February 17, 2010

Decivilize

"It takes an awful lot of people, working together at an awful lot of jobs, to keep a civilization running. Smash the installations and kill the top technicians and scientists, and the masses don't know how to rebuild and go back to stone hatchets. Kill off enough of the masses and even if the planet and the know-how is left, there's nobody to do the work. I've seen planets that decivilized both ways." from The Space Viking, by H. Beam Piper
Interesting how this comes along while I'm looking at material on simplifying and on minimalism. In this far future story, the survivors of a planet's war devolved into barbarism. This came about because nobody was able to take care of what was needed to keep the technology going.

In times of power loss, we realize how dependent we are on technology that is driven by electricity. Once the power is restored, we can watch television, make telephone calls and go online. Some people are only slightly inconvenienced from those things, since they have battery-operated devices. But batteries run down. The East Coast blackout of 2003 shows the electricity dependence on a large scale. Electricity goes away, it feels like civilization itself goes away.

There was an episode of "The Family Guy" where power was lost. Since there was no television, the family was at a loss for entertainment (the suggestion of lighting candles and reading books was laughed away).

What would happen if power was out for a long period of time? If people learned to live in a simpler manner, their civilization would not have to deteriorate as completely as the one in Piper's story. Maybe the most skilled minimalists would be the new rulers?

In Spy by Ted Bell, The Xucuru warriors of the Amazon are about to wipe out a boat crew. The boat has all sorts of high-tech weaponry, but has to travel very slowly. The Xucuru are primitive, almost naked, using blowguns and poisoned arrows. How to stop them from boarding the vessel? Carpet tacks spread all over the deck.

Just some things for you to ponder and discuss.

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