And verily it came to pass, in a blinding flash, the Earth was cleansed of Techies. In the nanosecond of rapture, they all arose, every software engineer and programmer, every tech support representative and Apple Genius barrister, every hacker and coder and webmaster. From Silicon Valley to Silicon Alley, from Stanford to MIT, they disappeared and moved on to a better place, to the perfectly synchronous digital world that they had always imagined was beyond this one. A place where everyone understood what they were saying and was actually interested in listening to them. A place that wasn’t built on prayers and superstitions, but instead where science and engineering were revered and all took delight in balanced equations, and algorithms, where Moore’s Law reigned supreme, and nerds could get dates on Saturday night.
But what of the rest of humanity? What happened to those left behind? At first, no one noticed, because everything was still working flawlessly. All the automated systems and backups continued to function as their creators had designed them. So tweeters continued to tweet about what they thought of last night’s Game of Thrones episode, or the boyfriend they just dumped, or Kim Kardashian’s latest body piercing, and anything else that was trending. They kept hashtagging, and posting statuses on Facebook, and downloading pirated music and movies. ATMs kept spitting out $20 bills, credit cards kept giving credit, subways ran, traffic lights turned from red to green and back again, and electricity flowed through wires into people’s espresso makers, phone chargers, and stair-climbing machines.
But then there was a glitch. Somewhere near Peoria, Illinois, a drunken college football player drove his car into an electric power pole. The pole was already weak, and at least ten years overdue to be replaced, and the force of the crash caused it to topple, taking down the power lines. The live wires sizzled across the blacktop, eventually connecting with Bruno, the defensive tackle, when he stumbled out of his truck, ending his dream of being drafted by the Chicago Bears and stomping on quarterbacks for a living. After crisping Bruno almost beyond recognition, the neighborhood electricity suddenly stopped, having tripped a breaker at a nearby sub-station.
Then there was another glitch. An attack on JP Morgan Bank, initiated by a criminal hacker from Kazakhstan, moments before he was raptured, began to probe into the banking system, searching for a way to transfer money into his account. A warning went off in the bank’s fraud department, and the computer security division was alerted and directed to take care of the problem. But there was no one there. The criminal program gained access to the bank’s servers and soon was siphoning off fractions of pennies from every transaction that the bank’s automated systems performed. The amount of the theft increased logarithmically, doubling every minute, when the hacker’s worm became aware that there was nothing to stop it from continuing to pillage the bank’s accounts. By 10:30 am EST, the worm had cleaned out the bank’s entire reserves. JP Morgan was bankrupt.
Frantic calls went out to the Federal Reserve in Washington, asking them to stop trading off JP Morgan stock, pending an investigation of the incident. But it was too late. Stock traders and automated computer trading systems had already shorted all other bank and financial stocks of companies that did business with JP Morgan. Within minutes, the DOW plunged 1000 points, then another 1000, and then, when the computer system couldn’t keep up with all the sell orders, it crashed. Complete panic ensued, as it soon became evident that every trading firm’s computer experts had mysteriously disappeared. No one knew what to do. Middle managers who couldn’t figure out how to program their alarm clocks were suddenly trying desperately to enter the back end of their firms’ computer systems to try to diagnose and fix what was going on, but they couldn’t even figure out the passwords to get through the doors of their IT departments.
Then the managers tried calling bosses who were having a conference in the Caribbean to ask what to do next, but couldn’t get through. Everyone trying simultaneously to use cell phone networks had also crashed them. People in offices and on the streets across the globe could be seen yelling angrily at their smartphones, trying to get them to respond. But Siri and her computerized sisters kept saying the same thing to each of them, “I’m sorry, that number is not currently available. Please try your call again later.” After about 20 minutes, even that message stopped functioning.
Soon the Internet itself crashed, as some Google servers in Utah overheated and started a small fire in their server farm. Although there were personnel available to put out the fire, the smoke triggered an automatic shutdown of the facility, with the effect cascading across the entire web, as server after server shut down, almost as if in sympathy with the original crash.
Nuclear Failsafe systems in the U.S. and Russia went on the highest alert. Fortunately, the hotline between Moscow and Washington still worked, and the President and the Prime Minister were able to talk and reassure each other that they had no intention of launching missiles. But they were unable to contact all of their commanders in the field. Although most of the command posts were holding fire, waiting for confirmation, or further instruction from central commands, there were a few rogue outposts that had lost contact, due to poor design, or a refusal to acknowledge protocol. Those in the know breathlessly awaited evidence of any action these outposts might take.
A Lieutenant General in Omaha thought he saw something on his malfunctioning radar screen, evidence of an incoming Russian missile. It was actually just a mosquito that had crash landed on the warm surface, but the General was too freaked out to realize that. He ordered all his missiles to be launched immediately.
Fortunately, the engineers who actually held the launch keys and understood how the system worked had disappeared. Try as he might, he could find no one in his command who knew how to get the damn things to fly and blow Moscow to smithereens like they were supposed to. And so it was that the world was saved by idiots for all the other idiots left behind.