I'm a Human Inbox

Sunday, June 19, 2005

Don't listen to your Government

Wired has an article talking about a report done by the National Institute on Standards and Technology about how the Government is usually largely uninformed in emergency situations.

For nearly four years - steadily, seriously, and with the unsentimental rigor for which we love them - civil engineers have been studying the destruction of the World Trade Center towers, sifting the tragedy for its lessons. And it turns out that one of the lessons is: Disobey authority. In a connected world, ordinary people often have access to better information than officials do.

When the World Trade Center was being hit by airplanes, 911 operators told people not to use the elevators. Interestingly enough, almost everyone ignored the advice emergency personnel gave, and lived because of it. Many people's lives were saved by using elevators, and many of the people in the buildings communicated very well and were calm and organized.

We know that US borders are porous, that major targets are largely undefended, and that the multicolor threat alert scheme known affectionately as "the rainbow of doom" is a national joke. Anybody who has been paying attention probably suspects that if we rely on orders from above to protect us, we'll be in terrible shape. But in a networked era, we have increasing opportunities to help ourselves. This is the real source of homeland security: not authoritarian schemes of surveillance and punishment, but multichannel networks of advice, information, and mutual aid.

Link (via BoingBoing)