A number of childerns learning activities at home without electricity in Village Pliken, Doro, Pekalongan Central Java, Indonesia on March 10, 16. The village does not have electricity since the last decades because of the location and access to the village hardest-hit by the vehicle, so that disrupt the activities of people such s educational activities for childern. Nowadays a villagers using a waterwheel to turn on the electricity.(Photo by Pradita Utana/NurPhoto)

A black swan event such as a cyber attack could cause a blackout lasting for several days or weeks.

What may sound hypothetical in today’s tech-savvy world characterized by digitization and data storage in clouds hangs over our heads as many countries are unprepared for such an emergency. This is a matter of serious concern, given how highly dependent our world has become on electricity.

Sure, data-saving backup systems do exist, but they depend on electricity, and it’s doubtful that officials consider personal data important enough to preserve in the event of an emergency such as an electromagnetic pulse (EMP) attack.

As an author publishing digitally, I’m thinking about the possibility of not only a local but a global blackout. Sure, I regularly back up my data, but mainly physically, not on paper, since – like many people – I find it convenient to write digitally and I don’t print always print out what I produce. Many people save their data electronically, but few think about how they would access their data without electricity. A blackout with destructive effects on our data reminds one of burning books, this time digitally.

Power generators will provide emergency electricity during a blackout, but for how long and for whom? Some people have their own generators but what about the others?

Sure, there are generators run by the government and corporations, but for how long will they work, and would not they give priority to the broader public interest over providing you with access to your data?

So, it’s doubtful that your data will be considered important enough that you will be granted access to it. Will your data be held in cloud limbo then?

Imagine coordinated cyber attacks suddenly cloaking wide regions in darkness. Are we prepared for this, given how we have managed past disasters?

We may be going through a fair-weather period, governed by well-paid “fair-weather politicians” who have not necessarily been tested in real emergencies and therefore do not have the managerial competence to protect us during a regional or global blackout.

Those who have never considered the possibility of a broad blackout – or trust that their government is prepared for such a scenario – may be surprised by how chaotic one would be without sufficient emergency planning.

Home security

Is it really a good idea to invest your hard-earned money in an expensive electronic home security system that the advertising promises will protect against intruders? For example, an alarm on your mobile warning you of burglars detected by installed sensors and cameras. Sounds great, right?

Another trend: locking your entire home with one click on your mobile. Convenient? Not so fast. What about prominently advertised companies making money by persuading people to rely entirely on their power-dependent technology, making them think their home is safe while downplaying the dangers they potentially face in the event of a blackout because they have replaced their mechanical locks with electronic ones. Imagine what would happen in a blackout: “secure homes”  would suddenly be wide open to burglars.

Mechanical locks, as unsexy as they might seem, defy blackouts and burglars

Maybe I’m old school – into real stuff, a kid of the ’80s. I’m not afraid of appearing conservative, individualistic or reluctant, but I don’t feel like following every trend just because it’s fashionable. Oscar Wilde, the Irish poet and playwright, once put it as follows: “Be yourself, everyone else is already taken.”

Today many people are jumping on the tech-bandwagon. They are manipulated by corporations advertising their products. Personally, I would not feel more secure because I spent money on modifying my home to follow the latest security trend, run and promoted by geeks pretending to know what they are doing, but are only driven by the desire to make money fast. Seriously, am I supposed to entrust my home security to a concept that only works with electricity, making me vulnerable during a blackout?

Mechanical locks, as unsexy as they might seem, defy blackouts and burglars.

Maybe being “old-school”  – like still being able to write with pen and paper – will become sexy again when things created to make life easier suddenly turn against us in a blackout.

Books last for centuries, electronic storage only for years. So it’s handy to still master skills like writing the old-fashioned way, knowing how to live without “intelligent devices,” and coping with feeling “stupid” when not following the “smart” trends. You will feel safer if you lock your home the traditional way with mechanical locks that can stop looters during blackouts.

This scenario could instantly become a reality if governments and corporations fail to take precautions to protect us from coordinated EMP attacks or even a “global blackout” caused by a major solar storm hitting Earth’s magnetic field, wiping out our technology and data in seconds, a matter of “when, not if”, and due anytime according to scientists sounding the alarm.

No electronic cash, paying with cards, smartphones, computers, electric heating, lights, water supply, refrigerator, cooking, electronic security, phones, elevators, airplanes, electric cars, trains, etc. Shouldn’t we prepare ourselves for such a life-threatening blackout?

Immanuel Fruhmann

Dr. Dr. phil. Immanuel Fruhmann is an Austrian philosopher and educationist specialized in philosophy of science and language, cultural and social philosophy, as well as adult education, with years of experience in analysis of geopolitics and giving philosophical and educational insights to the public. He is psychotherapist in training and works as coach and consultant as well as writer. Fruhmann is a Knight of the Order of St George, a European Order of the Imperial House of Habsburg-Lorraine,...