The Blackout Project: A day without electricity
Back at the CyberShock event held a few weeks ago, I was exposed to the likelihood and impact of the absence of a nation's essential services that we take for granted because it had been integrated into a way of life we simply expect.
While at the event, the event organisers proposed to me on whether I would take up the challenge to be part of The Blackout Project: A 24-hour experiment on what it feels like living hacked.
Intrigued by what I could experience, I swiftly took up the challenge, and had to decide on which of the five services would go offline. These five services were namely Water, Power, Telecommunication, Finance and Transportation.
As a blogger and gadget enthusiasts, the absence of telecommunication would have the greatest impact. While I can still leave technology as a whole when going on camping trips, the fact that I will not be able to use my devices in a well-connected cityscape is something that tickles my fascination.
During the 24 hours, I will find out how dependent am I on the essential service of telecommunication in a country that is nothing if not technologically-connected. To add to the challenge, I will also go 24 hours without power, which will only increase the impact.
During this experiment, everyone else will still live their life as per normal. As an isolated simulation, I will experience what it is like to living hacked and draw up a list of what can be done if one has to live without power or telecommunication for 24 hours.
0000hrs - 0959hrs
At around 4am, I woke up in an uncomfortable state of sweat and realised that my air-conditioner was not working. The feeling of lying on a pillow soaked with one's sweat is disgusting - what a way to start the experiment.
Inspection of the power box concluded that it was not a power outage that result in my uncomfortable awakening, but that there was no power at all, I am now in the Black-Out Project.
First things first, I went to my living room, opened the windows to allow the natural cool wind in and continued to rest.
I woke up, still feeling slightly uncomfortable from the disruption a few hours before, so I decided a nice shower would do the job of making me feel better. But then I realised that without electricity, there was no hot water to shower in.
I thought to myself that the disappointing and bone-chilling shower had set the tone for the rest of the day, as other modern appliances in my house are now rendered useless.
Without the television, the fan or the computer, I diagnosed myself with extreme boredom. And thanks to the famous Singapore weather, I wondered why I showered in the first place.
With sweat trickling down my face and neck, I decided that it was time to leave the house for the rest of this experiment.
This made sense since a home is first and foremost a roof over one's head. And for the longest time prior to modernisation, that was its sole purpose.
To prepare myself for this impromptu urban adventure, I packed some food and drinks and decided on what would be some essential things such as a water bottle and so on. I also took my phone and power bank with me because the phone is like the modern day Swiss Army Knife.
Even without telecommunication networks, a phone still comes in handy as a watch, a torchlight, a map (if you have downloaded one to work offline), as well as others.
Try thinking about activities that you would normally do. If there was no power and telecommunication (which means no internet), many of our usual daily activities will be affected and become unavailable.
I thought about that deeply, and came to the conclusion that if I were to cross off all of the activities that I had done over the past 6 months that required power or telecommunication, then I simply had done nothing at all. This is how dependent I was on 2 invisible forces that are so fundamental to how my life operates.
I resisted turning off my phone's airplane mode, which would ruin the experiment, and that feeling truly gave me a new found appreciation for all of my activities that is powered by this luxury. Even mundane activities, such as lazy scrolling through Facebook are to be appreciated.
There must be much more that we can do in Singapore knowing that there are those around the world who have not even experienced the benefits of power and telecommunications and yet have lived their lives fuller than most of us, .
During the next 6.5 hours, I enjoyed activities that are without the need for power or telecommunications and I compiled a short list below of things that you can also do in Singapore's great outdoors.
It's back to basics. Take a stroll, a jog, or cycle across parts of your neighbourhood. You have got nothing better to do now, and it is certainly good for your body. While this can be done everywhere, I would recommend coupling this activity with the following.
Exploring Singapore's Nature Trails
Singapore is a green city, but many Singaporeans are forgetting that. While we see new HBDs and condos rising everyday, there are still hidden pockets of nature that are just waiting to be explored.
The National Parks Board of Singapore deserves more credit for what they had done in ensuring that there is still natural beauty in our small island. Their website lists all the available trails in Singapore, including 4 Park Connector Networks, 33 Parks, 5 Gardens Trails and 4 Nature Reserves. Each also comes with a downloadable brochure that will ensure that you will not miss anything out of your trip.
*I should start a mini-series covering all 46 nature trails, hmmm....
There should be one near you, and you should definitely check it out before you are in my situation. Because without power and telecommunications, one will not be able to exercise a bad habit of only finding out information after knowing it is needed.
The luxury of "googling" something is gone, and what's left could be the knowledge that you have and the people you may be with.
It is also recommended to only travel to a nature trail closest to your home as you will need to know how to return back and do so before Sun sets. This is because without power, the city of Singapore will be transform into a dark urban jungle at night.
Without the army of lamp posts which stands in attention all across our country, security and safety risks are ever more present.
And while this effect will remove the blanket of light over Singapore, thus revealing the awe-inspiring star-lit sky, it is still best to enjoy the sight at home.
This may seem simple, but it does breathe new life into places that you have been to and are bored of. With a camera, your focus has now changed.
Instead of looking for directions or windows shopping, your attention has now been focused to the things that you want to capture with your camera, and because of that, a place that you may frequently numerous times to the point of boredom will suddenly bring about new experiences.
Taking pictures can also come in handy from a survival stand-point. If the experiment is reality, I will take photos of potential points-of-interest that will help me survive. Photos of my surrounding area can be used for me to review what my next best move is.
There is just so much one can do alone. And on my way home, what was thought to be an empty box of furniture is filled with warmth not powered by electricity, but by love.
I was able to get the rest of my family to join my on the last part of this challenge. With modern technology incapable of providing us entertainment that usually separates us, we had to source for other means for the time to pass. Remember the times of board games, cards games, or simply the good old family talk? I bet many of you, just like me, have not had a family activity for quite some time.
The photo above was some of the games that we played, but of course this photo was taken after the experiment had ended, because during the experiment, we used some leftover candles to lit up the room.
As of midnight, we ended the experiment together. I believe we all grow a bit closer because of it and gained a new found appreciation for the conveniences we take for granted everyday.
What the Black-Out Project had shown me was that the absence of power and telecommunication will greatly impact virtually everything that we "rely" on to go about our daily lives. It highlighted the fragility of the modern everyday life - one too easily disrupted by unforeseen trivial inconveniences.
One simply has to look to the common public transport delays and the occasional bad weather to witness such disruptions to the Singapore lifestyle that seems to run like clockwork.
However, it also shows me that we can ultimately adapt and live without the luxury of power and telecommunication much like our forefathers did in their generation. And while the immediate impact will be harsh, we can still survive by going back to basics.
My last take-away from the Black-out Project is the reinforcement of the statement that there is more to life than staring at the desktop screen at work, staring at the television screen at home, and staring at the smartphone screen for everything in between.
Without it, the hidden barriers that divide what could be quality family time are removed. The seemingly all-consuming technology is temporarily absent for us to appreciate the other things in life.
And every once in a while, we could all use a break and return to what's most important.