Implications of the Weapons from The Day the Earth Stood Still

Reports over the past years have tracked the progress of non-nuclear electromagnetic pulse weapons, which can disable most electronic components within a given area, reminiscent of the classic 1951 science fiction film, The Day the Earth Stood Still. Here’s a recent update on the development of one such EMP weapon.

Such weapons have both offensive and defensive capabilities. A city hit by such a weapon would immediately be cast into the 1940s pre-transistor age, but without having access to the analogue technology of the 1940s. Not only would communications and vehicles not work, but neither would hospital equipment, furnaces and refrigerators built with modern digital components, nor would the utilities supplying electricity, nor would in some cases water and natural gas utilities function properly. The maintenance of human subsistence in such areas would decline rapidly. Supply chains of food and medicine would dry up. Police and public safety officers would not be able to communicate with one another, and the web of human care which has been so advanced by electronic technology would revert to verbal, paper, and the most basic forms of communications. Google and Facebook and cell phones would be worthless, transactions would revert to cash and barter, and it may be difficult after such an attack for a city to even effectively signal its own surrender.

I can imagine a scenario in which a nation constantly besieged by terror attacks would keep a permanent EMP zone around itself, to prevent coordination of terror attacks or the use of any but the most basic weapons against itself. I can also imagine a more strategic scenario in which an entire country could be kept in a permanent 1940s state by repeated EMP attacks, and be forced to remain totally dependent on other countries for technology and goods and services. The use of such EMP weapons will change warfare forever.

Preparations for civil defense against such weapons are just about non-existent. I remember what life was like without our present technology, and as a person who studies planning and systems, I shudder to imagine what society would become if the use of such weapons against cities became widespread.

© Copyright 2012, Albert J. Schorsch, III
All Rights Reserved

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