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What would happen if there was no electricity?

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There are two ways of looking at the question, "What would happen if there was no electricity".
First....

What if electricity didn't exist?
  • Well, the universe literally would not exist as we know it, because electricity is streams of electrons, and without electrons, compounds (and thus most matter) wouldn't exist.
  • If electricity (electromagnetism) did not exist the universe would not exist, since EM forces are an integral component of the (commonly accepted) standard model.





Second...
What if humans didn't know how to use electricity?
  • We didn't know how to use it for most of our history, so I imagine we'd revert to a mid-1800's society, where machines were steam powered and we had to read for personal entertainment.
  • We wouldn't be able to watch TV, go on the computer, talk on the phone.
  • We'd have to play games outside, and use our imaginations more, like they did in historical times.
  • Parents wouldn't be able to punish by taking away computers or cell phones because neither would run anyway.
  • Imagine cold showers or baths; no microwave; no cold drinks in summer; even worse no air conditioning and no cars (Cars need electricity to run the fuel ignition system.)
  • One could heat water on the stove (probably a wood stove, hot, sweaty, and smokey, why many old kitchens were walled off from the rest of the house). But, you didn't prohibit using Natural Gas for Hot water, or for the stove. One can even run an absorption refrigerator on Natural Gas or Propane, or anything that would run a compressor could run a freon based refrigerator. With a little imagination one could use a solar hot water heater too.
  • Transport would be steam-driven, animal-driven or human-powered. You'd have a bicycle, a horse-drawn carriage or you'd just walk everywhere you went, and you'd go long distances by train. By now someone would have invented the horseless carriage, which would run on either a small boiler or maybe a diesel engine--diesels don't need electricity to run, and you can rope-start them if you have to.
  • Remember the old cars had cranks out front. You'd get outside rain or shine and pull on the crank and hope it started... and pull again. Presumably this would also work with Diesel engines without any electricity, but the increased compression would make them a pain to crank to start. Glow plugs, of course, wouldn't work so you'd have to compensate with higher compression. I believe some Diesel engines use pneumatic starters, or perhaps you could use a pony-engine setup like the old caterpillars.
  • Also, no radio in the car. No electric fans. Probably we would still be using carbide lights on the fenders.
  • Everyone dreams about riding horses, right? That would likely be a big part of life
  • Lighting would be by flames--candles or lanterns.
  • You'd communicate via the mails, or you'd go visiting. Visiting was a very popular form of entertainment in the 1800s, and there were many social protocols--you dressed formally to do it, you made an appointment to visit, you left calling cards in a basket at the front door, and you had a special sitting room that was only used for visiting.
  • You'd entertain yourself by playing games, but you'd play with other people. You'd also go to dances, you'd go to church (people weren't really any more religious then than they are now, but everyone went to church because in a lot of places church was the main form of entertainment).
  • Food was generally fresh, or canned, and locally-grown. Meats were almost always smoked. Did you ever read in old Christmas stories about how the children got an orange for a gift? Oranges were special because they were hard to transport, so you might see one a year.
  • If you wanted to see a play, you went to a theater. If you wanted to hear music, you went to a concert on the town square, or you had someone in the family who could play, or you knew how to play yourself. A lot of people had pianos or harpsichords, and for the non-rich there were guitars, banjos, fiddles, harmonicas and mandolins.
  • Work was all manual. You made things, or you wrote on ledger paper.
  • There wouldn't be any more thirty-second conversations. Women didn't just run over to a neighbor's house for a little while--if you wanted to do that, you'd talk to your neighbor across the hedgerow at the edge of your property. If you spent a couple of hours dressing, styling your hair and applying makeup, you'd spend half the night in conversation. And you'd LIKE it! You also wouldn't be there by yourself--usually people would gather in groups in parlors (living rooms), and discuss all sorts of things.
  • No escalators, no elevators, and a lot more would be done by hand. There probably would be a lot less incidence of obesity, and less incidence of adult onset type 2 diabetes.
  • Medicine, of course, would be simpler with no MRIs, PET Scans, CAT scans, Maybe simple X-Rays but, no Ultra Sounds. No knowing the sex of your child before it is born.
  • No hand held calculators. There were mechanical calculators available, for quite some time, but they were overly large.
  • Lastly, you wouldn't have a computer to be reading this. It would either be typed with a manual typewriter (ker-thunk), handwritten by candle-light or transcribed by monks in some monastery.
  • There actually were some early mechanical computing devices... but for a mechanical computer device capable of doing what a modern laptop computer can do, think of something the size of New York City, and still no video screen to look at.
  • People would go to bed to sleep at dark (about 8pm) because there isn't much to do after dark, by candlelight, in shadows. There'd be no outside lights so outdoor activities would be difficult or dangerous.
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