I can hide in the woods and live without wi-fi. I wouldn’t like it, but I could do it. I could shudder with fear and use an outhouse. I would hate it, but I can (and have) done it. I can easily live without a cell phone, half-heartedly without a computer … but without electricity?
It is over.
Recently, I read (again, but in Audible with Garry), George R. Stewart’s immortal “Earth Abides.” I have heard some people say “Oh, the technology is so old.” Clearly, they missed the point of the story.
It simply doesn’t matter what your technology is, was, or might have become. When the power goes out, it’s finished.
The book was written in the late 1940s, but technology is barely mentioned except to point out how it is decaying, rusting, breaking. It doesn’t make any difference because when the electric failed, everything else went down the tubes.
Whether it’s wi-fi, television, boiler, or the pump which pushes the water from well to faucets, the bottom line is electricity.
Without it? It doesn’t matter how advanced you were. How many of us could fix a generator? Not the one in your house but a big one, like Hoover Dam? Or fix a fallen wire? Or even reconnect the power lines to our own houses?
In “Earth Abides,” in a single generation, all technology is gone from the earth. A very few cars drive, in the rare case where they can find one that has gas in it and hasn’t rusted to nothing. Weapons don’t work and no one remembers how to read. No one is even interested in reading. The author, a university academic, wants desperately to have readers so they can rediscover what has been lost, but in the end, only “Earth Abides.”
The last time our power went out, we were in the dark for little more than an hour and a half, but it felt like a lifetime. It reminded me — again — that no matter what we invent, no matter how clever we get with technology, in the end, it runs on power.
Until such time as Earth has a viable alternative to massive power generation, electricity is the end of the line for our technological structure.
It is something to think about.