Technology

What Would Happen if We Lost the Internet for a Lengthy Period of Time, I Reached a Strange but Compelling Conclusion: The Food Distribution System Would Collapse

Currently, about 14% of the value of all U.S. purchases is cash. The other 86% is credit cards, checks, and a few other instruments (e.g. gift cards, cryptocurrency). In the current system, the authorization of credit cards and checks is done over the internet. Without the internet, stores will not be able to accept credit cards. They can’t call in for authorization. And they probably don’t have any of those plastic machines that make an imprint of the card. Even if they did, fraud will increase at any store that accepts credit cards without getting authorization for the purchase. And credit card companies might not even accept the purchase without authorization.

Can’t the company give authorization numbers by phone? No. They are not set up to do that anymore. They don’t have the personnel. Their system is not geared for phone authorizations in large numbers. And it would slow purchases too much at the stores. So that means no credit card purchases as the grocery store, if the net goes down.

A similar situation would exist with check purchases. Currently, authorization for checks is done by the internet. No net means no purchases at the grocery store with a check. If a store decides to take checks without authorization, they will be plagued by so many bad checks that they will be forced to rescind that policy.

Quickly, grocery stores and other retail businesses will realize that they can only accept cash.

Fine. Why not just go to the ATM for cash? No can do. Those devices also work over the internet. You would have to physically go to the bank, and withdraw cash. There will be a run on the banks, and they will not have anywhere near enough cash, nationwide. There simply does not exist enough physical currency for the nation’s economy to work. You can’t increase cash purchases from 14% of total value to 100% overnight.

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If the government tries to compensate by printing a massive amount of cash, the dollar will be greatly devalued. Economic catastrophe will result.

Stores will not be able to pay wholesalers and manufacturers for goods, because they will not have enough cash, and the cash they have will be difficult to transport to the seller. Nowadays, stores buy items from many different far-flung locations throughout the world. Cash-only means that many of these transactions will be impractical or impossible.

The grocery store shelves will quickly be emptied, as people spend whatever cash they have left on food. And then the shelves will not be replenished. The whole process of stores buying food and receiving shipments of food will be greatly slowed. As soon as any food arrives, it will be bought up at very high prices. The whole food distribution system will collapse without non-cash payments, which today are done mostly over the internet.

It could take months or years for the system to adapt and return to the former flow of goods to stores. The system might not recover before many people go hungry for months on end. I don’t think anyone realizes how thoroughly dependent modern commerce has become on the internet. But if the net ever goes down for an extended period of time. We will find out, to our great consternation.

How do you prep for this kind of disaster? Store food. Grow food. And keep a bunch of cash in small denominations in a home safe, (but don’t tell the wife).

For those too young to remember, some things we would have to return to:

  • Banking in person at a branch
  • Bank deposits, transfers etc taking around 5 working days to complete as opposed to instantly or the same day.
  • Back to being paid cash or cheque as BACS relies on the internet (see above).
  • Want to send a message to a friend? SMS, Snail mail, or pick up the telephone.
  • Want to play a game with someone — you’ll have to be in the same place.
  • Shopping trips become a thing again for everyone (groceries).
  • Prepare to spend a lot of time walking/driving between shops to compare prices (then going back to the first store as they had the best deal anyway).
  • Kids might actually have to knock on their friend’s house to see if they can “come play”.
  • Want to catch the latest episode of your favourite tv programme? — you’ll have to see it when it’s broadcast or set your recorder (and hope there are no last-minute schedule changes).
  • Binge-watcher? Yeah… wait for the DVD/Bluray release.
  • Having a discussion in the pub? — good luck backing up your arguments, no Google!
  • Libraries become popular again for people wanting to know stuff.
  • Conspiracy theories take a nosedive as the trolls can no longer spread their nonsense quite so readily.
  • News? Well… there are 24h channels for that I guess, but you won’t be getting Twitter/Facebook/Online news provider alerts with the latest headlines.

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Lost Book of Remedies pages

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Lost Book of Remedies cover

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One Reply to “What Would Happen if We Lost the Internet for a Lengthy Period of Time, I Reached a Strange but Compelling Conclusion: The Food Distribution System Would Collapse

  1. Actually I only leave enough in the bank to cover my utilities, plus a couple of hundred for miscellaneous online purchases. The rest I draw out in cash and do all of my local buying (including gasoline) with cash. I don’t even have a debit card or credit card. Each month I put back what I have left in my wallet before drawing more out of the bank. That is giving me a cash reserve to last several months.
    With no internet the stores don’t even know what to order and jit no longer works!

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