Friday, June 09, 2017

A Sneak Preview of the First-World Apocalypse

Early Wednesday morning I woke up to the news that widespread unauthorized transactions had been made on BPI savings accounts. The cobwebs of sleep fell quickly away as I read through story after story. Some people even reached negative balances. With more curiosity than dread, I turned on my main computer to check on my own accounts. After an agonizing wait, the web site let me through. My debit card account with its measly emergency amount was still there. My other accounts were not being shown.

"Well, this is interesting..." I muttered to myself. "Let's see how they sort this out."

Fast forward two days later, things are more or less back to normal. The amounts on my accounts are as I remembered them, thankfully not a peso less (though, on the other hand, not a few thousand--or maybe even a few hundred thousand--more.) Looking back, it was an instructive incident. I'm proud that I didn't lose my head, though I do concede that in my hunger for updates I fell back to polling online news sites and social media.

I have to give props to how BPI managed the crisis. They gave out their advisories on a set schedule. If one was forthcoming it would come out at at the top of the hour, usually at 9AM, 12PM, 3PM, 6PM, or 9PM. The messages were short, just a quick layman's explanation, a cool assurance, and some words of commiseration. If there were apologies for inconveniences, they were not overdone. The only interview I heard of came from the top at 11AM. Again, short and to the point. I felt the timing was just right, because it meant they had enough time to sift through their audit trail and prepare a statement, thus, it would not be conjecture.

Not so with social media. On Twitter, I found speculation, dread, threats, curses, dread, and a little black humor. Imprudently many mentioned how much they had or how much they were missing. Some even posted screenshots of their bank accounts. The common denominator was "how much the crisis was affecting ME". Invariably--though quite understandably--it was all at an emotional level. But if I was looking for news, any substantial news, it was not to be found there.

I wondered whether all this chatter was actually making matters worse. If I were more emotionally inclined, I would have been caught up in the miasma, possibly adding more to it with a post or two (or twenty) of my own.

Truth be told, I did play out various scenarios in my mind. What if this was indeed a hack? What if BPI couldn't recover the transaction logs? What if all my savings were gone, gone, gone? Then looking askance at the roads not taken: what if I had just bought something else with the money? what if I had just invested them in stocks? what if I had just kept all of it as cash and stuffed them under my mattress? Would I be just that much safer?

I can imagine this is what the first-world apocalypse would look like. Not with guns or bombs or sieges (we've been through a couple of those already), but instead, with systems failure. Money is just information, and like all information in bits and bytes, vulnerable to being wiped. And then what? Crisis management for a day or two, but then, with no recovery forthcoming, and no cash to buy goods or services with, people will finally get their butts of Twitter and Facebook and march out on the streets.

Just how do you handle that?




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