What would you do?
According to some, the definition of apocalypse is:
The complete and final destruction of the world, esp. as described in the biblical book of Revelation or an event involving destruction or damage on an awesome or catastrophic scale.
Or, as others would have it:
A sudden and very bad event that causes much fear, loss, or destruction.
A very bad event indeed, which is a description I prefer, being slightly less bad than terminal.
Imagine if you will, that you find yourself alone in a world brought into chaos and a return to year Zero. The change from normality to an unrecognisable hell is so swift that you can’t grasp the idea that you’re actually still alive.
As you wander through the debris, you realise that the impact of this bad event is total. Everything you needed before has been destroyed; there is no power; communication systems have ceased to function; law and order has completely broken down and governments no longer exist.
As a human being, your first instinct is to ask yourself, am I alone? Your innate desire to communicate with others and survive in a group becomes the force that drives you.
So you’ve established yourself within a group of wandering survivors. Due to the nature of the bad event, you need to keep moving and with that moving, the group expands. Sometimes it splinters off and smaller groups establish themselves. Communication, once a cheap throw away commodity, is now an intangible luxury and your desire to send a message to someone, anyone, is sometimes overwhelming.
But all you have left now is word of mouth, scribbled notes of paper and running messengers.
There has to be another way and as the group matures cohesively, skills become a trade of sorts. Engineers, doctors and soldiers emerge as currency.
In as much as the philosophy of life will find a way has always been the bedrock of planetary science, you feel bound by a common need to reconnect those nodes of communication you all once enjoyed.
Many dissent of course, as they remember when they had control of their lives taken away by the net overlords; the snooping, the hacking, the listening and the abuse.
But by your very nature, you are a builder of things. You know you have to rebuild as people are dying needlessly in a dangerous, hostile world and so your mind turns to those sinuous threads that once connected your world with friends and family.
Scenarios such as this are played out on our TV screens more frequently now that ever before it seems.
Today it’s a Zombie Apocalypse; a few short decades ago it was Nuclear Armageddon, but the central themes haven’t changed at all; survive and rebuild.
We watch as civilisation crumbles around us; hordes of the undead move en masse in search of the living and we are transfixed by the very opposite of what makes our world the interconnected web it is today.
Some of us even derive a secret pleasure in watching an end of world scenario where not one of the protagonists is using a mobile phone, PC or other communications device. We hark back to an age of innocence, where posting a letter to a lover was as important as the letter itself. We waited days for a reply and the postman became either our best friend or an unwelcome intruder.
The day before yesterday
But let’s rewind to a time before the bad event. A time when you weren’t just connected, you were immersed.
The soothing tones of your cellphone wake you up; your smart-watch tingles gently on your wrist and you stumble to the kitchen in search of coffee.
On your way there, you power up your home; devices come to life and in an instant you’re connected to everyone you know and many that you would rather not know, faster than a New York minute.
Your inbox is overflowing so you deal with that mess during a conference call with associates scattered around the far reaches of the globe. You then schedule a further conference call to conclude the deal you should have sorted yesterday before the system went down at a crucial moment and remind yourself that the jobs of thousands of people hang on that one call.
You browse your social networks, your RSS feeds and smile when you see that the likes you received outnumber the ‘haters gonna hate’ outbursts on your personal life wall.
Isn’t that why you were late joining the Social Network revolution? Or was it because your friends’ kids thought your were a derp, a scary derp at that. You don’t care either way; after all, life’s a numbers game isn’t it?
And you back up constantly; even doing backups of backups which in turn are double encrypted and locked down tight as the Pentagon with super encrypted keys.
Priding yourself that your global communication system is entirely hack proof and surrounded by impenetrable firewalls, you never give a second thought to how your life might be if the threads that connect your world should be shattered from one moment to another.
You simply can’t imagine not being connected. You cringe as you recall that time last month.
Remember that one?
No one could reach you for forty minutes. Hell, you dine out on that one; the longest forty minutes of your life you tell your friends as you chuckle to yourself.
Then you pick up that book again; you know, the one you vowed that you’d never read and kept putting back down.
And as you turn the page, you find yourself wandering through that debris, that unimaginable chaos, that total destruction and smile at your good fortune as you reflect on how your life has been enriched by the technology you helped develop.
How all those friends you thought you had lost came back into your life and how easy it is to accomplish the simplest of tasks at the flick of a screen tap and how so many millions of other human beings just like you are laughing or crying; feeling real and instant emotion, simply inconceivable a few short years before……
Someone shakes you by the shoulder. It’s time to move on again. It’s no longer safe.
As you drag your tired body through the debris, you remember the book and at the end you’re glad you finished it.