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I am exploring a world in which:

  1. Electricity does not work/is banned

  2. All those older than approx. 35 years are dead.

My current thinking is electricity has somehow wiped out all those older than 35 and this event would need have something to do with telomeres. Perhaps it was an experiment on immortality that went terribly wrong causing electricity to kill those with shorter telomeres across the world? Or a virus? It does not need to be terribly realistic, just vaguely conceivable. I am not sure how it would play out with lightning either! I could make my age range younger, so that it kills all those older than 24 –then it could be linked to brain development, given it is only at around 25 that we stop developing.

Do you have any ideas?

Thanks!

An addition: One of the key outcomes of this world is to transport our future back to the Renaissance i.e. causing the collapse of modern society/ governance structures and disruption to travel, communication, factory farming etc. etc.

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    $\begingroup$ If "electricity" (whatever you think it is) "doesn't work", then hearts do not beat, nerves do not carry sensory and motor impulses, table salt dissociates spontaneously into chlorine (a very toxic gas) and sodium (a metal which self-ignites in contact with water), and many other such unpleasant effects. Electricity is one of the fundamental forces of nature, it cannot stop working and leave a world even remotely similar to ours. This is why I cannot read S.M. Stirling's Dies the Fire series: I just cannot go past the blaring logical incosistency. $\endgroup$ – AlexP Jul 17 '17 at 15:55
  • $\begingroup$ Do you need all over 35 (25) dead (including those not coming near the electric wires in their life), or just the most of them (like 95+%)? $\endgroup$ – Alexander Jul 17 '17 at 17:27
  • $\begingroup$ @Alexander - no, not all, just most. $\endgroup$ – Laura Jul 17 '17 at 20:33
  • $\begingroup$ @AlexP - I'm talking specifically about human generated electricity as a means to an end, all natural occurring electricity can still exist, like neurobiology and, as I mentioned before, lightning. $\endgroup$ – Laura Jul 17 '17 at 20:40
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How about a future World with body modifications, where any adult has some "mods", electronic replacements? If in this World something goes terribly wrong, so anyone who has mods will die and electronics might be banned.

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    $\begingroup$ In fact, you could go further to say say the mods were put on all new-born babies! A ban on this practice came into effect 35 years ago (because of this very potential danger, perhaps), but existing ones could not be removed.... Then, a world-wide E.M.P.... $\endgroup$ – colmde Jul 17 '17 at 10:21
  • $\begingroup$ Thanks Julian. Yes it could be some kind of mobile communication implant, I'm hoping to make in near-future - next 50 years or so. I'll think more on this. $\endgroup$ – Laura Jul 17 '17 at 10:22
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    $\begingroup$ When the problem was with electronic implants killing people, then banning all electronics and not just the problematic implants seems like quite an overreaction to me. $\endgroup$ – Philipp Jul 17 '17 at 11:18
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    $\begingroup$ Agree with @Philipp it is illogical to ban whole electronics. Better scenario would be that everyone has this implant (even younger than 35 years old), but after world-wide E.M.P only owners of old chips died. To avoid second incident and possible death of all humanity, all electronic devices are banned. But this limits electricity ban time limit. $\endgroup$ – Markus Jul 17 '17 at 14:10
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    $\begingroup$ Maybe the devices are not banned, but all Persons who know how to create and build then died in the event. Also, a overreaction would be normal if 80% of all humans would die in a day. And the point with "newer" chips that are more secure is a very good idea $\endgroup$ – Julian Egner Jul 18 '17 at 8:08
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EM Pulse Source

The only thing that would reliably prevent electronics working (albeit not electricity per se, which doesn't seem conceivable) is an electromagnetic pulse. If an international conflict involved an arms race over EM weapons and then something went catastrophically wrong (think Dr Strangelove), then you could conceivably have some weapons pile or malfunctioning device which sporadically gave out an EM pulse, re-frying any electronics that anyone attempted to re-create.

A world without electronics

Electronics underlies all long-range communications; since the beginning of the 20th century we have made it an increasingly necessary part of our lives. Without it, we would be back to 19th century methods of transport, communication, etc. We would have an awful knowledge of what things could be like, but unreachably.

Electricity itself would work, but without electronics it is very difficult to control it beyond on and off. It would be flickering-light-bulb technology, not communications beyond essentially morse code.

Look to the Amish

There is apparently a rule against using electricity among the Amish, which has sent some to recreate the ability to plug into power in a wall socket with pneumatics; by running a compressor (even manually), a series of pipes can run the compressed air to where it is needed; it is simply a different method of power transfer. So some parts of life might not look too different.

Indirect technology dependence among over 35s

There is a general trend among humanity to first find a way to control something with technology, then to become dependent on that control. So we may find we have broken any natural systems which regulate the temperature on Earth, and our only option is to manage it ourselves via a series of technologies. Similarly, our lives increasingly depend on pharmaceuticals to keep us alive. It is conceivable, then, that a world where clever telomere-lengtheners are used widely by people in their 30s-40s; they could be an accepted medicine with a requirement that you continue to take them to keep topping up your telomeres, with perhaps a downside that you first have to disable a natural mechanism which would prevent it.

With the safety control removed, sudden loss of electronics via an EM pulse event would mean a sudden loss of the drugs to prolong life and an unavoidable tendency to get unstoppable cancer which is no longer controlled.

So: an EM arms race, universal telomere therapy, and then an incident

This seems like a reasonable point for a story; there are a few old people - either those who never took telomere therapy, or those who hide from the world to try to escape an HPV-like virus. Then a huge age gap of all the people who succumbed to the vagueries of a technological crutch being pulled away.

Presumably there would have been a huge global crisis as all the power structures of the old fell apart, all the technology stopped working. I would guess power, knowledge and skills would be handed down very suddenly to everyone under 30, and simultaneously a mass migration from the cities where populations are now concentrated to the countryside where the food is.

The skills to have would be metalwork, metal smelting; textbooks would be of huge value as the keys to a knowledge which rapidly fell away.

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  • $\begingroup$ Lots to think about here, thanks Phil. Problem with an EM weapon is that it only breaks electrical devices, doesn't render all human-made electricity obsolete/ban it. $\endgroup$ – Laura Jul 17 '17 at 10:28
  • $\begingroup$ The problem is that I can't see anything which would make electricity itself not work. I can make it with a length of wire and ideally a magnet. Only a thoroughly repressive regime could get close to eliminating the use of it by force. $\endgroup$ – Phil H Jul 17 '17 at 13:17
  • $\begingroup$ Every time em pulses are mentioned as if Faraday cages aren't a thing, a physicist kills a puppy. $\endgroup$ – Shufflepants Jul 17 '17 at 14:16
  • $\begingroup$ @PhilH, suppose 35 years in the past use and study of electricity and electrical engineering is outright banned, punishable by death. Implantation of electrical devices stops. A generation grows up in a world without electricity, or knowledge of what it is and how it might work. Then, an electrical incident kills everyone older than them who might know something about it. Thus you have a world where people fundamentally do not understand the physics principles of E&M, and no working infrastructure to reverse-engineer. $\endgroup$ – Chris M. Jul 17 '17 at 19:38
  • $\begingroup$ It is a thoroughly repressive regime that I am considering. Think the ban of electronics is more conceivable than electricity being impossible, so looks like I'm going with that premise. $\endgroup$ – Laura Jul 17 '17 at 20:44
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In situations like this simplicity is best. Basically there are two goals you want to achieve. Namely, getting the world back to the level of the Renaissance and killing everybody over thirty-five years old. This having something to do with electricity and telomeres, as we shall see, is optional.

The main problem with making sure electricity doesn't work is that this involves effectively rewriting the laws of electromagnetism. Normally this author finds rewriting the laws of physics an attractive option, but in this case it's not necessary. By the way, most methods of making electricity not work, fail or plain go away are too difficult, too clumsy and have a plethora of nasty side-eFfects. Also, in most cases the effect will be temporary not permanent. So we will ban it.

Question: why would normally rational people ban electricity? Because something that scares the pantaloons off them happens. Firstly, assume this happens in a highly connected, electronic and electrical devices and technology is everywhere sort of world. Like ours, but perhaps a decade or two ahead. Secondly, there is a massive die-off of people over thirty-five (35) years old.

This population collapse doesn't need to be explained. People over 35 just die. It could be a virus. It could be genetic collapse due to excess pollution.** It could even be due to electromagnetic pollution. presently we live in an electromagnetic "smog". Under circumstances where this happens rapidly enough, most people will be panicking, at least, until things settle down. There will be massive social, political and economic dislocation. Someone conceives the idea that modern electronic and electrical technology is to blame. This is exactly the sort of crazy notion that will go viral in this situation. Electricity is banned. As the ban comes into effect, the dying stops. Either because the world has run out of people over 35 or the virus has run its course or electromagnetic pollution was the cause all along. Viola! First and second requirement for this scenario met.

Summary

The world to Hell in a hand-basket because the over thirty-fives die off massively. Global civilization collapses. Electricity is banned. Either the thirty-fives stop dying off (which would reinforce the ban) or their deaths continue (assuming the causative agent or mechanism is still doing its work). In the later case, the ban on electricity might not hold up. This will be left as an exercise for the OP to decide.

PS:

**: The original thinking fort his answer was that banning electricity would be the most economical explanation. Thus, fulfilling the criterion of Ockham's Razor. However, the concept of electromagnetic pollution has been around for a long time. If this had an affect, long-term, on the human genome, then there might be life-threatening consequences. Everything from resetting the human lifespan to new genetic diseases afflicting the thirty-fives and over. Thus the possibility of a real cause related to electricity, or as in this case, electromagnetic pollution has been added.

This isn't just cell phones, microwave ovens, computers or high-tension power lines. This is the whole background of electromagnetic activity permeating the human environment, from every source of electrical activity.

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The only way I can see this work through is if somehow the electromagnetic field generated by the electricity affected the brain or some other organ in a negative way (ie: cancer).

Some studies are being done to study the relation of electromagnetic fields and cancer.

Electromagnetic Fields and Cancer

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  • $\begingroup$ Like Chuck in Better Call Saul? I'm not sure how it'd affect those specifically older. I guess cancer is more likely as you get older - overexposure to electromagnetic fields over their lifetime... $\endgroup$ – Laura Jul 17 '17 at 10:02
  • $\begingroup$ @Laura Exactly, the more we rely on electronics, the more significant that effect would be, and the sooner people would die from the effects and even the implants mentioned by Julian would contribute into my theory $\endgroup$ – DGaspar Jul 17 '17 at 10:49

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