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Author Topic: If the world came to an end what would you save?  (Read 2879 times)

Offline schneebfloob

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If the world came to an end what would you save?
« on: 02/02/2013 19:36:31 »
Hello all,

I had this idea and thought it might be interesting. Imagine if civilization came to an end tomorrow, and that you somehow were transported into the future where humanity survives but with none of our current technology or understanding of science.
What would you teach them? E.g. Would you teach them how to generate electricity, or about the germ theory of disease? How would you explain it? I am also assuming that the English language survives, or that you are able to communicate with them in their own language. The new future human civilization are what we would consider to be hunter-gatherers. They already possess the technology of fire, spears etc.

I couldn't find it having been asked previously using the search feature, but I'm sorry if it's been asked before. Anyway, I hope you enjoy. I'm looking forward to seeing some cool ideas.
« Last Edit: 03/02/2013 15:39:02 by schneebfloob »


 

Offline David Cooper

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Re: If the world came to an end what would you save?
« Reply #1 on: 02/02/2013 20:37:34 »
Judging by today's culture, I think hair-removal gadgets would be the most urgent priority, so everything should be focussed on producing the right materials for those: metals, cutting blades, wax, etc. Batteries might not be necessary as they could be powered by turning a handle.
 

Offline CliffordK

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Re: If the world came to an end what would you save?
« Reply #2 on: 02/02/2013 21:26:58 »
Humans, even without a shared language, will learn to communicate.  You mentioned that one might expect to be able to magically communicate, but the first hurdle may in fact be building a shared language, and the ability to communicate.

What would it take to get the respect of the tribal elders, rather than being considered the ramblings of an old psychotic fool?  Part of it might be just solving some every-day issues.   Creating fire from rocks.  Inventing a bow and arrow, heaven forbid, or access to clean water.  Perhaps predicting that water would be found at the bottom of a hole, and magically finding it.  Irrigation systems.

And, of course, the difference between humans being prey, and predators.

One would have to think a lot about what one's goals for humanity would be.  Also, a knowledge of what "blew up" might be important for steering the second generation to better decisions.

One might ask what happened to humanity about 2000 to 4000 years ago, that did not happen during the Eemian, or any time between then and now.  Or, even did not exist, say 10,000 years ago.

Agriculture might be a core of humanity.  Without it, humans are little different than a pack of wolves going from one meal to the next.  So, the question would be what would be the state of agriculture in this "future"?  Domesticating animals, food crops, and etc.

A written language, and a system of mathematics, and education for the young.  Without them, it is difficult to communicate from one generation to the next, or collaborate over distance.  The printing press also brought a tremendous boon in the ability to share books and media over time and distance.

Also, once one has a written language, one can write one's memoirs.  If the society hasn't invented fire yet, then they may not have use for a computer.  And, of course, I can't whip up the latest Intel Pentium processor in my garage.  But, perhaps letting the society know the basics of what has been built, and what could be built would be sufficient to plant the seeds for their rediscovery. 

Certainly a lot of things are interdependent.  So, a rudimentary knowledge of chemistry would be vital for materials processing.  Likewise, physics and engineering.

One would also have to instill some sense of law and justice.  Could one instill a sense of communal cooperation, rather than tribal squabbles and war?

Don't forget transportation and communication.  Telephones, Telegraphs, and Trains.

POWER.  If one had the ability to refine steel and bronze, one could certainly build a steam engine, and perhaps an internal combustion engine.  Or, a water wheel can be effective for milling.  And, of course, electricity, magnetism, and electromagnets.

Unfortunately, I can't remember everything that humanity ever knew.  But, perhaps knowing the scientific method of coming up with a scientific question, hypothesis, and experiment would help with the rediscovery of everything.  Or, even the discovery of novel things that haven't been discovered previously, as why frame society as rebuilding the past, when they would be truly building their own NEW future.
« Last Edit: 02/02/2013 21:41:56 by CliffordK »
 

Offline JP

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Re: If the world came to an end what would you save?
« Reply #3 on: 03/02/2013 00:11:43 »
If we really somehow lost all technology, we'd be extinct in the future, so it wouldn't be useful to teach anything.  Without fire, tools for hunting or agriculture, there would be no way to supply the calories we need to keep our massive brains running for long, and we'd probably all be dead in a matter of months.
 

Offline CliffordK

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Re: If the world came to an end what would you save?
« Reply #4 on: 03/02/2013 00:40:46 »
If we really somehow lost all technology, we'd be extinct in the future, so it wouldn't be useful to teach anything.  Without fire, tools for hunting or agriculture, there would be no way to supply the calories we need to keep our massive brains running for long, and we'd probably all be dead in a matter of months.

I disagree.
There is nothing fundamentally different between us, and our ancestors 12,000+ years ago, or even 100,000 years ago, except, perhaps over 10,000 times as many of us.

I suppose you could argue that even 50,000 years ago, humanity had some technology in the ability to make fire, spears, and in many cases bows and arrows.  Also likely technology for harvesting and storing foods for the winter.  However, there may have been some tropical climates that required little "technology" to find year-around food.

The biggest problem might be how civilization was to collapse.  Send 7 billion people out into the woods to hunt for food, and very quickly there would be little left to hunt bigger than a cockroach.

A KT type asteroid impact, or quick succession of impacts could cause global disruption in human technology, but may also send many other game species into extinction.  But, assuming some pockets of human survivors, species diversity would also return over the next few million years.
 

Offline JP

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Re: If the world came to an end what would you save?
« Reply #5 on: 03/02/2013 03:32:04 »
I suppose you could argue that even 50,000 years ago, humanity had some technology in the ability to make fire, spears, and in many cases bows and arrows. 

That's precisely the point I am arguing.  Our ancestors 100,000 years ago most likely had fire and tools.  (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Homo_erectus#Use_of_tools)  We can't make claims that our ancestors survived without these technologies, because fire and tools most likely existed before homo sapiens, and quite possibly enabled their evolution.    I'm suggesting (rather cheekily) that this question is probably unanswerable unless we assume a baseline technology, which is probably at the hunter-gatherer level (basic tools, fire and shelter), which were also probably already present when our species evolved.
 

Offline CliffordK

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Re: If the world came to an end what would you save?
« Reply #6 on: 03/02/2013 04:36:55 »
It is possible that some things are so fundamentally human that they could not ever be lost. 

So, say you dropped a group of 2-3 yr olds on a tropical island with plenty of fruit, water, etc....  In less than one generation they would develop rudimentary tools, clubs, spears, hammers, cups, some kind of a shelter, and perhaps some kind of clothing (if cool weather dictated it).  They would also develop a language.  Fire? 

Perhaps the one thing one might wish to teach a lost future generation would be archaeology. 

One might forget how to smelt and forge steel.  But, if one could find something that was made out of steel, no doubt it would spur research into figuring out how it was made.  They may not know how to fly, but if they found an airport with hundreds of airplanes, then they would know that it was likely at least possible.  That is assuming they correctly interpret what a Boeing 747 is in a pre- Wright Brother era.
 

Offline schneebfloob

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Re: If the world came to an end what would you save?
« Reply #7 on: 03/02/2013 15:34:18 »
    I'm suggesting (rather cheekily) that this question is probably unanswerable unless we assume a baseline technology, which is probably at the hunter-gatherer level (basic tools, fire and shelter), which were also probably already present when our species evolved.

I'll establish your baseline: they have fire, spears etc. They are what we would consider to be primitive hunter-gatherers. Thank you for bringing this to my attention. I've edited my original post accordingly.

In addition you are the sole survivor of our time period. How you miraculously survive this cataclysmic event and end up completely unharmed in the future is not important. What matters is that civilization collapsed and all but our most basic technologies disappeared with it. You now have a chance to lead them all into enlightenment. Go get 'em tiger.
« Last Edit: 03/02/2013 15:47:01 by schneebfloob »
 

Offline JP

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Re: If the world came to an end what would you save?
« Reply #8 on: 03/02/2013 18:04:17 »
    I'm suggesting (rather cheekily) that this question is probably unanswerable unless we assume a baseline technology, which is probably at the hunter-gatherer level (basic tools, fire and shelter), which were also probably already present when our species evolved.

I'll establish your baseline: they have fire, spears etc. They are what we would consider to be primitive hunter-gatherers. Thank you for bringing this to my attention. I've edited my original post accordingly.


Actually, you not putting that in the post led me to think and do a bit of wiki-research into humans and basic tools, fire, etc.  Clifford also brought up good points about how much is innately human and whether a group of children stranded on an island would come up with tools.  I'm not sure there's a good answer to any of this, as it's probably impossible to say for sure how much evolution is due to tool/fire use and how much tool/fire use was due to evolving bigger brains.    Interesting stuff!

So with your new question, if they are hunter-gatherers, off the top of my head the biggest single technology would be agriculture, including domestication of wild grains if our modern grains have de-evolved.  I choose this because if I had one thing to teach them, it would be something to optimize how they develop in the future.  In order to efficiently develop technologies, they need permanent settlements where people can focus on researching better technology, rather than daily survival.  Agriculture enables this, and it's what historically occurred that allowed humans to go from tens of thousands of years with little advancement to many advancements on a relatively short time scale up to the present day. 

Construction and writing are probably also big ones to come next, since permanent settlements will require longer-term structures and without writing, it would be hard to record ideas for future generations and transfer ideas between settlements.
 

Offline CliffordK

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Re: If the world came to an end what would you save?
« Reply #9 on: 03/02/2013 19:21:47 »
There may be a minimum population density of somewhere around 1 Million people globally for civilization to flourish, although perhaps if the entire population was concentrated in one place, it might be possible to develop anyway.  Are Urban centers necessary?  And, of course, everything that is required to support urban centers.

I agree that Reading, wRiting and aRithmetic are key.

Plus Iron, Copper, Tin, Brass, and Bronze, as well as ceramics.

Is there any way to instill hard learned ethical lessons from the past into these people?  While I wonder if some religious principles are misguided, some of the principles such as not killing other people or stealing are important for the growth of society.  How did the not killing part get so obfuscated? 

The military, of course, has invested heavily in "progress", but there may be other ways to achieve the same end peacefully.

It may be difficult to convince a small tribe that they can actually kill all of the animals they hunt and depend on.  However, in many senses it is a huge loss to society every time something like the Passenger Pigeon is driven into extinction.  Even predators have their niche.  Perhaps livestock domestication was in part a response to over-hunting in the past.  And, of course, one should plan on using 90% to 100% of any animal that is killed, rather than 1%.
 

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Re: If the world came to an end what would you save?
« Reply #9 on: 03/02/2013 19:21:47 »

 

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