If we are not careful in the decisions or actions that we take online today, the Information Age may go the way of the Roman Empire, according to Juniper Networks senior director of product management Kevin Kennedy.
Speaking at the RSA Asia Pacific & Japan conference in Singapore, Kennedy told delegates that the world has "begun a cyber Cold War."
"The headlines around the world send a clear message, companies no longer trust governments because of spying allegations," he said.
"It's hard for us to imagine that our Internet could fragment or become inaccessible. If we are not careful in the decisions and actions today, we may find that we are repeating history in the worst possible way," said Kennedy.
- We must end cyber warfare: RSA's Arthur Coveillo
- Rules of engagement needed for the Internet: RSA
- Cyberwarfare unfreezing a new Cold War warns McAfee CSO
Kennedy compared the 21st century to ancient Rome, which also had an age of innovation.
For example, the Romans built aqueducts and designed roads.
"The road designers were the Tim Berners-Lee [World Wide Web proponent] of the Roman empire. They built the road network to stand over 85,000 kilometres. More importantly was what the roads enabled," he said.
For example, roads allowed people to travel between cities and spread wisdom. Roads also enabled trade between communities.
In addition, the Romans had a common language- Latin- which was spoken throughout their empire.
"Rome had its innovators such as Emperor Augustus who created a faster version of the postal service. In order to know where the [message] destination was, the Romans invented cartography."
According to Kennedy, the Romans produced a set of maps showing where the Emperor Augustus could send a message.
"You could call it the first directory tree," joked Kennedy.
The road network also had physical security. Emperor Augustus stationed Roman sentries at regular intervals along the roads and only allowed certified message carriers through.
"When Augustus wanted to send a message somewhere really quickly, he used the fastest technology available at the time, horses. He also stationed fresh horses along the road network. As a courier road through, they exchanged their tired horse for a fresh horse," he said.
Using this system, a message could travel 800 kilometres in 24 hours.
"Seemingly, the Romans had it all with innovations everywhere and people connected. Their Golden Age sounds like our Information Age."
However, after the sacking of Rome by Visigoths in 410 AD, the Roman sentries eventually disappeared and were replaced by bandits.
"People lost trust and were afraid to travel. Latin fell into disuse. Eventually, with no need for the roads and no-one to maintain them, the roads also fell into disrepair," said Kennedy.
This led to the Dark Ages in Europe during the 5th Century where most people forgot how to read. However, the Catholic church's monks kept reading and writing alive.
"Who could imagine that disease and lost knowledge would follow such an innovative period?" said Kennedy.
"The Romans took their age of innovation for granted and assumed it would continue."
Hamish Barwick travelled to RSA Conference APAC & Japan as a guest of RSA
Follow Hamish Barwick on Twitter: @HamishBarwick
Read more: Changing times in the CSO suite
Join the CIO Australia group on LinkedIn. The group is open to CIOs, IT Directors, COOs, CTOs and senior IT managers.