The above screen grab is from the Drudge Report on Monday, and the stories cover topics like Dominoes using more automation because to counter staff shortages, Walmart and other companies testing driverless trucks, and how companies are so desperate to hire people they are waiving requirements like college degrees, drug testing, and background checks.
The increased penetration of robots and automation in manufacturing is spreading into other jobs, many of which could be considered professional jobs or service jobs. In some cases, it can be the replacement of a person by a computer at the drive-through window or a kiosk at the counter. In others, it could be a computer writing newspaper copy or even replacing paralegals and even attorneys for many common legal documents.
Why should we as preppers care? Because robots are more vulnerable than people. Automation is vulnerable to accidental technical disruptions as well as hacking and other intentional assaults.
The Downside of Automation
At our house today, we experienced an Internet outage for nine hours. I could not make a phone call, send an email or a text, read the news, surf the Internet, or watch any TV or streaming services. Because I don’t have a chrome book and have a word processor on my hard drive, I was able to write. I could also play songs from my iPhone on my blue tooth speaker, but those were about the only advanced electronic device I could use.
Now imagine that you own a Domino’s pizza location franchise and the Internet goes down. That means no online orders are coming in and no orders via the app. If you are using VOIP for your phones, it means no phone orders. If someone walks in and orders the old fashioned way, you better hope they pay cash as you can’t process credit cards. And if your fancy automated pizza maker relies on the Internet, then you may be out of luck.
Back when you walked into your local pizza parlor, asked for two slices of pepperoni, a guy named Luigi slide them onto a giant oven and you handed him $4 and he gave you 50 cents change, the lack of Internet service would not have mattered.
Now imagine that scenario on a huge scale. Businesses can’t order raw materials and can’t receive orders. They can’t print Fedex or UPS orders. Their phones are down, they can’t track their shipments, they can’t accept credit card payments, or process payroll. Even the direct deposit of checks won’t work.
Jobs, Automation and Efficiency
I have nothing against robots or automation, but I think we need to be aware of the increased point of failure it gives us and the inherent lack of security of anything connected to the Internet. The problem that affected much of the East Coast when hackers shut down the Keystone pipeline could be a small sample of what the future could hold if the Internet is shutdown or we get massively hacked. Back in what I will refer to as the “old days,” guys in trucks had to drive out to a valve, get a giant wrench out of their tool box, and turn a valve. Today, that’s all done by automation, controlled by computers, over the Internet. That’s why the hack was such a big problem. They could repeat the same situation on electrical power generation and distribution, water plants, sewage processing and much or the energy industry.
Smart preppers prepare for a world without electricity, but I doubt many of us are prepared for a world without the Internet or in which our automated manufacturers get hacked or shut down with a virus. If we can do it to Iran’s nuclear processing equipment, why can’t someone else do it to us?
I get that automation makes us more efficient and increases productivity. All you have to do is compare one guy milking a cow to a dairy farm that uses automated systems to milk 80 cows at a time. Or one guy who used to cut trees with his chain saw but now uses a fancy piece of equipment on tracks that can to it in a fraction of the time.
A Screeching Halt
I will not argue that we would all starve to death if it weren’t for tractors, combines and other giant, complex pieces of farm equipment that allow us to produce more and more food. I do think it bears pointing out how much more quickly society grinds to a halt if there is a solar flare that hits earth or an EMP attack, or a massive Internet outage.
That what we as preppers need to prepare for: the time when we have no Internet. It has become as important to the functioning of our economy as electricity. We can live without the Internet, but most of commerce cannot go back to the systems and processes they used in and before the 1990s.
You can prepare by not depending on your own personal just-in-time supply chain and having a stash of preps. You can do it by living your life in the real world with people you see face-to-face rather than via social media. It will help to have small, local food services that are not dependent on automation, other than perhaps a simple gasoline engine.
Keep prepping, people, and don’t get too tied into automated systems that rely on the Internet to function.