.33 As the Electromagnetic Pulse Ripped Through The City, He Saw It Was All For Nothing
It makes me just a little bit uncomfortable that everything I make these days is digital.
That’s not remarkable. Everything these days is digital!
But think about what that means and it gets scary. Digital means made of ones and zeros, which means storage on a computer drive, which means electricity is required for it to exist.
Every blog post, every web comic, every YouTube video, every short film, every song (that isn’t printed on vinyl) - all of it breathes electricity. Take that away and all digital art is suddenly rendered lifeless, inaccessible, put into suspended animation.
(Even movies stored on 35mm prints aren’t safe - you need electricity to run the projector!)
To enjoy anything I have made (including this newsletter!) you need 1) electricity and 2) the internet.
And I’m not sure either of these things can be taken for granted.
Just last week here in the UK there was a power cut that affected more than a million people and shutdown transport infrastructure. There was one in New York earlier in the year that had people trapped in elevators, a horrible thought if ever there was one.
These are rare and usually last only a couple of hours. But what happens if they go on for days, or weeks…or longer?
If that sounds laughable to you, go ask the residents of Kashmir - except of course, you can’t - they’ve had all communications severed by the Indian government for a week now.
We know things like the Stuxnet Virus exist - with the power to shutdown power plants and telecoms networks - not to mention invisible particles from space that cause Bit Flips.
Or, to take a step into science fiction, what about a giant electromagnetic pulse, detonated above a city, that instantly wiped every disk within a 100 mile radius?
OK, if that feels far-fetched, consider the very real problem of format obsolescence. Who’s to say that my videos won’t end up trapped, like mosquitos in amber, on the 2030 equivalent of the MiniDisk?
Sometimes I wonder how it would feel to watch your life’s work wiped from the earth - or trapped in a locked box, the key lost long ago.
Novelists, poets and painters know, at least, their work could survive them by some centuries. Paper never goes off.
We cannot escape the fact that we’ve built a civilisation that cannot function without the internet and electricity. We are all caught in an invisible technology trap - what other choice do we have?
Sometimes, when I am not worrying about my work being wiped, I fantasise about destroying it.
A few times in the last year I have come close to deleting my YouTube channel and every video on it, for good. Then deleting the backups and project files on my hard drive.
An act of madness? Maybe.
But, just as life and death are two sides of the same coin, destruction is the ultimate expression of creativity.
Destruction creates room for new work. Destroying your old work declares, more powerfully than anything else, “I believe my best work is ahead of me!” - a radical expression of faith and abundance.
The only things stopping me are knowing that a lot of people find comfort and inspiration in the Long Game videos and that other artists put love and effort into Parallax.
But who knows, I might change my mind one day!
Last week’s letter resonated with a lot of you, thanks to everyone who wrote in.
On Friday I finally wrapped on the big series I’ve been working on all year. It feels great to have it finished and I’m really proud of it. But I also can’t wait for the feeling of a fresh start I will have as I arrive at my desk on Monday.
Until next Sunday,