Are you already afraid today? Okay, it’s not that hard these days. In western Germany, natural forces caused billions of damage in a matter of hours and forests burned down – in California, in southern Europe and in the Far East, in Siberia. The supply of building materials, chips and other things has stalled. All of this is still somehow controllable. This is manageable because everything else is still working: local aid is supported by aid from other parts of the country or countries, communication infrastructure, electricity and water supply in flood-prone areas are being developed. reconstruction and supply bottlenecks – it is hoped – will again be eliminated.
But what if it was no longer possible? What if there were large scale collapses? What if civilization as we know it ceases to exist? Author Thomas Grüter believes that this is not only possible, but even very likely – if the world continues as before.
Grüter is a versatile educated man. He studied medicine, worked as a doctor in the hospital for a few years, and researched human cognition. He teaches psychology at various universities and writes non-fiction books. In “Offline”, which has just been published in a new edition, he uses numerous examples to show that today’s high global culture could disappear at any moment.
It doesn’t even need global catastrophes like the eruption of the super volcano under Yellowstone National Park or the impact of an asteroid like the one that abruptly ended the dinosaur era 66 million ago. years. After all, the Roman Empire did not disappear with a thunderclap, but gradually collapsed. Other high cultures also flourished and disappeared again. But people always thought it would last forever.
In an increasingly interconnected world, everything is falling apart
According to Grüter, what could put an end to today’s high culture is its complexity. In an increasingly interconnected world, everything collapses when the flow of goods suddenly stops circulating, when important infrastructure such as the electricity grid is disrupted for a long time. The Internet is particularly threatened. Although invented as a robust means of communication, it has a number of weak points.
If you rely primarily on satellite internet – for which there are ideas – a bigger satellite that has gone astray or even a deliberately triggered explosion could set off a chain reaction – Kessler’s syndrome. The shards hit the satellites, they tear them apart and so on. Internet satellites, which are relatively close to the earth, could be destroyed in one fell swoop.
It is good if there are still cables in the ground. But they need to be replaced every 30 years – and it’s expensive. How does it cost a tremendous amount of money to keep the infrastructure, i.e. all analog and digital traffic lanes and utilities, in good working order. In the United States, a very wealthy country, it becomes very clear. Bridges and roads are in a precarious state. President Biden has therefore announced a trillion program. Let’s see how far it goes.
In this country too, the bridges are collapsing, the digital infrastructure is anyway far behind the other regions. And in addition, it is necessary to save CO₂, which amounts to relying mainly on wind and solar energy. But this is not constantly delivered, to manage the complex network requires – of course: networking.
So there is a lot to do, a lot. But is the general public aware? Rather not. It could be fatal. “If everyone dreams of letting themselves drift effortlessly into a comfortable life, then we’ll probably hit hard enough soon,” Grüter writes. He calls for goals such as building colonies on the moon.
But it could also be enough to tackle the problems of our planet on a massive scale. Do not despair, not by promising us that it will always continue one way or another. But this can be done.