the Best Picture Oscar announcement, Steve Harvey messing up the Miss Universe announcement, Zayn Malik quitting One Direction and Miley Cyrus “twerking” Robin Thicke.
Happily, they all failed – though the structural integrity of the Internet is certainly in question.
But the Dark Ages remain at bay – for now.
Unless, of course, they’re already here.