Ramblings of a Tampa engineer

One morning driving to work I noticed a few stoplights were no longer working. I still don't exactly understand how they work under the hood, because some lights along this journey were between blinking yellow, blinking red or completely off.

I imagine that mess is a mix between loss of power and loss of communication falling into some protection mode to prevent collisions.

What I immediately noticed is that without a higher authority (the light) to enforce something a random collection of citizens have no ability to work together. The light pictured above was a pure nightmare to be at. I witnessed so many events:

  • Folks beyond nervous to enter intersection upsetting everyone behind them.
  • Folks not caring the light was busted, seeing the yellow light and just rolling through hoping for the best.
  • Folks entering intersection, getting blocked and then further blocking intersections.
  • Folks realizing they can just drive however they want to make it through the intersection blocking everything and anyone so they can pass.
  • Folks always deferring to another driver - thus never getting space to go.

So when I see a police officer directing traffic at a similar situation - I fully understand why this happens now.

I can't imagine a situation where the power just goes out city wide for days. It has happened before during hurricanes, but there is a fraction of the people in the city that should normally be there so it isn't comparable. I don't think folks could function without the critical infrastructure that keeps a city moving especially in the transportation department.

Lets take another critical industry: water.

https://www.nytimes.com/2021/02/08/us/oldsmar-florida-water-supply-hack.html

This got to national news, because hacking had moved into the critical systems that millions depend on to drink clean water.

I wish I could dig into the actual hack, but like most stories that involve the government all the details were hidden. I do want to talk about what happened during this event as I lived not more than 4 minutes from this water plant.

Grocery stores were drained of all types of water within the day. I'm not quite sure why everyone panicked to the point to do that, when it was being made clear that numerous safety systems caught any change prior to it being a danger.

However, it proved that in situations where fear sets in folks may act irrationally. I can almost guess the person filling their car with 10 racks of water was the same person who bought hundreds of toilet paper during the initial COVID "stay at home" order.


So if we get back to anarchy - from each little event we have I lose further faith in our society to be able to go on without the infrastructure that keeps folks moving along.

We could even look at traffic where a simple accident can lead to a 20 minute delay, since folks can't seem to work together to form a zipper merge. By chance every other car has to floor it all the way up to the accident and force their way into traffic at the cost of blocking traffic for everyone else.

So maybe movies have it right - in a world where our infrastructure is attacked folks would probably either bunker or rush stores for supplies. Without a working credit card network things would move to "cash is king" or theft.

Traffic would have an huge amount of accidents which I imagine the police force would be at a minimum to support due to their own families to support in this imagined world.

Here is to hoping our world doesn't turn to that.

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