In physics and engineering, stability is referred to a trend of a system which returns or tends to its normal value. Instability is when slight changes cause a large change in the system. In historical terms destabilization is a recurring theme in terms of societal collapses. If an unstable system is destabilized, then disaster promptly follows. Modern American society in this technological sense is very unstable, though this also has a social component. Many simple examples exist to illustrate America’s instability. Our water systems, road systems, internet (and thereby a plethora of other dependent systems such as food supply, which includes digital refrigeration), and medical, just to name a few, are unstable in their current national linking and design. In investigating instability, only a small change in few or one of the variables is necessary to see a significant result. A disruption due to war or terrorism are few of many very possibly disruptions which can lead to national life support system failure. Many may define the U.S. as the most powerful complex interconnected system operating on a global scale. However, when viewing from a technological stance, the U.S. is behind in terms of secondary ‘back ups’ and infrastructure. The consequences for this may prove to be disastrous in the future.
Much study has been done to show the modeled outcomes of an EMP over the United States, disabling all electronics and thereby all the national life support systems. Anything such as laptops, phones, banking, and thermostats would be rendered obsolete. Much of this is due to archaic, decaying, or inadequate technological infrastructure pervading many of the life support systems in America. The systems are unstable as they cannot withstand an attack or disruption on a mass-scale. All the devices which we use on a constant basis to survive are one bomb in the sky away from becoming fancy pieces of metal. Power outages from simple storms can result in loss of power and anxiety for days on end. The real possibility of an EMP attack would be a storm power outage scenario but orders of magnitude higher in severity.
Unimaginable consequences would occur simply from large scale loss of the interconnected power grid. Hurricanes and Storms already do an absurd amount of damage yearly. It would not be difficult for an angry foreign power to incapacitate America via technological (or biological) means. As our lives are dependent and built around receiving power and powering all of our means of sustenance, it is clear to see the very fine line we live on at all times. The line is fine and unstable the same reason a tightrope walker is unstable when performing his act. And that is that there is no other balance point or safety net. In its current state, America’s technological infrastructure does not have a safety net if it were to be specifically targeted. The result of being on such a fine line is that the regular lives of Americans can cleverly be ‘powered off’ completely with no alternative or backup mechanism.
What is worse is that the economy is digitized, leaving it vulnerable along with our power grid. Such is our technological infrastructure when it is coupled. A collapse in the dollar would be a collapse of society as we know it. This is since its digital nature is not backed up and fail-safe’d. This is one major manifestation of an instability. As the saying goes, money is what makes the world go round. It is almost trivial and unnoticeable to many the dependence of money on technological power (as the financial system is all digital). This is akin to vital organs being interdependent on one another. But unlike the body has protective features to maintain homeostasis, the interdependent systems in America do not have a developed protection backup and that is what makes it very unstable. The very basis of American hegemony rests upon the economy and the value of the dollar. Not only that, but also the means for the population to acquire its resources lies on a very thin line. It is not impossible for such a vital collapse to occur. If it were, society would devolve in a state of pure destruction and anarchy, with citizens left to fend for themselves and somehow – without power – attempt to acquire their resources against competition, like something out of Mad Max.
Societal disruption also has demonstrably shown its chaotic effects and thereby an inherent societal instability, which partly has roots in technological instability. The American reaction to the COVID-19 pandemic produced a significant economic disruption, particularly in unemployment numbers. As a chaotic response ensued the pandemic, it is clear to see American health and bureaucratic institutions were not armed or prepared to tackle the pandemic in a less chaotic fashion – an instability. With any disruption it is reasonable to expect some negative feedback and resistance. However, when America was put to the test, a large destabilization in employment ensued. Many other nations did not experience the deep negative impacts of the pandemic as America did, “The unemployment rate in May might have been as high as 16% by the U.S. Government’s estimate” compared to the U.K.’s 4.1%. Preparedness is stability, and instability is chaos.
Stability is preparedness. Against an EMP, or a health crisis, there is no clear plan for America for those events. Time after time many warnings have been made regarding these types of disasters. There is the problem of funding, as always of course. However, the cost of unemployment and lack of food is far greater in terms of its impacts. By example America does not possess coordinated plans of action for many vital systems pertinent to the survival of the whole population.
With many other developed nations investing and developing for preparedness and the future, a comparison can be made with America. America, for most of its vital systems which run the machine, instead of preparing and resolving current instabilities in its techno-social structure, has to focus on maintaining the tightrope walk between proper function and impending disaster.
Kochhar, R. (2020, August 26). Unemployment rose higher in three months of COVID-19 than it did in two years of the Great Recession. Retrieved October 13, 2020, from https://www.pewresearch.org/fact-tank/2020/06/11/unemployment-rose-higher-in-three-months-of-covid-19-than-it-did-in-two-years-of-the-great-recession/
McAlvany, D. (2020, September 14). What Would Happen if an EMP Attack were Made on America? Retrieved October 13, 2020, from https://www.nordskogpublishing.com/what-would-happen-if-an-emp-attack-were-made-on-america/