Quoting from Nafez Ahmed’s website:
So I did this exclusive interview for a feature article inspired by Ubisoft’s new console game, Tom Clancy’s The Division, with The Guardian. My interviewer, Guardian games and tech editor Keith Stuart, did a fantastic job of covering serious risks with funny, yet probing, questions.
It’s a tongue-in-cheek conversation, but it does cover some real issues.
HOW TO SURVIVE A GLOBAL DISASTER: A HANDY GUIDE
On 22 June, 2001, Tara O’Toole and Thomas Inglesby of the Johns Hopkins Center for Civilian Biodefense Strategies, organised a war game like no other. The two researchers, working with an array of bodies such as the ANSER Institute for Homeland Security, set out to simulate the effects of a biological attack on the US. The project was called Operation Dark Winter.
What they discovered was that the country was ill prepared to cope. Within two weeks there would be enormous civilian casualties, a catastrophic breakdown in essential institutions, and mass civil unrest. Food supplies, electricity and transport infrastructures would all collapse.
In short, the world would get medieval on America’s ass. And the same thing would happen all over the globe.
These days we’re spoiled for choice in terms of potential catastrophes. Natural and ecological disasters, nuclear weapons, terrorism, experimental technological accidents (“Oops, we’ve accidentally created Skynet”) – they’re all in the game. In 2008 a group of experts met at an Oxford University conference and suggested that there was a 19% chance of a global catastrophic event before 2100 (with super intelligent AI and molecular nanotechnology weapons at the top of the threat list).
1. DON’T HOLE UP ALONE WITH HUNDREDS OF TINS OF BAKED BEANS
Sharing and networks of cooperation will be needed to rebuild a complex society. Share your stored food and build relationships with those who can help.
2. YOU NEED TO GO RURAL … BUT NOT TOO RURAL
… Cities are wonderful when everything is functioning but, as The Walking Dead made clear, they’re lethal when there’s no order, electricity or infrastructure. … cities are found to be extremely vulnerable simply because there are so many supply chains that are interdependent, and so many people there with you who are also dependent on these supply chains. People will be competing with each other for these scarce resources, which creates violence.”
However, the other extreme – total isolation – may also not be a good idea, for the reason given above. You need a group of differently skilled people who can work cooperatively in order to build your own supply chains and flourish. So, we’re talking … small market town? “Yes,” says Ahmed, not altogether seriously. “Ideally you’d want to be somewhere in Kent.”
3. YOU NEED ACCESS TO RUNNING WATER AND AGRICULTURAL LAND
4. ESTABLISH COMMUNICATIONS
“If you wanted to forge a community and be resilient, you may not necessarily have to communicate with the wider world,” says Ahmed. “However, you may need to know what’s going on. The thing is, in a catastrophic scenario, you don’t know what communications are going to be up and running.”
He recommends solar powered radios and local groups build a local computer (internet) networks from salvaged Radio Shack parts.
5. DON’T NECESSARILY TRUST THE GOVERNMENT OR LAW ENFORCEMENT
All major governments have contingency plans in place to ensure their survival after a global disaster. In 2007, for example, George Bush signed into place the National Security Presidential Directive, which claims the power to execute certain orders in the event of a catastrophic emergency – President Obama also signed a National Preparedness executive order in 2012. The thing is, most of those preparations are classified – we won’t know what they are until it happens. What we can be fairly certain of, however, is that it will involve the suspension of constitutional government and the instalment of martial law. To some degree.
But here’s a slightly paranoid question: what if it has been decided by contingency planners that civilians are somewhat surplus to requirements? What if the security personnel aren’t actually on our side?
“Never 100% always trust the military – especially when they’re in your own territory,” says Ahmed.
Instead, we should be using our fledgling communication networks to gather public support and ask questions. “The fact is, we have democracy for a reason – there are checks and balances.”
6. YOU MAY HAVE TO BE SELF-SUFFICIENT FOR A LONG TIME
So you have your agricultural land, your solar powered generators and Raspberry Pi communications network, but the big question is: how long before civilised modern industrial society is rebuilt? Or in other words, how long before Netflix is working again?
“In a global pandemic scenario, you’re looking at a long time before everything is safe,” says Ahmed. “With influenza, for example, we’re talking about a lead time of several years before society can get to grips with it all. If you really wanted to stay safe, I think you’ll need to survive for a decade before civilisation sorts itself out.”