Tuesday, August 11, 2009

The Tenuous Web We Weave...

Here is my take on a particularly interesting bit of dark science...

Our modern world has given us a great many conveniences. All manner of electronic wizardry is at our fingertips. This alternate electronic reality has come with a cost. With every step we take on the plank of electronic convenience, we run the risk of falling into the deep void of societal collapse.

How can something as simple as a cell phone lead to the end of our civilization?

Simple. For those of us who grew up in the cold war days, we were shown that there are some very nasty side effects to things like a nuclear blast. One of those effects is a nasty little bugger called EMP (Electro-Magnetic Pulse). Back in the old days, the only way to generate one of these was with a nuclear device. This is no longer the case.

In these modern times, EMP weapons, while relatively unknown by the public, are an accepted fact. These weapons (or even a simple nuke detonated in the right location), will send a burst of electromagnetic energy through all electrical equipment in the affected region, frying and burning up all electronics making them totally unusable. This energy is particularly insidious, as it travels fast enough to bypass surge protectors and circuit breakers and affects the most modern solid state electronics much worse than the older analog circuitry. The modern solid state electronics and our existing power grid, will actually amplify these effects, making the resulting energy cascade far worse than it would have been with older technology.

It does not take much imagination to figure out what happens next. Consider that if a group of militants decides to detonate a small strategically placed nuke, or activate an EMP device, the resulting network overload will render EVERYTHING electronic in the region totally unusable. This includes all telephones, radio, vehicles, and anything that makes our modern society what it is. We will literally be returned to the Stone Age in milliseconds.

Fine you say. How will it kill millions and make our world fall apart? It does not. At first.

Over the course of time, it is said 9 out of 10 Americans could die. Within a week, large masses of our urban population will begin to starve, as nearly all our vehicles will not be drivable. The only usable vehicles will be the very, very old ones which have no computer circuitry. No planes will be flyable either, and large numbers will crash when the EMP is set off. In short, our food supply network will simply vaporize. Poof!

Nor will we have any means to call for help, as all landlines, radios, cellphones, and communications networks will be totally burned out with no hope of repair. Where there is no call for help, there will be no help to come. Large masses will be forced to sit and starve with no help on the way and no hope for rescue. Rescue services, police, and fire departments will be incapacitated as well. Our military will probably still be mobile, but there will be too few of them to make much difference and they will be fighting to control the migrating, starving mobs.

As we spin our web of technology, we go further out from the safety net we once had as short as two generations ago. Not enough of our population knows simple survival skills, or has the capacity to provide their own basic needs, such as food. They rely upon a vast global web of technologically dependent supply lines, leaving them vulnerable to disruptions, even on a small scale. As a society, we have lost the ability to be self-sufficient on a personal level. This has the potential to be disastrous. As our populations fill the cities, and pave over farmland in the name of urban sprawl, we could be sealing our fate in the grand order of things. With the death of the small family farm, so dies our capacity to survive in the global age.

The scary thing is that this could happen strictly to the US and not affect the rest of the world. In fact, there may be plans just for this event to take place. A few years ago, it was determined that a lot of our electronic infra-structure might have hard wired "off-switches" built into them at the time of manufacture, put in place by foriegn agencies who wish to flick off our switch in times of war. The total extent of the problem remains unknown.

As usual for America, no contingency plans are currently in place for us for when this event does occur.

Pretty scary stuff, eh?

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