I'm working on a science fiction story in which electricity had been wiped out from earth. I need, though, to sort out how it happened.

What I look for

  • Humanity can no longer use electricity as we do nowadays.
  • It might be possible to develop a new way to simulate what we do nowadays with electricity, but it'd take at least 50 years.
  • There is no problem if lightnings or other "natural electricity" still happen.

EDIT: There's no problem here if the answer requires technologies not yet developed.

As an example of a possible answer, there's the explanation given in the series Revolution, even though I feel that would still need some development.

Spoiler alert

There, the Blackout happend due to Nanites, a nanobot, the size of a virus, that does two things: Absorb electricity and replicate.

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    $\begingroup$ This one asks how it happened. The other one asks for the consequences of this happening. $\endgroup$
    – Masclins
    Jul 27, 2016 at 9:14
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    $\begingroup$ Not a duplicate... but not sure it's appropriate due to it being a more scientific question... There is no way to do it because it would require a electromagnetism to stop working which would mean light stops existing, and magnets, etc... $\endgroup$
    – Durakken
    Jul 27, 2016 at 9:15
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    $\begingroup$ @AlbertMasclans You could put them together then. Still though, as Durakken said: you are talking about electromagnetism — one of the four fundamental forces of the universe — suddenly ceasing to work. It is like asking for an explanation why there is suddenly no gravity. Vote to close for this reason: there will never be a better answer than "magic made it happen". $\endgroup$
    – MichaelK
    Jul 27, 2016 at 9:19
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    $\begingroup$ There is no way to completely remove electricity from the world. It may be possible to make us humans unable to use it though. EMPs such as those resulting from the detonation of thermonuclear devices inside a van allen belt can effectively disrupt electrical devices. If some alien power detonated a few nukes around the world inside our van allen belts every day that could happen. But it would have side effects you may not be prepared to deal with. $\endgroup$
    – Annonymus
    Jul 27, 2016 at 10:03
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    $\begingroup$ If electricity ceased to work...all animals would die. Cuz that's how our biology works. No electricity no brain activity and no muscles firing. All animals would be dead as a doornail. $\endgroup$
    – Durakken
    Jul 27, 2016 at 10:20

4 Answers 4


In the Council Wars series, Eric Flint introduces Mother, a super-AI with ubiquitous sensors and effectors1 capable of absorbing remotely most sources of energy.

So, low voltages are okay, but as soon as a voltage reaches a given threshold, zzzzt it disappears into whatever higher dimension Mother reaches out of. The same happens with bombs, extreme heat and even powerful enough spring coils.

This setup would be ideal for your purposes.

(1) never called that, but the behaviour is indistinguishable from the Culture's effectors.

  • $\begingroup$ How could Mother be made good though? Instead of as an essential opposite energy of some good versus evil binary dynamic? This is a very important question to me. Ironically, at one time I wanted to create a science-fiction story called “Eve01: The Mother of Artificial Intelligence”, I couldn’t think of any other way for the story to end on a good note than a miracle by God. $\endgroup$ Apr 2, 2019 at 20:22
  • $\begingroup$ The problem with a story like that, is that evil could attack at any time, whatever dark or negative energy controls Mother, could just come back to strike at any time it either needs or wants to, either of which are a very bad situation. $\endgroup$ Apr 2, 2019 at 20:33
  • $\begingroup$ An AI is simply a very advanced program, and its "malignancy" will probably arise from the law of unintended consequences. You might design Mother as a stratified intelligence - the main sentience, plus a specialized monitoring process ("super-Ego") that constantly inspects the AI's governors, plus a low-power "oracle" mind that is modeled on a human's, and periodically restored from a read-only backup, used by the monitoring process as a baseline. $\endgroup$
    – LSerni
    Apr 2, 2019 at 22:17

Rogue AI

Sure, the idea of Steampunk Theme park seemed really cool at first, with the most advanced androids posing as a variety of NPCs and all kinds of wonderous contraptions that had been designed to run on steam.

Then the managerial AI got a bit out of control and decided that it sure could increase the profits if it made all of humanity into Guests.

Next thing you know the AI has taken control of most infraestructure and is most adamant about not allowing the Guests to access eletricity, even using tatical drone attacks to make sure no one is using anything that would break immersion.


As has been pointed out in the comments, there are lots of important reasons why we can't prevent electricity from working at all. The key, then, is to imagine ways of preventing humans from harnessing electricity. Trying to screw with electromagnetism is problematic - again, messes with ecology/biology, and could possibly be easily defeated by shielding.

A better bet is to deprive these humans of the material inputs necessary to create electricity. The most guaranteed way of accomplishing this is to put your humans in a setting where all metal only exists in trace amounts. This would make it basically impossible for humans to harness electricity in any meaningful way. "No metal" might be too limiting for you though: perhaps you want to eliminate electricity as a premise for some futurist samurai. In that case, you can probably get away with only eliminating the most conductive common metals: copper, silver, gold, aluminum, zinc. Any generator made with less conductive metal, like nickel or iron, is going to be be very very week. If someone did not know about electricity to begin with, they would have a really hard time discovering it using low conductivity metals. If the humans in your world already know that electricity can be harnessed, and that they are otherwise deprived of this ability, they might be able to rig something up using nickel wire, but it will be super limited and inefficient. If this is the case, say so in the comments below so I (or more likely someone else) can work on figuring out just how inefficient.

Note that whatever narrative device you use to eliminate technologically useful quantities of copper, silver, gold, aluminum, zinc (whether it be removing it from earth, or putting your humans on another planet), you will still need some trace amounts of copper and zinc, which are nutritionally essential to humans.


a very powerful solar pulse from solar flare could destroy power lines which would destroy the average person's access to electricity. Stuff like cell phones and computers would be unaffected but without any way to charge them it wouldn't last long.

Several nuclear weapons detonated high up in the earths atmosphere could create a series of electromagnetic pulses that would destroy most electronic machines throughout the world

Or maybe some sort of futuristic nanite weapon release into our atmosphere designed to destroy electronic machines.

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    $\begingroup$ We know how to shield power generators and power transport cables; look up EMP hardening. And EMPs won't destroy most electronic machines anyway -- the vast majority of mobile phones won't be connected to the grid and will survive just fine. EMPs would disrupt power distribution infratructure and power equipment much more than electronics. $\endgroup$
    – AlexP
    May 14, 2018 at 14:16
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    $\begingroup$ Even if an EMP destroyed existing electronics, it wouldn't prevent people from building new electronics (although if all electronics were destroyed, it would probably take a while to build back up to our current level of sophistication). $\endgroup$ May 14, 2018 at 20:46

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