Tuesday, July 23, 2013

Technology Trap

Last night about 9:00 P.M. the power went out.  It was out for about two and a half hours.  Not a huge catastrophe but it was still rather hot outside and by the time the power returned, it was getting uncomfortably warm in the house.  I was, by that time, snoozing in my recliner because the family room was cooler than our upstairs bedroom.

It was rather ironic because Friday when I was driving to Seattle, I started thinking about what James Burke described in his 1978 PBS (BBC?) program "Connections" as a "technology trap."  The basic gist of which is this: we are, in our modern society, so reliant on technology to clothe, feed, house, and transport us that if that were all suddenly taken away, a lot of us would be in deep kimchee.  For instance, I've heard cities usually have about three days supply of food.  Food is brought in by trucks and trains.  Take away the trucks and trains and people will be starving.  First go the animals, then they might turn on each other.

So here I was in Seattle, 180 miles from home, assured my car would take me back when I wanted it to.  But what if North Korea set off an EMP over the West Coast.  Nothing electronic would work (cell phones, land lines, cars with electronic ignitions which is pretty much every car made in the past 30 years) and the electrical grid would go down for weeks if not months.  Assuming I could walk 20 miles per day (which, in as bad of shape I'm in, would be a big assumption) it would take me nine days to get home.  If the marauding bands didn't get me, first, that is.  So I make it home, but all the food is gone or rotten.  I don't have a garden and no clue as to how to start one.  And it take time to grow vegetables.  Most likely I'd starve to death before I found food.  Or die of thirst, or dysentery from drinking bad water.  The government would be in just as bad of shape and could not rescue you (depending on how wide-spread the EMP hit).

Our modern society and the population numbers we sustain would not be possible without all this amazing technology.  There's not much we can do beyond hardening our electrical grid against an EMP but that would cost billions that the government doesn't have.  Or, and a big enough solar flare could do the same thing and over a much wider area.

There's already been a book written about this.  But basically, you can say "bye-bye" to modern technology for a long, long time.  And a lot of people would die, either by starvation or the ensuing violence.

Almost makes you want to be a survivalist.

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