The talking point at home this week is Monaco’s advanced planning for the end of the world as we know it. My wife has been reading a dystopian non-fiction book called This is how they tell me the world ends, which is about the havoc that we will live through as civilisation as we know it comes to an end. It has to be taken seriously because it was the Financial Times Book of the Year 2021.
The central thesis, so she tells me, is that our modern world is so connected by the Internet and something called the Cloud, that once a spanner is thrown in the works, it will all collapse.
Lights will go out, traffic lights on blvd. des Moulins will complete with Christmas decorations in a chaotic twinkle, and its usual slow progress will become even slower and more unpredictable than ever.
Of course, we are frequently told that the Principality is well-advanced in its transformation into an exemplary Digital Paradise, a process that I must point out makes us all very exposed to this existential threat.
We know that the Russians are very well-advanced in cyber-warfare while the frighteningly industrious Chinese have branched out from developing killer viruses to building a worldwide network of in-your-face and in plain sight espionage thanks to very cheap mobile telephones.
Monaco’s post offices will be badly hit. If you buy a stamp to send a letter, or, on rare occasions, a cheque to somewhere just 50 metres away, the process involves a lot of typing as data is entered into a French post office Cloud. I recall how if I went into a post office to send a letter sixty years ago, someone very helpful ripped off a perforated stamp and asked for thrupence. They took the coin or gave me change and made a quick mark with a pen in the corner of the sheet of stamps to show how many were left and I licked the back of the stamp and stuck it on the envelope and that was that.
Not any more. It takes an age for the relevant machine to process and record my very modest transaction, by which time a long line of irate late middle-aged French women has started tutting behind me, as if it’s all my fault.
But I am happy to report that the public library will survive the digital holocaust totally unscathed.
The Mediatheque – don’t let the rather modern name fool you – hasn’t heard of debit cards, and if the books you return are late the fine can be paid in only one form… cash.
It gets even better. If you show enough charm they waive the fine altogether. Putin and Xi, eat your hearts out. Monaco’s library is beyond your reach.
The views expressed in this column do not necessarily reflect those of the publishers