Every day I receive a barrage of communication from people who cannot wait to hit send. The language of urgency prevails. “Really excited to be…”. “Can’t wait for…” “Only 24 hours until.” Why on earth would I want to read messages from people who never stop to think twixt eyeballing and sending?
Sometimes it’s worth stopping to reflect. The UK Blackett Review, Satellite-Derived Time and Position: A Study of Critical Dependencies, has been on the street since the end of January. That’s plenty of time for my copy to have gained the odd coffee ring, toast crumb and – dare I admit it – red wine stain. I finally said goodbye to it last week, leaving it with Dana Goward (President of the Resilient Navigation and Timing Foundation and a contributor to the report) after a very relaxed breakfast in Washington DC. (To be honest, the final “baptism” in Eggs Benedict made me loathe to carry it home.)
As the report has been accumulating stains, so has the world been changing. The headlines say it all. “Russian Spy Poisoning… 2016 Election Interference… Ongoing Operation to Hack Energy Grid.”
The true importance of infrastructure has emerged. The story is no longer about server farms and out of date versions of Windows. It’s about life style, values, transportation, energy, safety, health, economic growth. Everyone depends on infrastructure, with the possible exception of a stylite, cross legged atop a pillar in the desert. (Mind you, it would be embarrassing to wake up flat on your back in the sand, some foreign power having hacked your pillar overnight.)
It’s an interesting twist. A report aiming to highlight our dependence on satellite navigation and timing has, because of the ubiquitous nature of GNSS, brought in to stark relief the critical nature of so much of this infrastructure life-glue we have accumulated.
Good news then that the report has been well received by the policy makers it was aimed at. “But what are they doing about it?”, I hear you shout. Patience. At this very moment there is many a copy accumulating breakfast stains.