Beyond Electricity

Omnis

Cadet
Joined
Jan 26, 2012
While reading the novelization of "Battlestar Galactica 1980: Galactica Discovers Earth" several years back, I vaguely remember coming across a passage where one of the characters states that a sophisticated computing device used by the Colonial Fleet "is not powered by electricity."

This brings me to my question: would it be theoretically possible for a civilization to advance technologically beyond the need for electrical power in the same way that our civilization has advanced beyond the need for, say, steam power? Are there any alternative forces we could use in powering our machines? Magnetism? Gravity? Sound waves? Some force not yet discovered?
 

James Coote

Cadet
Joined
Feb 1, 2012
Location
London
Electricity is used for two things, as far as I can work out:

Moving energy from A to B
Encoding data in electrical circuits

Taking the second one, chemical computers or biological computers that didn't make use of electrical impulses in nerve cells could one day replace silicon circuitry.

Equally some parts of quantum theory should (in theory) allow communication between components without needing to send electrons around

If you consider light not to be electricity, then I guess you could build computer circuitry from fibre-optics

Likewise, different electromagnetic waves could be used instead of electricity for energy transfer. Again it depends on how narrow your definition of 'electricity' is as to whether the whole EM spectrum counts

In some countries, natural gas is pumped to every home, but it is only used (burned) to power specialist applications such as cookers and hot-water boilers for heating, washing and bathing

At its core, cars and other motorized vechicles could be considered electricity free if another source of ignition, other than spark plugs, were used

For TVs, computers, phones, there exist screens that use natural light to illuminate them, but none afaik that can switch the pixel colours without taking advantage of the electrical properties of some material. Maybe again chemical/biological solutions could use heat to change the properties of materials and thus change the light they emit or reflect. Bioluminescence (algees, bacteria etc) could be used for (back)lighting

The wider context is that we use electricity where it is convenient / the best solution, but not everywhere. If aliens were aliergic to electric currents, I'm sure they'd be fine doing things another way

Oh and we still use steam power big time. All fossil fuel burning and nuclear reactor power plants are just glorified steam turbines
 
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