Study Guide

Alas, Babylon Technology and Modernization

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Technology and Modernization

Chapter 6

It was Orlando, or McCoy Base, or both. [...] Thus the lights went out, and in that moment civilization in Fort Repose retreated a hundred years. (6.186-187)

It's one thing when nuclear bombs are dropping, but it's a whole different ball game once the power goes out. And this isn't some short-term outage. Fort Repose may never see another glowing light bulb or cooling air conditioner again. Those are going to be some hot summers.

Chapter 7

That morning, when Helen apprehensively opened the freezer, she found several hundred pounds of choice and carefully wrapped meat floating in a noxious sea of melted ice cream and liquified butter. (7.63)

In hindsight, buying pounds of fresh meat might not have been the wisest tactical maneuver. Randy should've bought some beans. Spam. Spaghetti-o's. Anything in a can, really. We often take for granted the conveniences offered by the modern world, but nowhere are those convenience more meaningful—yet overlooked—than with food.

He suspected that the older housewives of Fort Repose [...] had cleaned the stores out of flour on The Day. (7.180)

Prepackaged bread isn't going to last long during the apocalypse. Doesn't matter if it's whole wheat, gluten-free, or coated in 24-karat gold. Instead, it's much wiser to push those modern conveniences aside and do things the old-fashioned way, even if it requires kneading a bit of dough.

Lavinia McGovern died. This, too, had been inevitable ever since the lights went out and refrigeration ceased. Since Lavinia McGovern suffered from diabetes, insulin had kept her alive. (7.172)

The loss of electricity is perhaps most frightening to those suffering from serious medical conditions requiring advanced treatment methods. Diabetes is a big one. Diabetics need insulin, insulin needs refrigeration, refrigeration requires electricity, and electricity is currently nowhere to be found. What's even more horrifying is that diabetes is a relatively common disease. There are millions suffering from it in America alone.

Even those sections of the country which escaped destruction entirely would not long have lights. Their power would last only as long as fuel stocks on hand. (7.64)

Electricity requires energy, and energy requires a fuel source. It's as simple as that. In a testament to all you hippies out there, however, a community has the best chance of retaining power if they use solar, wind, or hydroelectric generators, as those methods require no man-made fuel source. Who says going green doesn't pay?

While radiation was a danger, it could not be felt or seen, and therefore other dangers, and even annoyances, seemed more imperative. (7.6)

Radiation presents a unique danger to our ragtag group of survivors. It's not like a wild animal or gang of highwaymen. You can't confront radiation head-on. In fact, many survivors of Fort Repose don't seem to understand radiation at all.

Chapter 8

Now all this was ended. All entertainment, all amusements, all escape, all information again centered in the library. (8.63)

This is every librarian's dream. With the host of modern entertainment appliances wiped out in one fell swoop, reading is the only thing you can do besides going fishing and feeling hungry. And just imagine if this book had been written when smartphones were around.

Jim Hickey [...] learned beekeeping at the College of Agriculture in Gainesville. It would never make him rich, he had been warned [...] Now he was regarded as a fortunate man, rich in highly desirable commodities. (8.125)

It might sound crazy, but that hipster friend of yours who's really into urban beekeeping and homebrewing beer is well-positioned to survive a full-on societal breakdown. Not all hipster skills pay off, however. Pickling vegetables? Super useful. Grooming your mustache into the shape of a cat? Probably not.

Before Randy ate he would shower and shave. These were painful luxuries, almost his only remnant of routine from before The Day. (8.1)

Randy holds on to some small rituals that connect him to the world he left behind, even if they're more trouble than they're worth. Shaving is a great example. Sure, he might be forced to use a giant hunting knife because it's the only thing sharp enough to do the job, but it helps keep him sane and grounded despite all of these massive changes.

Chapter 10
Dan Gunn

"Worst of all," Dan said, "I've lost my glasses. [...] I won't be much good without glasses." (10.62)

Bet you've never thought about glasses as a piece of technology before, right? Well, they're an important one. Imagine trying to do anything when you can't see more than a foot in front of you.

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