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A boiled potato battery provides power at $9/kWh, at 1/6th the cost of kerosene, and 1/9th the cost of a D battery. One single boiled potato provides 5 volts of electricity.

Pre-Columbian Americans had access to both potato technology and boiling technology, as well as primitive metallurgy (especially the goldsmithing in Central and South America). Imagine that, once their leaders have seen the life-changing effects of electric technology, even the most conservative among them would sanction research into spud tech.

With the only change to their technology being the discovery of electricity via potato, how could life in a pre-Colubian Native American society be transformed?

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    $\begingroup$ @Raditz_35 Added the info and a link - it's 5 volts for a single boiled potato (so .5 volts for a raw potato). $\endgroup$
    – SPavel
    Nov 5, 2017 at 16:28
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    $\begingroup$ @Mołot Potatoes have a shelf life, and using potatoes for power eats into the food supply (pun intended). They also have a large volume, for an energy source - portable electronics won't work well, etc. $\endgroup$
    – SPavel
    Nov 5, 2017 at 17:00
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    $\begingroup$ Isn't it the metals on the electrodes that produces the energy? And invariably less energy than refining the metals required? I think the only thing this is really useful for is electroplating. $\endgroup$ Nov 5, 2017 at 17:32
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    $\begingroup$ If they have potato they can make chips... $\endgroup$
    – L.Dutch
    Nov 5, 2017 at 17:55
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    $\begingroup$ Electronics is the use of electrons to convey and transmit information. Electricity is the use of electrons to do work. Can you please clarify your question? $\endgroup$ Nov 6, 2017 at 0:22

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Very little, if any.

Such a battery requires thin wires. The metallurgy of pre-Columbian America was significantly underdeveloped even by contemporary standards. Without a huge leap forward, they wouldn't even be able to produce one.

Even without this constraint, their technological level at the time was insufficient for any use of electricity other then the most sporadic ones (like lighting fire). Even Europe/East Asia (which were centuries ahead from a technological perspective) wouldn't probably be affected much.

In reality electricity itself isn't as interesting as the things it powers.

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    $\begingroup$ So much for kartoffelpunk :( $\endgroup$
    – SPavel
    Nov 6, 2017 at 14:18
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    $\begingroup$ This is a chicken-or-egg thing. Why make wires, if you don't have electricity? What use is having electricity, if you don't have wires? But 'wires' could be a string of gold beads. A certain Mr. Franklin allegedly used wet cotton string from a kite in a lightning storm. Several things that they had, they could re-purpose for wires. It doesn't HAVE to be copper or such drawn out into a strand. Thin strips of hammered copper sheet would work. But why would they join two dissimilar metal plates stuck in a potato with a string of gold beads? $\endgroup$ Nov 6, 2017 at 15:30
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Just because you know about the existence of electricity, doesn't mean you have the ability to harness it. There is a lot of knowledge between feeling a shock when you touch a metal object after rubbing your feet on a wool rug, and building an electric motor or light bulb. It wasn't the discovery of electricity per se that led to our electric society, it was the discovery that a wire that is carrying a current will move when it is put in a magnetic field.

It is quite possible for them to discover that sticking two dissimilar metal objects in a boiled potato got warm when they touched each other, but this is a long way away from understanding what electricity is. If static electricity and lightning didn't clue them in, there is not much inherent in this warming effect that would be much different. There is nothing really obvious to link static electricity with whatever it is they could detect from two electrodes in a potato.

But it does beg the question be asked, 'What exactly would they see from this? What effect would they observe? What would it lead them to conclude?' In retrospect, now that we KNOW it is electricity, and what we can do with it, the conclusions are obvious. We know what we are looking at, from past experience and knowledge. But what conclusion would THEY come to, in the absence of any other knowledge?

The discovery of how to harness electricity was founded on a great deal of scientific exploration and discovery. It was built on a critical mass of knowledge, that came from a critical mass of thinkers and scientists, that was recorded, communicated and taught over time. Many, many educated and dedicated scientists and engineers had to connect the dots.

So, if the only factor is the discovery of ... what, the heating effect? ... of electricity via potato, the answer would be 'not much to write home about'.

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