At the moment, western society is heading to a economic system based on the Internet of Things, where the production and distribution of goods will be based on information collected through sensors and analysis. Also, machinery and transports are going fully electrically controlled and powered.

Assuming that in ten years this system will be completely established, how many people in the first world would starve to death in the first weeks after an Electro Magnetic Pulse that destroyed all our electronic systems? Which would be the role of less developed countries with more traditional systems?

  • $\begingroup$ I'm sure the government could distribute food and supplies. Even if everything was automated(or something similar) people would still want to take a walk out or have a nice stroll. And less developed countries would probably continue going about their lives as usual. The problem would arise when people in electrical cars are driving on the freeway and the EMP strikes... Another similar scenario would be solar flares which you could look into. $\endgroup$
    – Skye
    Sep 5, 2016 at 13:19
  • $\begingroup$ @sky people in electrical cars? what would be the issue? $\endgroup$ Sep 5, 2016 at 14:03
  • $\begingroup$ @wannabeLearner Super Savta addressed it. Imagine your driving at 80 km/h when the Emp strikes. Now you have no way to brake nor control your car, and on a freeway with thousands of cars traveling I'm sure you would know what happens when one crashes. $\endgroup$
    – Skye
    Sep 5, 2016 at 14:05
  • $\begingroup$ @sky brakes are not electrical thought that is why i asked. And most cars have an on-board computer that is essential for the correct function of all systems int the car. Even brakes. $\endgroup$ Sep 5, 2016 at 14:08
  • $\begingroup$ @wannabeLearner indeed they are nowadays. When you put your foot on the brake, that is trasnlated to the electronic system and is processed by the onboard computer, which would be fried in my scenario. $\endgroup$
    – MEPx
    Sep 5, 2016 at 14:11

1 Answer 1


There would be a few different sources of casualties

  1. The people who were at the time using machines which depend on electricity. This could be people in hospitals who are on life support, people driving electric cars (or any fly by wire car) or people flying. These people would die immediately.
  2. The second wave of people to die would be because of the collapse of food distribution. The food distribution and manufacturing in developed countries is highly based on computers, knowing where to ship produce and in what amounts without computers (Or even long distance communication) would be impossible. This would lead to people leaving urban centers and creating pressure on the immediate country side.
  3. Long term effects - without electricity the food and medical supplies we rely on for modern society would not function properly. Without the ability to work the fields using modern technology, using old methods of creating fertilizer the supply of food would decrease dramatically. This will lead to wide spread starvation and eventually to a stable level of population which is much lower than it is today. The same thing applies to modern medicine, people will start dying much more often from diseases which with today's technology are curable

In non-industrialized countries most casualties will come from the first step. As the urban centers and agricultural industry don't rely as much on technology they will be much better poised to deal with these challenges.

If we look at how non industrialized societies have improved their agriculture in recent years, by using modern methods, we can estimate how much population their agriculture can support in the long term. According to this, the wheat production in the least developed countries has grown by 150% in the last 50 years. If we take this as a guide this means the population will decrease by about 60% in non industrialized countries.

If we look at industrialized countries we can see that they have about an urbanization rate of about 70-80%. Given our analysis this share of the population at a minimum will starve out given this event within a few weeks.

  • $\begingroup$ Thank you for your answer. But my real question is how big would be the descent of population. You say much lower, but could it be 25% less? 50%? $\endgroup$
    – MEPx
    Sep 5, 2016 at 13:57
  • $\begingroup$ That fully depends on how non industrial the society is. For tribes living in the amazon there will be virtually no population loss. For countries which have partially modernized infrastructure there will be a bigger drop. Virtually all countries nowadays depend on some industrialized produce. If we take wheat as an example according to this, it would seem we would lose about 60% of the population in the least developed countries $\endgroup$ Sep 5, 2016 at 14:06
  • $\begingroup$ For example, the US has 318 million people. In a report of the number of people driving cars daily in 2010, the numbers came up to 210 million. If all of them die... That's around 66% of the total US population. $\endgroup$
    – Skye
    Sep 5, 2016 at 14:08
  • $\begingroup$ @Sky well, i think you give too much importance to death by car crash. Of course there will be a lot, but since all cars will stop their engines at the same time, they will slow down mostly togeher; if your freeway doesnt have curves near, you should be okay. $\endgroup$
    – MEPx
    Sep 5, 2016 at 14:15
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    $\begingroup$ @Mołot that's the way I understood the question premise. It's true that you could theoretically get everything functioning again, however without cars,ships etc. it would be difficult to supply the power stations with more coal and spare parts, especially considering the organizational challenge involved. It would also be hard to fix all the machinery using only hand tools. $\endgroup$ Sep 5, 2016 at 20:36

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