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Everyone in the world simultaneously becomes blind and deaf.

What would happen next? I'm sure there'll be lots of death but also a lot of confusion. How would survivors work out what happened? How could the survivors band together and create a society?

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    $\begingroup$ I recommend you José Saramago's Blindness. $\endgroup$
    – Bosoneando
    Jun 13, 2015 at 20:35
  • $\begingroup$ While a good movie, people only go blind, not deaf. It would be incredibly more difficult in the setting the question sets. $\endgroup$
    – Mnementh
    Jun 14, 2015 at 12:00
  • $\begingroup$ @Mnementh I haven't seen the movie, only the book. But you can get an idea of the struggles of a society composed by people only blind. It's a good point to extrapolate to both blind and deaf. (I'm not as optimistic as your answer below) $\endgroup$
    – Bosoneando
    Jun 14, 2015 at 16:09
  • $\begingroup$ Didn't know there was also a book. Yes, imdb indicates a novel: imdb.com/title/tt0861689/combined Might be interesting to pick up and read. $\endgroup$
    – Mnementh
    Jun 14, 2015 at 16:38
  • $\begingroup$ "The perfect sense' en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Perfect_Sense $\endgroup$
    – user3106
    Jun 15, 2015 at 9:24

3 Answers 3

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Everyone would die.

Most services and logistics rely on people being able to see and communicate verbally. There are very few blind truck or ambulance drivers. Surgery is rarely done blind-folded. No preparations for handling things blind and deaf would have been made.

In fact, while technology and solutions exist, only people who were already blind or deaf or both have significant access and experience. And even they would be relying on other people being able to see and hear and would have no ability to help significant numbers of newly blind and deaf adapt.

Cities would become death traps. Without logistics, food supply would run out. Roads are not designed for large numbers of blind people walking, so nobody could get anywhere and do something about it. With almost everyone apart from those previously blind and deaf unable to communicate nothing could be organized to fix the problem. So everyone in cities who didn't happen to be in a warehouse full of food would starve. Assuming that water supply would keep working.

With lots of dead people and normal services for body disposal unable to function (even if you found someone able to drive a car blind, the roads would be blocked by other blind people wandering about), the rats would come out and feast. The rats would spread disease, which would be an issue since all health services would also not be working. Rats breed relatively fast so they would eventually start attacking those people who happened to have access to large food supplies by chance.

Unless the dogs beat them to it. With people unable to function and dying from starvation most cities would have large supply of feral dogs. Most people would let the dog out, and since the dog would be able to find food and water and defend itself against rats, they'd have a decent chance of surviving. Especially since for dogs the streets would be full of food. They can eat the corpses,the rats that eat the corpses, and once they have started eating the corpses, they'd fast realize that people are edible and unable to defend themselves.

Eventually the cities would produce large packs of feral dogs actively hunting humans. At that point chances of humans surviving in the cities, even the suburbs, would be pretty low. Dogs are fairly efficient at hunting humans even when humans can see and hear them coming. Blind and deaf people would go extinct fast. This would include even those who already were blind and deaf. While they would manage everyday issues well enough,maybe even find food, fighting off feral packs of dogs or rats is not a common skill among the blind. It is one of those things you usually rely on the seeing doing for you.

On the countryside, most people might be able to find food and water and the spread of disease would be reduced. Depends on climate and season, of course. Everybody would still die.

The food supply would run out since the blind would be unable to manage agriculture or protect their food supplies from animals. Or themselves from predators. Feral dogs, wolves, most big cats and so on are more than smart enough to realize people are unable to defend themselves. Defending yourselves from feral dogs or wolves would require exceptional people making major efforts. People unlucky enough to share territory with leopards, tigers, or lions would probably be better off not wasting the effort on something that is impossible anyway.

I guess some people would survive in closed rooms until the power runs out and water stops coming. Maybe even until the rats come thru the walls?

After all the people had died, eventually cats would realize that their servants are no longer bringing in the food and taking out the litter, and rebuild the civilization with some other suitable inferior species of servants.

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    $\begingroup$ Don't forget that many people would commit suicide. $\endgroup$
    – user3106
    Jun 15, 2015 at 9:24
  • $\begingroup$ @JanDoggen I did forget that, actually. Good point. And even more would be so confused and upset they'd have "an avoidable accident" leading to death. Odd really. I somehow did realize there would be lots of corpses fairly fast, but never consciously thought about specific reasons. $\endgroup$ Jun 15, 2015 at 11:33
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Most of the (very few) People that would survive would be those that were already blind but Hearing before everyone became blind and deaf, and that were also used to a somewhat Independent and also low-tech Lifestyle, and situated in a Location where the infrastructure for such a life was already established. Some forms of self-sufficient gardening, as well as taking care of dairy animals in a non-intensive farming situation, are much harder to do for blind people but still completely possible, and don't necessarily require Hearing.

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Blind AND deaf is pretty difficult to handle. But it is not impossible. As Wikipedia shows, there were deafblind people, who could achieve an education. It would even more difficult, if everyone is deafblind, but I assume it could be handled after initial problems. As systems like Braille are already established and some people are able to use it, they could teach others. Many profession would be problematic (yes, anything involving to drive cars for instance), so I assume civilization takes some steps back.

Would they all eventually die because of lack of food? Maybe. This is the point that is hard to really answer. A small group of survivors (with small I mean some tens, not hundreds or thousands) could be able to tend to a field or garden to cultivate edible plants and maybe having some animal to provide milk, eggs and meat. So maybe this small group of people in a surrounding they are familiar with could survive. They would be on the fringe of extinction if anything goes wrong. But if they work clever they might survive on a primitive level. To form a society they would need communication and education - I provided examples that this is possible. That doesn't mean it will work, but it does not sound completely impossible either.

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    $\begingroup$ Those deafblind people depend critically on the sighted for their survival. Here's a test. Hike one day into any national forest. Put on a blindfold and earplugs. How long will you last? $\endgroup$ Jun 13, 2015 at 12:55
  • $\begingroup$ Well, I don't say it would be easy. But as the question is asked, I assume most would go deafblind in their homes or similar wellknown surroundings and not in the forest. $\endgroup$
    – Mnementh
    Jun 14, 2015 at 12:02
  • $\begingroup$ Right. And how, exactly, will they replenish their food when it runs out? No drivers to deliver food to the supermarkets, you know. In winter, who will deliver heating oil to their houses or keep the natural gas pipelines running? Who will load/drive/unload the coal trains that keep so many electric power plants powered? Who will monitor and adjust the national power grid? $\endgroup$ Jun 14, 2015 at 12:27
  • $\begingroup$ That is a much better objection than the first. But you don't need drivers for food and no natural gas. People lived before that. Thats why I said civilization would take a few steps back. I can assume, deafblind might be able with communication (that exists as I showed) to tend to a field or keep some animals as lifestock. So life isn't impossible, only incredibly difficult. $\endgroup$
    – Mnementh
    Jun 14, 2015 at 12:30
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    $\begingroup$ Maybe. So upvote the answer by VilleNiemi, as I did by the way. I simply don't understand what your objections really add. Survivors of a zombie apocalypse also don't have natural gas and don't have drivers who bring food into the cities, but many fiction revolves around the ideas about how they could survive. Yes, all being deafblind would make it incredibly more difficult, but your examples didn't in any way pointed out how it would be especially a problem for the deafblind. $\endgroup$
    – Mnementh
    Jun 14, 2015 at 16:55

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