Humanity has survived many evolutionary stages in its long history on this planet. Two discoveries, in particular, have shaped the future of our race like no other: gunpowder and electricity. The former has certainly been the cause for many tragedies, while the latter has usually helped push the human race forward. Together, the two have made wars even more destructive. But consider if electricity were to one day disappear without warning. No power for your gadgets might be the most immediate concern that comes to mind, but the larger problem would be further-reaching when you consider that our modern world has been completely built around our dependence on electricity.
In science fiction, many scenarios have been imagined to illustrate the dystopian future that would result if our society were cut off from the conveniences that we take for granted. Electricity is, perhaps, the beating heart of our industrious civilization; without it, our cities would likely crumble in the ensuing chaos. This is the scenario that’s played out in the new series Revolution, which is set 15 years after a global blackout of a yet-unknown cause.
It’s a fascinating idea to ponder the implications of no longer having access to all of our amenities. We would have to relearn how to cook, wash, transport, entertain, and simply live without all of the devices that we use every day. It would be the feudal ages all over again. And without electricity, medical treatment would become equally medieval. This is something that many would not be prepared for.
It may be cliché to mention Darwin, but a world like this would put the concept of survival of the fittest to the ultimate test. Your lovely neighbor could become your fiercest competition for food. Hunting would be a most welcome and essential skill if humanity should have to survive in a world without electricity. Do you know how to shoot and kill game with a bow and arrow?
In such a scenario, even our aspirations to further develop clean energy would be futile, as such efforts focus on converting alternative energy into electricity. And with a vanishing digital infrastructure, the loss of telephones and the Internet would force generations weaned on access to instant information to communicate face to face. Millions would be helpless, clueless, and left seeking leadership to organize the chaos. This is when both the best and worst in the human soul emerges. Capable leaders would doubtless emerge with the noble intention to serve the masses, but what happens when the self-serving and power-hungry who have the charisma to manipulate others are able to convince people that they’re the leadership that’s being sought?
The answer to the titular question deals not with the consequences of no longer being able to google something, but rather how it would change human nature. That’s the philosophical dilemma herein: the urge for survival in one corner, and the cost of survival in the other. Whenever we lack an essential commodity, we must question its actual necessity. As in the series Revolution, items that we considered crucial before quickly lose practical value. Yet the emotional valuation never degrades.
What would life be like without electricity? Seeking an answer is not so much a technicality as it is a philosophical assessment of the human race. Great feats have been accomplished with no electricity. Our civilization, which doesn’t include some indigenous tribes in the lost corners of the world, depends on electricity for innovation. As mentioned earlier, the medical industry would collapse without electricity. Many illnesses once extinct might return with a vengeance as vaccine stocks would deplete quickly. Even extreme rationing wouldn’t slow down the inevitable by much.
It sounds like a dream come true for science fiction writers.
For my part, I find Revolution to be a rather mediocre adventure story in a post-apocalyptic setting with a premise that suffers from being more interesting than its execution. However, there’s hope that further revelation of the secret cause for the blackout will instill a much-needed sense of wonder. If you were a fan of LOST, then you should find some love for Revolution.