Black Swan events are very hard to predict because they are very rare by definition and generally, there is not enough historical information to learn from.
COVID pandemic is clearly one according to above definition but it still was somehow foreseen.
What else is awaiting for us? Solar super storms might be one even if it might not be in the same class with COVID due to human involvement in its cause.
A Coronal Mass Ejection (CME), popularly known as solar storm, is a directional ejection of a large mass of highly magnetized particles from the sun.
They can generate spectacular auroral views but they can do more than that:
When the earth is in the direct path of a CME, these magnetized and charged solar particles will interact with the earth’s magnetic field and produce several effects. [...] they produce Geomagnetically Induced Currents (GIC) on the earth’s surface through electromagnetic induction. Based on the strength of the CME, in extreme cases, GIC has the potential to enter and damage long-distance cables that constitute the backbone of the Internet.
This sounds very serious but it's not new and it was actually happening for centuries.
However, the story is quite different now because Sun has a pattern of low and high activity times, and going for its very active time at the moment. We also didn't have any technology before that might be affected. Relevant infrastructure is a result of the development in the recent (~3) decades.
Today, while a few minutes of down time is very costly (7 billion $/day in US), this could easily cause damages for months.
What are the solution directions?
- Deploy more cables, especially between US and Europe. Asia seems in a better shape.
- Prefer lower latitude for deployment since gravity is stronger at poles due to the shape of Earth. It means infrastructure investments in less developed countries are more beneficial for the global internet connectivity. On the other hand, there are still some plans to leverage melted ice for a new cable route at poles.
- Prefer shorter cables.
- Prepare shutdown and restart protocol. When it happened at Sun, it will take 1-3 days to arrive at Earth. This time could be used to start a protection protocol and shutdown the infrastructure to prevent long-term damages.
- Separate power grid and network from each other. Power is more local compared to network. That's why failure at local shouldn't effect the global. Otherwise, cost is much higher.
- Devise and deploy new protocols that could seamlessly talk and combine via cable, satellite, wireless, etc. and operate truly peer to peer fashion.
- Global collaboration to deploy a chaos money into the network to collapse large amount of infrastructure and test failure scenarios.