It's the brains, stupid
So. Zorin's plan to control chip giants has merit but it's the wrong attack vector. However, this is the world of Bond: suppose Zorin emerged from the chilly waters of San Francisco Bay where Bond hurled him at the climax of A View to a Kill and - Blofeld-like - re-established himself. Would Silicon Valley still prove a tempting target for a hyper-intelligent megalomaniac wishing to dominate the world’s tech economy?
Well, it’s become home to personalities such as Mark Zuckerberg, Larry Ellison and a positive swarm of venture capitalists. But whether the semiconductor industry would still be the target is open to question. The evacuation of semiconductor manufacturing from the Valley that Zorin failed to completely grasp in the 1980s is more or less complete. Today there is just one 300mm fab still operating in Silicon Valley, according to fab kit trade group Semi.
Back from the dead: would death-cheating Zorin today hit Facebook, Zynga or the Valley's VCs?
To take the most obvious example, Intel’s 300mm wafer fabs are now spread across Oregon, Colorado, New Mexico, Ireland, Israel and China. Other functions such as testing and packaging take place around the world. That human-triggered earthquake would not necessarily disrupt Chipzilla’s R&D either. Intel found as it set up facilities around the world that local talent could be groomed to do more than just keep an eye on the machines.
Other Silicon Valley stalwarts, such as AMD, have moved out of the Valley altogether, while it’s a safe bet that today’s up-and-coming chip firms would simply go the fabless route.
But let’s assume that Zorin is still a single-minded psychotic, turned vengeful by Bond’s thwarting of his plans. What if he decided to take out Silicon Valley anyway? What would he achieve?
He’d probably cause some disruption to the HQ functions of a lot of tech companies. A lot of iPhone prototypes might be lost, but as long as Jonathan Ive and Tim Cook were travelling, Apple would arguably be OK. The tech world might arguably not shed a tear over the loss of Hewlett-Packard; and Oracle presumably has backups of its binaries somewhere safe as it's a software company.
Which leaves what? Facebook, Zynga and an awful lot of venture capitalists is the flip answer. Hell, we might even find ourselves cheering Zorin on.
But, argues Laws, in some ways the dislocation caused by a modern day Zorin would be more far reaching, precisely because the Valley and the tech industry are nowadays about more than the chip. It’s home to the whole infrastructure and knowledge that’s at the heart of the modern tech industry.
“If the Valley disappeared there would be massive dislocation. These days it's not just chips, it’s now software and systems. The dislocation would be more devastating,” Laws argues.
But the essential elegance of the original View to a Kill plot is missing here. Hitting Silicon Valley today might indeed cause massive upset to whole sectors of the tech industry, but the thing that made Zorin’s plan almost logical - domination of what was becoming a strategic industry - is missing.
What are the alternatives for today’s Zorins to try and dominate? As with the chip industry, so goes high-tech hardware as whole. Thanks to the globalisation that occurred after the collapse of the Iron Curtain, manufacturing has become spread throughout the world, offering at least a degree of supply chain resilience. Our modern day Zorin might take out Foxconn’s iPhone plant, but he’d need his own equally desirable product ready to go - and he’d need to have Samsung or somebody else in on the act.
So let’s leave manufacturing. Perhaps the older, wiser but still vengeful Zorin would target the world’s information infrastructure. Data centres might be seen as the nodes of the modern tech industry, but they too are widely diffused.
An electromagnetic pulse (EMP) wave such as that generated by a nuclear blast might knock them out over a given area. But this would also take out an awful lot of other things.
And this is IP infrastructure we’re talking. Redundancy is part of the point. The most you’d achieve is a monopoly on an electronic wasteland - unless you’d been able to construct an entire globe-spanning comms network unnoticed. That’s before the difficulties of securing a nuclear bomb and hiking it into space undetected are taken into account.
Other scenarios might sketched out: a Stuxnet-like virus attack or some other digital assault on critical infrastructure? Possibly, but where’s the payback? If it’s blackmail that could leave some sort of paper trail. And, let’s be honest, without the possibility of millions dying, where’s the fun?
The problem is all the obvious scenarios lack the elegance and logic of Zorin’s original plan: a staged, but otherwise completely expected, natural disaster taking out the crucible of a growing industry, giving the plotter-in-chief an invisible monopoly and ensuring he gets a share of every transaction going forward.
So Zorin today might be expected to launch a much more insidious, invisible method of dominating tech and making sure he gets his take on every transaction. A Bond movie about patent trolls or venture capitalists would be rather short on action, though. ®
View to a Kill might have been a weak bond film, but I reckon it had one of the best theme tunes.
Duran Duran were named after a baddie in another film, Barberella.
Gotta love Christopher Walken, particularly as Cap'n Koons discussing Butch's father's watch in Pulp Fiction :D. The way he pronounces 'Jim', gets me every time.
Maybe the modern Zorin would be back manufacturing, but adding backdoors to his components so he could control the information infrastructure...oh...wait....shit...you think?
Zorin Telecommunication Enterprise?
Re: Todays target...
But the sad fact is that you can cause a lot more damage, inconvenience and "terror" a lot more cheaply by flying someone else's airplane into a tower. It's taken over a decade for the world to right itself after that at enormous military expense and there's still a lot of things that have never returned to how they were before (e.g. airport security procedures for travellers, certain countries' reputations, etc.)
Taking down the data networks of an entire country is no mean feat - especially given the diversity and sheer number of connections that involves cutting (e.g. taking down satellites too). And you're unlikely to affect the military because they have their own independent means of communication and, if you do, well that's an act of war and someone will get blasted back to the 19th Century pretty damn quickly.
That's the problem with Bond villains - they try to scale up before they've actually created any reasonable mayhem in the first place. Fort Knox, Silicon Valley, global media, a satellite that reflects the Sun, it's all too ambitious for a first hearing of their name and they have a shocking tendency to be susceptible to and victim of pretty young women who know their entire plans.
If you wanted to cause chaos today, take out the DNS servers. Smaller target, easier to do, much more impact (and requires little technical know-how to actually take down once you know where they are). Gain yourself a reputation, and THEN threaten things that would have huge, permanent knock-on effects. Hell, you'd probably do more damage to the world by taking out a certain software company than anything else.
Most likely Bond Villan
Sorry, but not does Larry Ellison look like a Bond villan, but he has his own volcanic Island.
I bet even as we speak he is having it hollowed out and thinking up even more isidious licensing models to fleece companies.
"No, Mr bond. I expect you to die, Just like I killed Ingres"
If he wanted to make some cash out of a faked natural disaster
something like the monsoon that did massive damage to the hard drive manufacturers would be more plausible, if difficult to implement. Or if he wanted to hit other hardware, somewhere like Shenzen would be an ideal target. He could hold Apple to ransom if he managed to threaten new iPhone production. Imagine the psychological damage to the fanbois if their fondleslabs were delayed.
Bond of course would be unflappable as he seems to favour Sony tech.