I have a certain vision for a post-apocalyptic cyberpunk world in which civilization itself is collapsed, but technology and structures are still existant. 98% of human population is wiped out by a viral mutagen, of the remaining 2% a part that is immune against the mutagen, a part is sentinent mutant and a part are mentally degenerated mutants with more animal-like behaviour.

So far so good, buildings are mostly intact, so is existing technology. But for roleplaying reasons I want most ways of communication, e.g. internet, telephone, cellphone to be broken down as well as the electricitry grid. Level of the technology would be similar to what we have today, a bit more advanced in some areas like robotics and medicine.

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    $\begingroup$ Note that many structures would also collapse in your scenario. For instance, in Manhattan, the subway would flood without electricity and the skyscrapers would collapse within decades. $\endgroup$ Jan 20, 2015 at 17:55
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    $\begingroup$ How would technology be similar to what we have today without the internet, cellphones, or an electrical grid? $\endgroup$
    – Dan C
    Jan 20, 2015 at 19:02
  • $\begingroup$ Don't fall into the trap of Ragnarock-Proofing: tvtropes.org/pmwiki/pmwiki.php/Main/RagnarokProofing $\endgroup$
    – Nick2253
    Jan 22, 2015 at 16:09

4 Answers 4


EDT: [Sorry I missed pointing out how this was relevant! Losing %98 of the human population would be cause enough all by itself for these things to happen. All those things need people doing a lot of work to keep it all running smoothly.]

Well most telecommunications and major electricity grids would be down pretty quickly. Maybe as little as a few days. (the internet would go down with the telecommunications gird) Coal plants need a constant influx of material, nuclear power plants need monitoring. Hydro-electric would be the best bet, they should be able to go a few years with minimal maintenance before they break.

However, making and maintaining small power generation systems, wind mills, vegetable oil power generating engines, etc could still be used for a host of things.

HAM radio would likely be the first way to get long distance communications. If you had smart enough robots to help generate more technology, then it is possible, because most people wouldn't know how to build a mother board, much less create RAM or processors.

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    $\begingroup$ Hydro would go down too. You need load-balancing on turbines. Which is why those powerplants employ people to come to work every day. And when you screw it up, you damage them - sometimes permanently. 1965 power outage took down #3 unit at the Ravenswood power plant in NY, and kept it out of commission for a year - in a fully functioning society that needed it. $\endgroup$
    – user3082
    Jan 20, 2015 at 18:29
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    $\begingroup$ Also, a single electrical grid failure could quickly propagate and take down others - and even if the systems are in place, they may be unable to be controlled anymore, i.e. all the passwords are lost $\endgroup$ Jan 20, 2015 at 18:33

Coronal Mass Ejections

That's when the sun basically makes a really big burp, and the ensuing particles don't do enough damage to harm plants or animals, but has the potential to knock down power grids, satellites, and all that depends on those. It's enough to trigger an apocalypse.

Malicious Use of EMPS

An EMP could knock out the electrons from your circuitboards which are not shielded. This is actually considered a national security threat. A well placed EMP could knock down a power grid, wipe cell phones, and generally be devastating to modern life in general.

To be specific, you need to read about the Starfish Prime and the Soviet Project K nuclear tests. We learned from those that there are three main pulses; E1, E2, and E3. The E1 pulse of an EMP can and will destroy most electronics. An E1 pulse induces huge amounts of voltage in conductors, so your electronics will literally fry. In the Soviet Project K tests, an EMP actually caused fire in a nearby power plant.

That being said, uses of EMP may be too devastating for your world. Also, it's super easy to shield some things from EMPs, but you just need to prepared for it. It should also be noted that vacuum tube electronics are not affected much by EMPs. Old TVs and WWII era technology would survive rather well.

EMPs are considered an actual threat, and nations are taking precautions to help their power grids and communication systems handle such attacks.

  • $\begingroup$ EMPs don't necessarily destroy technology. It could temporarily disable them depending on how close it is. However in most cases, having a power plant down for more than 24 hours is enough to cause many deaths in any major city. If the power is down for a week, the city would be practically abandoned. $\endgroup$
    – Neil
    Jan 20, 2015 at 14:37
  • $\begingroup$ @Neil I'll update my answer to reflect just how bad nuclear EMPs are, and what type of damage it can do. $\endgroup$
    – PipperChip
    Jan 20, 2015 at 15:49
  • $\begingroup$ "vacuum tube electronics are not affected much by EMPs" I find that claim highly unlikely. Do you have a reference? $\endgroup$
    – Samuel
    Jan 20, 2015 at 18:11
  • $\begingroup$ Samuel, it's true. Because they're bigger. When you make wires in nano-scale, it's much easier to burn through them. Equivalent: When you make filaments in lights, they last longer if they're thicker. $\endgroup$
    – user3082
    Jan 20, 2015 at 18:26
  • $\begingroup$ @samuel Yes, I do have a reference for you. $\endgroup$
    – PipperChip
    Jan 20, 2015 at 19:51

What you need is to work on one alternative reality or counter-history

If you want internet working strongly and steadily after the apocalypse, then you'll need to move all the internet infrastructure to space, then, you need something that damages almost all the electronics on earth but leave satellites mostly untouched and satellite servers storing websites & stuff untouched, so, to say, all the internet was moved up to be fully satellite communication, nothing ever exist on earth physically of it after and after that, in some point of history the cataclysm happened, but for that moment the internet was already safe there.

Then is the electricity stuff, if you want to make something like electricity still exist, you can make something like kinetic generators or somewhat improvised and modified water generators/windmills, using brute animal force is a way to go too... but you must say than the power is keeped in some batteries or something, we don't have the same demand than today now, because just the 2% of the population survive.

But then again, how will you have the knowledge to do that?

Well there are two choices here who are both compatible between them two...

1) The survivors are mostly returning from somewhere/something from where they survive the effects of the plague, when they return they'll be vaccinated from the virus by the few survivors who made it.

so that way you can justify have a bunch of experts to rebuild something like a safe perimeter, like a safe-city or something who actually have internet and generates enough power to itself but without saving themselves from the apocalypse.

2) The survivors find and study the Safebox of knowledge kept to restore civilization, that thing actually exist, so they learn the knowledge to make them own safe haven and you take them from there.

What can make that apocalypse happen?

Zombies? Human-Bots Wars? But bots are controlled by a super-computer and using biological weapons, or something like that?

In fact a Big Brother computer use the virus to attack humanity, but the mutants just go too fast out of control.. so the mutants harrass humanity but also the big brother computer, leaving humanity and that computer almost utterly destroyed (or just utterly destroyed saving some humans).

That should explain your problems.

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    $\begingroup$ Hey Jobsdark, I've edited your post to make it a bit more readable. Feel free to edit again or rollback if you think I missed the point. $\endgroup$
    – ArtOfCode
    Jan 22, 2015 at 17:03

Remember, the internet etc rely on very, very long cables. Lose 90% of the grid and what's left is worthless. Lose 90% of the examples of technology and your 2% survivors will have plenty to go around. (Note, though, that the society you describe will not be able to create new items--when the existing stuff wears out there will be no replacements.)

  • $\begingroup$ Internet was originally designed to route around damage (survive a nuclear attack). 90% loss wouldn't have impacted original net (iirc). Currently, of course, we're not doing that. NOCs, centralization, non-net-neutrality are the rule of the day. Also, that great uptime assumed some people surviving, and electricity. $\endgroup$
    – user3082
    Jan 23, 2015 at 12:07
  • $\begingroup$ @user3082 It can route around some damage but not losing 90%. Not to mention that with the grid down those long distance connections fail because their amplifiers don't have power even if the link is intact. $\endgroup$ Jan 23, 2015 at 20:24

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