The Internet connects billions of people and machines; it’s the backbone of modern life. But tech pioneer Danny Hillis thinks the Internet just wasn’t designed to grow this big — and he fears that one big cyber-attack or glitch could shut it down and take civilization with it. To head off a digital dark age, he sounds a clarion call to develop a Plan B: a parallel system to fall back on if — or when — the Internet crashes.



  • permeateto pass into or through every part of
  • deliberatecarefully weighed or considered; studied; intentional
  • vulnerablecapable of or susceptible to being wounded or hurt, as by a weapon
  • emergentcoming into view or notice; issuing


Think about it

Answer the questions below. Pause at times indicated in brackets.

  • What does Danny say about the early days of the Internet? What was it like to register a domain name? (1:44)
  • What was paradoxical about the principles governing “ a system developed during the Cold War by the Defense Department?” (2:43)
  • What events does Danny use to illustrate the Internet’s vulnerability? (5:18)
  • Does the entire world depend on the Internet? (8:53)
  • What do experts know about the Internet? (10:02)
  • Why don’t people see the necessity to come up with a Plan B?


Practice makes perfect

Fill in the blank spaces with the missing words. Use ONE word per blank space.

[L]et me tell you what it was like to register a domain name in the early days. Now, it just ________ happened that I got to register the third domain name on ________ Internet. So I could have anything I wanted other than bbn.com and symbolics.com. So I picked think.com, but then I thought, you know, there’s a lot of really interesting names out there. Maybe I should register a few extras just ________ case. And then I thought, “Nah, that wouldn’t be very nice.”

That attitude of only taking ________ you need was really what everybody had on the network in ________ days, and in fact, it wasn’t just the people on the network, but it was actually kind of built into the protocols of the Internet itself. So the basic idea of I.P., or Internet protocol, and the way that the — the routing algorithm that used it, were fundamentally “from each according to their ability, to each according to their need.” And so, if you ________ some extra bandwidth, you’d deliver a message for someone. If they had some extra bandwidth, they ________ deliver a message for you. You’d kind of depend ________ people to do that, and that was the building block. It was actually interesting that such a communist principle was the basis of a system developed during the Cold War by the Defense Department, but it obviously worked really well, and we all saw ________ happened with the Internet. It was incredibly successful.


Explore it more