Archive for November 26th, 2010

Someone dear to me has a tendency to intuit a future that is far from rosy, and last night’s news broadcast about the Stuxnet worm being capable of disabling power stations, water plants and industrial units had his prediction circuits doing overtime.

While shortages of essential supplies, lack of electricity and civil unrest all pose a very real physical danger, especially to a female white-collar worker whose health is not 100%, I have realised that the thing that would upset me far more than any deprivation or risk to life or limb is the fact that, in the event of a large-scale catastrophe where modern life as we know it was wiped out, it would put paid to any hopes of ever accomplishing the things I had planned to achieve this lifetime.

Take music, for example. One thing that I would like to do in the not too distant future is record the material I have written. Modern recording equipment and software gives me the opportunity to create an entire album in my bedroom. Should I wish to promote the final result, I can simply sell them over the Internet.

Remove the Internet, and I’m knocked back to the technological situation of my teenage years, where I had lots of songs and creative ideas, but had no help in contacting the right people in order to sell them. The Internet removes the record company and the distribution chain and allows a musician like me to take my product directly to the consumer. Remove electricity too, and I’m reduced to recording using an acoustic instrument to play into a battery-operated tape recorder – until the batteries run out. At the moment, my creations exist as sheet music and scrawled notes in a folder. After a catastrophe, they would most probably stay that way, and the world might never find them.

And then of course there’s the question of my research. When money permits performing my own experiments, the pieces of equipment likely to be involved all use electricity to function. And of course, without the Internet again, I would be extremely limited in making the results of my work known. Professors with PhD’s have other means of disseminating their work. I as a self-educated person again have to find a way to bypass the middle men and take the fruits of my labours directly to the public.

Through the Internet, I have met people and joined societies that I would never otherwise have even known existed. I find a lot of information, publications, gadgets and products via Google that I do not believe I would otherwise have stumbled across in a lifetime.

Some say that if Armageddon were to strike and we had to run to the hills, everyone would be too busy getting on with the business of immediate survival to worry about educational, vocational or creative opportunities. I beg to differ. Some of us have a sort of inverted hierarchy of needs – without the opportunity for self-growth and self-actualization, there isn’t any point in bodily survival.

I for one would not just start happily digging dirt to grow vegetables, like the closing scenes in Threads. A more likely outcome is that I would be too physically weak from my health issues to spend a day performing manual labour, and even if given tasks I could physically undertake, I cannot imagine embracing them with good grace. I would pine away for the life that had been snatched like a wild bird dying because it had been caged.

If global catastrophe strikes, I might not be able to do anything to stop it, but don’t expect me to be any part of it. If I can’t do my creative work, or my research, or get my products out there, and find 101 ways to develop and improve as a person, there just isn’t any point.

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