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Communications of the ACM

The profession of IT

An Interview with David Brin on Resiliency


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physicist and author David Brin

Credit: Cheryl Brigham

Many people today are concerned about critical infrastructures such as the electrical network, water supplies, telephones, transportation, and the Internet. These nerve and bloodlines for society depend on reliable computing, communications, and electrical supply. What would happen if a massive cyber attack or an electromagnetic pulse, or other failure mode took down the electric grid in a way that requires many months or even years for repair? What about a natural disaster such as hurricane, wildfire, or earthquake that disabled all cellphone communications for an extended period?

David Brin, physicist and author, has been worrying about these issues for a long time and consults regularly with companies and federal agencies. He says there are many relatively straightforward measures that might greatly increase our resiliency—our ability to bounce back from disaster. I spoke with him about this.


 

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