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View Full Version : I have a hypothetical question, humor me please


bloemmarc
03-02-2010, 04:03 AM
I love hypothetical analogies, so please humor me.

Did anybody see that movie 2012. I did, at the end of it when the ships are all sailing for the cape of good hope. A weird thought popped into my head. If a massacre of the planet like that happened and there were only a million survivors all on these very high tech ships, do you believe it would be possible for them to rebuild the world society as we have it now. What I mean by that is like technology. Do you believe the would be able to rebuild sky scrapers, cars, computers electricity, all the technology and buildings, medicine that we have now.

I'm sure that all of the best scientists, engineers and doctors would be aboard those ships, plus thousands of hi-tech equipment as well to do the job of rebuilding.



Please note to mods that this is not a question about 2012 itself, but a question on how society would rebuild itself after wards.

robeiae
03-02-2010, 04:58 AM
Well, it would take generations upon generations to get back to a similar population base, for just one large nation. Many things wouldn't be needed right off the bat. Skyscrapers? For what? There's an entire planet to live on. Television? Too much to do to start making sitcoms.

But technology could be re-achieved, especially given the head start they would have.

poetinahat
03-02-2010, 05:00 AM
First thing you've got to do is get the stereo hooked up. Then the fridge. Who wants to live in a post-apocalyptic world with no tunes and warm beer?

GeorgeK
03-02-2010, 05:03 AM
I'm sure that all of the best scientists, engineers and doctors would be aboard those ships, plus thousands of hi-tech equipment as well to do the job of rebuilding.
.

In short, yes they could but it would take time. The long answer depends upon who makes the list of people to save (I've not seen the movie, so I'm assuming there is some list like in high school religion/ethics courses, probably everywhere). If none of those doctors, scientists or engineers knows how to swing a hammer, lay brick, dig a latrine or raise a garden or livestock then it's going to be a long while. Having doctors and engineers is a luxury. It's a very nice luxury, but from a sheer survival standpoint, you first need water, food and shelter.

Don
03-02-2010, 05:10 AM
They'll save all the politicians first, so you'll end up with an island full of misfits and incompetents waiting around for the skipper and first mate to do everything.

Sounds like the makings of a sitcom to me.


Three-hour tour, my ass.

mscelina
03-02-2010, 05:12 AM
Well, engineers would probably know how to build things, n'est ce pas? Heck, I have a background in theatrical design and I could not only lay out a blueprint on paper, but build the darn thing and make it square. (Then I could beautify it with styrofoam and mud and paint and no one would ever know, but I digress...)

The primary concern IMO would be rationing the remaining safe food and water supplies until the cycle of plant and animal life could be resurrected. While a few years living on Doritos and Twinkies doesn't sound all that pleasant, the primary focus of any remaining humans would be to insure the safety of those supplies and resstablishing a safe environment for raising fruits, vegetables and livestock.

poetinahat
03-02-2010, 05:12 AM
Sounds like the makings of a sitcom to me.
And the two-party system will be revived: The Gingers vs. the Mary Anns.

Don
03-02-2010, 05:16 AM
Who's the blue-stater, Ginger or Mary-Ann?

Don
03-02-2010, 05:17 AM
I wanna go on Celina's boat. Sounds like she's been reading apocfic. :D

Scoody
03-02-2010, 05:31 AM
Who's the blue-stater, Ginger or Mary-Ann?

Ginger of course. Mary Ann is from fly over country.

GeorgeK
03-02-2010, 05:32 AM
They'll save all the politicians first, so you'll end up with an island full of misfits and incompetents waiting around for the skipper and first mate to do everything.

Sounds like the makings of a sitcom to me.


Three-hour tour, my ass.

Don't forget the telephone sanitizers.

Slushie
03-02-2010, 05:39 AM
Were I to survive the apocalypse, that last thing I'd care about woudld be skyscrapers and cars and tv. I'd get a girl to come with me to the nearest liquor store, then we'd go to the beach and get drunk off rum while feasting on the woodland creatures I shoot with my newly-acquired AK.

Don Allen
03-02-2010, 06:20 AM
Vaudeville would return.... Life would be worth living again....

Albedo
03-02-2010, 06:51 AM
In 2012, most of the survivors were billionaires (the ones with the money to fund the ark program), with I assume enough competent technical staff to keep the show running until they made landfall. What would happen in the aftermath, with such a skillset imbalance? The hired staff, the ones with the tech and guns: a new ruling class. All those billionaires would be rediscovering the lifestyle of a villein if they wanted to eat. Someone's got to till the soil. (http://www.angryflower.com/atlass.gif)

DavidZahir
03-02-2010, 07:01 AM
Okay, an interesting enough scenario to contemplate.

Now, I haven't seen 2012 so the state of the world is something to be considered. What kind of land is available? What has happened to weather patterns? From the trailers, this sure looked like an Extinction Event in which truly large numbers of living things would die amid the various cataclysms. So how much food has been preserved with which the survivors must...er...survive? Then they have to find somewhere to go eventually. Ships need repair. Populations (hopefully) grow. With a couple of dozen really large vessels we'll still need to find a port sometime.

But assume that random ecological factors are in our favor. The next problem is the society being formed from a tiny fraction of a very large population--even five million survivors makes up one tenth of one percent of the current human race. We went into shock following the Influenza Outbreak of 1918 and that was peanuts in comparison. The real question is whether society's members can keep each other from going mad--of if enough of them can keep enough from going mad, because a certain percentage are gonna lose every marble they've got left in a year or three. Let us hope relatively few of those gain access to weapons!

But assuming that the ecosystem does us a favor and we manage to stay sane, forging a new social identity with a minimum of tumult (frankly, sounds like winning the lottery grand prize twice in a row to me)--rebuilding is still gonna be tricky. Very tricky. All the easy-to-extract metals are gone, used up. Yeah, we can use substitutes but the best of those require a very high tech base. Are there any low-tech alternatives to tin, iron and the like? Can't think of any off-hand. Not that are anywhere near as useful. Scavaging can only go so far. To be sure, knowing all kinds of useful science and engineering helps, but without the infrastructure and lacking the easily-accessible raw materials...

Methinks rebuilding our current level/form of technology might be impossible. Unless the Vulcans land and help us out, we're doomed to either develop some utterly new way to use our science (and fast, before it is forgotten) or return to something like the Stone Age.

Albedo
03-02-2010, 07:08 AM
Let's not forget as well that


MAJOR, RIDICULOUS SPOILERS


Africa survived unscathed, because its tectonic plate lifted or something. So, our boatload of billionaires are going to kick off their brave new world by disembarking onto a continent with over a billion surviving inhabitants and 300 million surviving AK-47s. Don't worry, I'm sure all those intact nation-states are going to bow down and accept colonisation a second time! Nothing can possibly go wrong with this.

benbradley
03-02-2010, 08:17 AM
I love hypothetical analogies, so please humor me.

Did anybody see that movie 2012. I did, at the end of it when the ships are all sailing for the cape of good hope. A weird thought popped into my head. If a massacre of the planet like that happened and there were only a million survivors all on these very high tech ships, do you believe it would be possible for them to rebuild the world society as we have it now.
Yes. As long as there are a few thousand humans (I remember something like that in the novel "Battlefield Earth"), or whatever the minimum is for a "viable population" genetically, then yes, it may take many, many generations, but it could happen. Just a few thousand people who have lived in modern times, know what's possible and have average knowledge could do it in a few hundred years.

For a million people, you've got a bigger population to jumpstart things, so you'd cut out a few generations.

Jumpstarting technology will be interesting. Electric generators and light bulbs will be some of the first "technological" things. Manufacturing from scratch high-tech things such as modern computers will take the longest, as these things rely so much on other technology. Plants to manufacture modern semiconductor chips cost probably a billion dollars and have huge amounts of air filtering to keep the slightest bit of dust out, and designing a thumbnail-size chip with 100 million transistors takes a pretty decent computer, so it takes a lot to "bootstrap" high-tech.
While a few years living on Doritos and Twinkies doesn't sound all that pleasant, the primary focus of any remaining humans would be to insure the safety of those supplies and resstablishing a safe environment for raising fruits, vegetables and livestock.
They might not even do livestock, depending. They'll know that using the same land for fruits, vegetables and grains to directly feed people is much more efficient than for it to grow grass to feed cows, and the plants are healthier than hamburgers anyway.

Since modern agriculture techniques are known (or at minimum we know what CAN be done), food would be plentiful in a few years and the population could grow at a humongous rate. According to Superfreakonomics, the growh of the human population in the last few centuries is mostly due to greater efficiencies in agriculture. And the more people you have, the faster things will be invented or reinvented, and the larger number of these things will be manufactured.

bloemmarc
03-02-2010, 09:43 AM
Wow, that's quite a variety of different answers. I personally believe that before they boarded the ships that they would have packed all of the essentials that would be needed to jumpstart the modern world again. Of course, it will take time, but I see no reason why it couldn't happen in time again.

As far as there being no more metals, or even oil to use again, you'd have to remember that all of the lands would be reshaped and reformed, including lands that had been buried in the deep. Who knows what treasures they may hold?

Plot Device
03-02-2010, 08:38 PM
I saw the movie 2012. Really cool kind of a bullshit movie -- exceptionally good bullshit movie. Mindless popcorn fun, as they say.


SPOILERS: As the film unfolded, we of the audience assumed (as per the deliberate red herrings strewn about by the director) that the government was building giant space ships. However, the real deal was that they were building giant arks. We of the audience never knew they were arks until John Cussack and his family finally made it all the way to China and to the Himilayan Moutains where the ships were beig secretly built. When they finally beheld the ships for the first time, one of John Cussack's son's said: "Dad? Why are there anchors hanging off the ships?" And Cussack said: "Because they're not space ships, they're arks." And that's when we ofthe audience had to readjust our understandig of what the terrible impending planetary event was going to be, and also readjust our understanding of how our heroes were going to survive it.




As for your question, I say no.

My perspective here is that if there were only a few hundred thousand people who survived on board those three super-tech arks, there would be no NEED of skyscrapers and for very large and very dense human cities the size of New York or London or Calcutta. There would also be no need of superhighways to interconnect all those not needed cities. (Sir Rob of the Vowels has already noted extacly these same observations upthread in Post #2.)

We would have to rebuild our new society as a heavilly agrarian one. As has also been noted, we would have to structure this new agrarian society either as a feifdom, or in some kind of socialized system of shared work. But such a society would involve los of small to medium-sized towns of mostly farming activities. Big cities would be non-existent. This mostly rural lifestyle of mostly small to medium towns would last for centuries.

Now I'm not saying we'd be livig in the dark ages. We'd maintain education and a certain standard of living (such as indoor plumbig and electricity) via the preparedness of whatever we brought on board the arks. But dense dense cities of hightech extravaganzas like Las Vegas and Broadway wouldn't exist at all. (And I know Bradway isnlt a city, but I'm focusig on the insane amount of electricity we pour into the lights of Vegas and the lights of Broadway.) Energy would be a huge issue. We would need an energy supply to activate and maintain for our new agrarian lifestyle. And I would hope that out of all the thngs they packed, a way to produce energy would have been of the highest priority.

It has also been noted upthread that we would not have as many critical raw metals in the ground as we did 400 years ago when the first signs of industrialism began to make their debuts on the scene of human society. Iron is growing very scarce, as is copper. And then there's oil (don't get me started on the oil!!!! --trust me!! You do NOT want me to start preaching about oil!!!! see my signature). Our current lack of metals would not allow such a free flowing and meandering repeat of the whole Industrial Revolution with the same luxury of excess in metal usages as we evidenced all through the past 350 years.

As for your suggestion that maybe new and hidden stores of metals could be thrust upward for us via the upheaving of all the Earth's techtonic plates, that's quite a dream, but I don't think it's realistic. Now I'm not a geologist, but it's my understanding that a) we have found all the deposits capable of being found, even the super deep ones which are all hovering just a few hundred yards above the first layers of magma where the crust ends and the mantle begins, and b) the formation of metal deposits requires loads of time and even the assistance of cosmic events like massive meteors smashig into the Earth, bringing with them massive loads of nickel and iron, etc. So it's my understanding that a mere shuffling of the plates won't spontaneously generate new metal deposits, but merely cause lots of nasty and inconvenient vulcanism.

Don
03-02-2010, 09:03 PM
Can anybody say "recycling?" There would be plenty of everything in the way of raw materials, after building a few smelters of various types. They're not necessarily high-tech. There'd also be lots of reuse and repurposing of materials as well.

Electronics would suffer over the long haul, but mechanically, with the knowledge we have to build on today, gadgets to extend productivity would be fairly easy... as long as there was a decent source of energy to power them. There'd certainly be no lack of internal combustion engines or electric motors to run them. Fuel and electricity would be the supply problem. Vegetable-oil powered diesels, anyone?

For example, a clothes-washing machine. Very complex as built today, but amazingly simple with a running creek and knowledge of basic construction techniques.

DavidZahir
03-03-2010, 01:11 AM
I still maintain the single biggest problem (other than some part of the globe not being a virtual hellhole of ecological instability for centuries if not millennia) is the social one. You're gonna see PTS on a scale undreamt-of before, with extreme behavior from fanaticism to widespread major depression to massive neuroses reaching epidemic levels. Methinks the available booze is gonna get sucked up fast, whereupon stills will become the major source of inebriation. Rampant alcoholism, religious extremism, etc. will fray the social fabric. Along with all this will be the genuine heroes struggling to do what is best for all, but even they are going to be traumatized beyond anything they've ever known.

If anything like civilization emerged, it would bear little resemblance to what we know.

Slushie
03-03-2010, 01:17 AM
Someone should write a book about this kind of stuff.

Don
03-03-2010, 01:26 AM
How big a list (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/List_of_apocalyptic_and_post-apocalyptic_fiction) do you need, Slushie? :) There's tons of apocfic out there.

LOG
03-03-2010, 01:39 AM
Seems to me the main problem would be resources.
What good is all the engineers in the world if you have no materials to build things with? They're all submerged.

GeorgeK
03-04-2010, 12:20 AM
I still maintain the single biggest problem (other than some part of the globe not being a virtual hellhole of ecological instability for centuries if not millennia) is the social one. You're gonna see PTS on a scale undreamt-of before, with extreme behavior from fanaticism to widespread major depression to massive neuroses reaching epidemic levels. Methinks the available booze is gonna get sucked up fast, whereupon stills will become the major source of inebriation. Rampant alcoholism, religious extremism, etc. will fray the social fabric. Along with all this will be the genuine heroes struggling to do what is best for all, but even they are going to be traumatized beyond anything they've ever known.

If anything like civilization emerged, it would bear little resemblance to what we know.

Stills to make ethanol require otherwise edible fruits and or grains. A still only is an option when there are excesses available. People are rather adaptable. That's why we've survived and prospered. I doubt any more than 10% would freak out to the point of being dangerous. The biggest problem would be our super specialization in terms of occupations. The best brain surgeon in the world will have to become a family practicioner because all those high tech machines in the operating room won't be functioning. The banker will have to dig trenches. The engineer who drw plans before will have to act as a carpenter. There is a learning curve and if your first crop fails (or any of your first 10) then someone is going to starve. Look at the Biosphere 2 in Arizona. They had the "brightest" engineers and scientists to design, build and live in it and they starved. The experiment was aborted because they didn't allow for outgassing of CO2 from concrete and they ridiculously, really stupidly ridiculously underestimated the work involved in growing food, caloric requirements for people and mind bogglingly ridiculously underestimated the space required to grow food. Any homesteader could have told them that a half acre is woefully insufficient to feed 8 people.

In an ark situation, most likely those making the decisions are going to be those same multi-PhD's with no real life experience and too proud to ask someone with dirt under their fingernails.

Don
03-04-2010, 12:55 AM
I think such a situation would rapidly separate the wheat from the chaff. There are a lot of people capable of banding together with others and weathering whatever may come. There are others who are perfectly willing to pull a chicken little or sit on their butts waiting for authority to fix things.

An ark filled with red-state rural occupants would fare far better than a boatload of folks from the heart of NY, LA, and DC. Rural life promotes self-reliance and the development of basic survival skills like gardening and hunting and mechanical creativity. City life, not so much.

I'd also hope I was lucky enough to land on a boat with a bunch of preppers.

AdamH
03-04-2010, 12:55 AM
First thing you've got to do is get the stereo hooked up. Then the fridge. Who wants to live in a post-apocalyptic world with no tunes and warm beer?

I'll be hanging out with you in this post-apocalyptic world. I'll bring the tunes since all that we'd probably pic up on stereo would be whatever military broadcast from the survival ships...unless it involves that delightful Robin Williams spinning tunes.


After that, I think the rest of us would have to first kick start the agricultural system. If they planned enough ahead, they'd have greenhouses already set up with optimum conditions within the ships so you wouldn't be pressured to start from scratch. With a disaster like they had, you couldn't assume you'd see land again for a long time...and fertile land at that.

After you get the plants going, you can ration what you have and look for land. (The waters will recede...there's only so much water on earth.) When land appears, you can set up a camp to start converting the land and giving a place for animals to roam and multiply.

The ark will be the shelter for awhile until it gets scavenged for parts to build a new city.

There may be small vehicles there but gas won't last forever. So we'd be reverted to horse and wagon eventually.

Electricity will run out unless they plan some part of the arc to use water currents or wind as a means to electrify the new world. Which would be possible.

At some point, maybe a couple generations, we'll expand out and look for a source of oil...or coal...or anything.

The tough part is that beyond a couple generations, knowledge to rebuild our technology would disappear in place of current necessities. Even if we keep an encyclopedia on how to build a car...and how to smelt metal and mould...and how to build the tools to heat the metal...and how to connect every piece to build yourself a nice Jeep...it wouldn't be easy. It would be like asking your average joe how to build a rocket ship. Yes, the instructions are there...but the expertise is not.

I'd see us revert to some hybrid agri-society with electricity. The middle ages meets Edison type thing. Electric lights in a shack.

We would eventually get back to where we were...but it would take a long time and it wouldn't be easy. But it would be near impossible without the technology on the arks.

Cyia
03-04-2010, 12:59 AM
Right after an event like that, even with the best minds, they'd be in the same place as Da Vinci. They know it works. They can make it work. They don't have the materials or facilities to build it. The Professor may have been able to make a car out of a coconut shell, but it would be a bit more complicated to refine materials for industry.

benbradley
03-04-2010, 01:39 AM
What happens partially depends on the (checking, we're "in the right place") political situation, what the leaders want for the future, and what the population is willing to go along with. Some may want to keep the population at a few hundred thousand, and if they succeed there will be no skyscrapers.

But surely there will be factions, and with enough land they will spread out, and some groups will have lots of offspring, whether for religious, social or other reasons. When the population reaches millions, tens of millions or especially hundreds of millions and some areas have grown to become "big cities," there will surely be skyscrapers.
Right after an event like that, even with the best minds, they'd be in the same place as Da Vinci. They know it works. They can make it work. They don't have the materials or facilities to build it. The Professor may have been able to make a car out of a coconut shell, but it would be a bit more complicated to refine materials for industry.
The collective knowledge of a few hundred thousand average Americans is MUCH greater than Da Vinci and "The Professor" from a 40+-year-old TV sitcom (oh my, how time flies). It's not IF things will happen, as they all know what Humanity is capable of, and many of them know the details of specific areas, but WHEN.

I don't see my viewpoint as optimistic, but rather just being observational.

Slushie
03-04-2010, 02:06 AM
I think the knowledge and understanding we have of our past achievements would be exponentially embellished into tall tales. Skyscrapers would become gigantic pillars of ice that reached into the clouds, constructed by a race of super-humans and then, eventually, gods.

Even though we would understand our technology, and then maybe our kids and grandkids would somewhat, after a few hundred years I think humanity would be back near square one as hunter-gatherers, figuring out how to steer an ox through a field. What good would understanding the workings of an engine be when there are no cars? What good would HTML coding be without a computer? I think time would whittle humanity's knowledge down to the barest essentials needed to survive, and all the extraneous information would be forgotten or turned into religious mantra.