In a carefully planned experiment yesterday, the Facebook social networking system was suddenly shut down for half an hour. During the outage careful measurements were made of world business activity. If results are as expected, there will have been a huge increase in global productivity as people were forced to stop interacting with one-another and got on with some actual work.
In a brief press statement, Facebook stated that the test was part of its ethics programme, and that if the productivity increase was as predicted, the next stage would be a joint test with Twitter. The statement said that the eventual aim was for a 'Social Exchange Abstention Period' each day, during which people concentrated on their work. The timing of the period would vary from day to day to suit the business activities of various geographical areas.
The idea has received support from many global business leaders and several governments. U.S. Commerce Secretary Gary Locke has stated that he agrees with the system in principle. He is quoted as having said that Social Exchange Abstention is "just the kind of idea that is needed to help kick-start the global economy."
Meanwhile, critics of the plan have suggested that the lack of Internet activity during the shutdown periods could cause a dangerous vacuum in the World Wide Web. On their website they claim that during yesterday's test some office equipment went missing. "If this plan continues," it says, "It's only a matter of time before innocent people are being irretrievably sucked into the electronic void."