Last night I ventured out to a cinema 1 to see Die Hard 4.0 (AKA Live Free or Die Hard). I've long been a fan of the Die Hard movies, and I thought this one was pretty good, though nowhere near the brilliance of the first one. But here I just want to briefly discuss the premise of the film, which is a bit spoilerish, so if you care about such things don't read on.
As the silly "4.0" suggests (so when is 4.1 coming out?), the terrorist threat this time is something cybery. Specifically the bad guys are attempting to carry out a "fire sale" attack against the United States, a term which seems to have been invented for the movie. (It's not used in the 1997 Wired article which inspired it.) It's probably rather implausible but that's not my concern here. This is the Wikipedia definition of a fire sale (emphasis added):
The term "fire sale" is used in the 2007 movie Live Free or Die Hard (Die Hard 4.0 in EU) to describe a hypothetical attack by computer hackers on vital networks of the United States government, infrastructure, and economy. Use of the term is explained with a reference to a typical fire sale: "everything must go." Any computer-operated system will be a target for such an attack, although the movie focused on four primary objectives: disrupting transportation, stealing and destroying financial records, disabling all public utilities, and creating fear with a PSYOP media campaign. This theoretical process drives the plot of the movie, threatening to bring the United States of America to its knees through widespread chaos and fear.
Transportation, economy, public utilities, panic. These could almost be headings from my thesis! So just as Threads, for example, updated the knock-out blow for the nuclear age, Die Hard 4.0 updates it for the internet era. A fire sale targets the same features of modern civilisation as the knock-out blow, but uses a very different mode of attack. The one major difference -- aside from the obvious lack of cities being blanketed with poison gas, etc -- was, as Mac Guy 2 explains, that these major systems are actually pretty resilient, partly due to their interdependent nature, which is why they all have to be taken out simultaneously. In the typical knock-out blow scenario, they were held to be fragile and easy to disrupt, and their interdependencies a source of weakness. So taking them all out at once adds to the chaos, but generally isn't required to bring Britain to its knees.
When will the knock-out blow and its descendants cease to be a threat? When the Singularity comes, perhaps ... not before, it would seem.
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- In Australia I would have paid $12.50 to see this, or about £5.40. Last night I paid nearly £8, even with a student discount. I'm just sayin'.
- Though I'm given to understand that he's not Mac Guy here in the UK.