Is it a bug? Or, did you break?

Over the past week, websites and massively popular services like Facebook, Whatsapp and Medium have gone down or experienced issues ranging from “Meh” to “Why are you doing this to me!”.

On Tuesday, websites using CloudFlare started seeing 502 notices, which is a digital version of a courier showing up at your door, and you’re not there to accept your package. According to their official report, the issue was caused by a change in a single rule in their web application firewall, which works to protect millions of sites from attack.

The outages at Facebook, Whatsapp and Instagram appear to be a separate incident, even though Business Insider attributes it to the same cause.

While it’s still not clear exactly what happened, the incidents reveal how interconnected (and fragile) our digital world has become. Our computers and phones are just one tiny part of a massive network of technologies and infrastructure that make our modern world possible. It includes electricity grids, server farms, billions of lines of code for decoding video and images, undersea cables and cellular towers, and much, much more.

It’s surprising that things don’t break more.

What you perceive as your computer is like a single leaf, on a tree, in a forest—or, even more accurately, like your fingers rubbing briefly across that leaf. A single leaf can be plucked from a branch. It can be perceived, briefly, as a single, self-contained entity—but that perception misleads more than clarifies. In a few weeks, the leaf will crumble and dissolve. It would not have been there at all, without the tree. It cannot continue to exist, in the absence of the tree. This is the position of our laptops in relation to the world.

Jordan Peterson – 12 Rules for Life