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View Full Version : Logistics of Isolation: Help me Build a City



Calinero
2013-04-13, 04:40 PM
So, this is an idea I'm working on, and I don't know yet if I'm using it for a novel or a campaign. Quite possibly both.

My setting idea begins with modern day Earth. At some point in the not very distant future, someone begins messing around with magic--perhaps in the form of superscience, perhaps as Ancient ritual, who knows. The point is, magic is awoken--but magic here is fed by the Void. It starts eating away at the world the more it is used.

The setting in which I want to tell my story is a large city--perhaps New York--which has been cut off from the rest of the world by the Void. They have been on their own for at least a few decades, probably longer--I don't know yet if I want there to be people who can remember a time before the city was cut off. If so, it should be a distance memory. Magic use is forbidden outside of very special circumstances, mostly powering devices the city needs to stay alive and catching other magic users.

My issue is that I need to figure out what this city would realistically end up as if it were cut off from the rest of the world. A few things I can already tell--there would be no cell phones, for example, but people might be able to hook up landlines. It is unlikely that their reserves of fossil fuels would last for long, so there probably aren't cars still in use. The power grid would still be in place, and they could probably provide electricity either via solar power or limited magic usage.

But, what about food? How much land space would a city the size of New York need to provide food for itself? How many farmers? How many bullets and guns would be inside the city, and how capable would people be of making more? What things do we take for granted that would disappear without the outside world? There's a lot of logistical questions to answer, and I need advice.

What do you think this city would be like?

Geordnet
2013-04-14, 03:23 AM
Well, it wouldn't be pretty. You'd have the onset of complete anarchy within days of isolation, followed by rampant suicides and cannabilism after a couple months. There's a high probability of raging fires at some point, but thankfully the lack of power mitigates that risk.

Assuming enough people survived and managed to get together to maintain minimum viable population, and they managed to find some grain seeds, and they managed to secure central park from looters, then it's possible they could survive in the long-term.

After a long period of time, things will have settled down quite a bit. Civilization would congregate around Central Park, or whatever the largest area of cropland in the city is. Building on the park would be strictly forbidden though, so people would live in old patched-up buildings in clusters along its rim.


There's no way the power grid is going to be restored with the resources available, ever. Every solar panel available would doubtless be put to good use, but their DC currents are far too small to provide the kind of power like in the old days. Instead, power would be mainly distributed though batteries. Some people might have their own, personal solar panels, but most would probably be gathered in "power stations" where people buy new batteries. (There would be so many old car batteries lying around that they'd never run out of batteries to charge.)

That still doesn't help much more than for personal use, though. (And not at all for any AC appliances.) Added to this might be Human power plants, where people in tredmills (http://www.greydragon.org/trips/Denmark%20Medieval%20Center/medcenter004.jpg) run scavenged electric motors in reverse. This would be used just for industry though, such as power tools or arc welding, due to the significant effort it would take and the erratic frequency of the AC being generated.


Life would be harsh, medieval even. 90% of the population will have to labor in the fields, just like in the old days. Only, unlike in the old days... They won't even have oxes to pull their plows! They'll have to plow the fields by hand! :smalleek:

Well, thankfully not entirely by hand. :smalltongue: They will have some tractors to help them, you can be sure of that. If the engineers can't distill ethanol-based fuel from organic matter, they'll find another way. Human ingenuity is a wonderful thing. :smallbiggrin:

Speaking of which, I wouldn't count cell phones out just yet, either. Ham Radios small enough to fit in a backpack (even factoring in battery weight) aren't too difficult to build or scavenge, so some people will be carrying those around. (Certainly, any sort of patrol or posse will have at least one, and regularly check in with base.) People would even use stationary ham radio sets (much more common) as a replacement for landlines. Expect a lot of people to be fluent in Morse Code, as many as were in the age of the Telegraph.


For your average citizen, life would be work, work, and more work. People wouldn't have anything we take for granted today. This wouldn't bug them as much, though, since most of the time we waste on modern luxuries would be spent out in the fields, or in the machine shop, or wherever their place of work is. Down time would be mainly resting after exhausting days of labor, but what little free time remains would be spent socializing. Checkers, Chess, Poker, and other simple games would be the primary source of entertainment. There might even be some social events that involve entire communities! (Anyone up for a Hoe-down? :smallwink:)

But the most glaring absent thing would probably be meats like beef, chicken, and pork. Other than fish, the only animals that they'd have access to would be rats, cats, dogs, and pigeons. So, short of summoning some swine with sorcery, you'd have a domesticated flightless pigeon-offshoot as the primary livestock.

Also, all building and burning material would be scavenged from the city, which wouldn't be running out for a long time.


As for guns, I'd expect the primary firearm to be akin to a Matchlock Musket, but built with scavenged pipes. I'm not sure where they'd get the sulfur for the gunpowder, but I'm sure they'd find a way; whereas saltpeter comes from dung and charcoal comes from wood. There would probably be a few modern guns still around, but it wouldn't be feasible to make more ammo for them. So, maybe they're carefully-guarded in fortified armories, or something.

On the other hand, there will probably be plenty of body armor. It would be a simple matter to turn a modern aluminum skillet into a chestplate that would be impervious to the weak firearms that are available. So simple, in fact, that I can't imagine that anyone in a position where they expect to be shot at to go without one, and without a backplate and pot-helmet as well. (The helmet probably wouldn't be full-face though, that's a bit too complex and intricate.

Also given the close-quarters nature of the city, I'd expect that melee weapons would make a comeback. Slashing or hacking ones much more than piercing or skewering, given the nature of the armor they're up against and the lack of cavalry threats.

Although, that would then be counted by the old type of chain-mail that was literally made of chains sown to a leather backing. There would be any leather here, (except maybe dog leather) but the principle is the same.

So, your fully-armored warrior would look like this: Helmet made of a pot, with some coarse cloth hanging down in the back to protect the neck. Breastplate made of a few aluminum skillets deformed beyond recognition. Arms and legs protected by chains running lengthwise along the limb. Possibly some metal elbow and knee guards, and steel-toed boots. A shield made of plastic, layered thick enough so that it can't be punched through with a sword. Sword made of the strongest steel girders that can be cut and removed.



Of course, this is all long after the chaos has stabilized. If you want to know what it is like less than a generation after the isolation occurs, then just take any zombie apocalypse setting but replace the zombies with more hostile survivors. :smallamused:

Kaurne
2013-04-14, 10:37 AM
There are a few questions that need answering here:

How did this city get cut off in the Void, anyhow? How was the specific dividing line made? To some extent, this depends on plot reasons, but you need to consider the exact kind of area, what the boundaries are (at the edge of the city, is there just empty space?

Your mention of solar power means that the sun must still be there. Does the Void act as a kind of force field, preventing people from entering or leaving? Does it still get rain? If so, how?

And why did a city in particular get cut off? Was it coincidence? Was it a deliberate action that followed the borders of a city exactly?


- - -

As for New York; plot wise its probably not the best city to choose.

Basically (I may be making some assumptions here) you probably want multiple different communities to thrive in your city. This gives opportunities for conflicts, both military and political. If the parks aren't large enough to support a replacement population, even better; different park-communities will need to have some kind of friendly relations, at least at some points, in order for marriages to occur.

This means you need lots of different parks, all of significant size. New York isn't the best city for this. If you're going just with Manhatten, then you're only going to see a big community in Central Park, smaller communities in Inwood Hill, Riverbank Park and Morningside Park, and not much else, to be honest. The Central park community would dominate.

If you're using all of New York, you've got a few more options; there's large amounts of space in Riverdale and Bronx Park in the Bronx, Cunningham, Alley Pond and Victory Field in Queens, the Nethermead and Greenwood Cemetary, as well as Marine Park and Floyd Bennett Field, in Brooklyn, and a lot of Staten Island. In fact, you could make the Five Boroughs be five independent states, although I think there'd probably be 7 or 8 instead. Ironically, Manhattan might be the least powerful of these.

However, personally I don't think New York is the best choice. For plot reasons, firstly; it's quite hard to justify such an odd shape being cut off, unless it was deliberate (which means you need to explain why). It would be better if you had a city where you could take a round (or roundish) shape and say that was what was cut off.

Secondly, there are quite a few major world cities with more green space than New York. For example, look at London on Google Maps. You could make decent communities out of (just close to the City) Dulwich Park, Blackheath and Greenwich Park, Battersea Park, Clapham Common, Brockwell Park, Hyde Park, Regents Park, Hackney Marsh and Wanstead Park. If you expanded it to include more of Greater London, you could keep a roughly round shape and still get in a LOT of green space. If you make it say, out to the M25 (again, a very round shape) you'd have a huge amount of green space, including some actual farmland on the outskirts.

There'd also be no green space in the City of London, which is where the symbolic centre and heart of London is. Perhaps communities could compete for control of the City, but have difficulty holding it because you can't realkly grow food there?

The lack of guns would also make things interesting; there'd be a more medieval feel to everything. The train lines could be used for transport, both above ground and under it; desperate fights could occur over the ability to use the Underground. If you made a map showing all the tube stations, the links between then, and the green space, you could start getting a good idea of the strategic situation between communities, and the likely areas of conflict.


- - -

If you want to keep things in the US, this site: http://parkscore.tpl.org/rankings.php says that both San Francisco and Sacramento have more Green Space than New York does; maybe you could consider basing it there, instead? Using less-used cities such as Sacramento could also make it more interesting; everyone's seen post-apocalyptic New York before, haven't they? :smalltongue:


- - -

As for other world cities; if you'd prefer a more binary campaign, you could set it in Paris, with two communities based around Bois du Boulognes and Bois du Vincennes. Problem is, both of those are outside the small ringroad around Paris; inside there's virtually no green space at all. Berlin has a significant amount of green space, as does Rome.


- - -

If you want to have communities in conflict, remember this; the city is cut off from the outside world. While the communities might like to play up that they're willing to go to war, they're going to b very cautious because the population is going to be very low; a skirmish that leaves six young men (the most physically able, and thus most productive, age/sex group) dead might well be a terrible calamity for a community that forces them to sue for peace.

At the same time, population control is going to be a big issue. With only a certain amount of land available, the population will have a very absolute limit; you might see some communities having rather unsavoury practices to keep the population under control; you might even see something like in The Running Man, where you aren't allowed to live above 40 or so.

This, of course, offers great moral dilemnas for your players, contrasting their ideas for what is morally right with what is necessary to survive in this situation. If it's for a novel, then this will certainly make your readers think about the morality involved.

That's just a few thoughts of mine on the issue. I'm sure some of it won't fit with what you're trying to pull off, but hopefully you'll find some of it useful, or at least thought provoking.

P.S. If you choose to set it in London, here's something useful: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Parks_and_open_spaces_in_London

Hope it helps :smallsmile:

EDIT: Also, just saw your post on r/worldbuilding. You;ve got some good responses there.

Geordnet
2013-04-14, 03:52 PM
Concerning population control, I think a much more realistic system would be a limit on how many children couples are allowed to have. It's a much more morally sound one, and thus far more likely to be adopted, but there's still room for moral dilemmas concerning what to do if someone breaks the rules.


EDIT:
It's also the more practical solution, by far. People whom are too old to work still have possibly the most important job of their lives ahead of them: passing on their knowledge and experience to the next generation.

Also, seeing how 40 is well beyond the breeding age anyways, killing 40-year-olds isn't going to put a dent in population growth at all. :smalltongue:

(Besides, it'd be kinda pointless, since without modern medicine they're not likely to live more than a few years more anyways.)

Kaurne
2013-04-14, 04:10 PM
Concerning population control, I think a much more realistic system would be a limit on how many children couples are allowed to have. It's a much more morally sound one, and thus far more likely to be adopted, but there's still room for moral dilemmas concerning what to do if someone breaks the rules.

EDIT:It's also the more practical solution, by far. People whom are too old to work still have possibly the most important job of their lives ahead of them: passing on their knowledge and experience to the next generation.

Also, seeing how 40 is well beyond the breeding age anyways, killing 40-year-olds isn't going to put a dent in population growth at all. :smalltongue:

OK, in order:

1) How are they going to do this? Condoms would run out pretty quick, or go past their effective date, and I doubt they have the facilities to make new ones. Contraceptive pills will be the same, and I doubt that they'll be able to do any other methods of birth control. People like having sex. Without ways to prevent conception, you can't stop people from having kids.

2) They'll already have done that. By the age of 40, most people will be grandparents. We're talking about regression to a medieval society here, if not in political terms at least in social (maybe with a bit more equality for women, but not much). People will, in all likelihood, marry early, and have kids early.

People will also die younger as well. The sewage systems won't work properly, so epidemic disease will be far worse, and they'll have no method of producing modern medicines in any significant quantities. Accumulated knowledge may help, but you're still going to have a greatly reduced life expectancy.

And people will pass on knowledge earlier. Universal schooling won't stick around long; children will be more use farming. By the time they're 20, they'll have gathered all the knowledge they need for whatever job they will be doing; which, for 90% of them, will be labouring in the fields.

3) Yeah, because its going to get rid of anyone older than the age of 40, who are going to be a greater drain on resources; they're going to be ill more often and less productive.

OK, maybe it won't be as bad as I made out. But you're still going to see these kinds of problems. Life is going to be hard, sickness will be common, and people won't live that long. Ignoring infant mortality, people will probably live to 60 at best. By that stage, they'll definitely be grandparents and most likely great-grandparents. While it might not be mandatory, you might see people deliberately killing themselves once they reach 50 or 55 so they aren't as much of a drain on their family. It's what I would do in that situation.

Geordnet
2013-04-14, 06:46 PM
1) How are they going to do this?
The same way they enforce any other rule: by punishing offenders. :smalltongue:

By the time society stabilizes, this rule will have by necessity been absorbed into the culture. The constant glamorization from the media will be gone, and instead societal pressure enforces abstinence. Peoples' views towards sex will have changed, if only because it was necessary for survival.


Oh, and the high probability of death by childbirth will probably have some effect, too. :smallwink:


And people will pass on knowledge earlier. Universal schooling won't stick around long; children will be more use farming. By the time they're 20, they'll have gathered all the knowledge they need for whatever job they will be doing; which, for 90% of them, will be labouring in the fields.
Except for the fact that the people who won't have passed on their knowledge by that age have the most important knowledge of all: Science and Engineering.

Preserving the knowledge of the pre-isolation past is of the utmost importance. Someone has to understand how the machines work in order to keep them running. There will still be computers: laptops powered by lead-acid batteries, used mainly for record-keeping and computational analysis.

Society certainly won't have regressed totally. There will, at the very least, be enclaves of learning like old-time monasteries. Parents from all classes will try to get their children accepted to them, and that involves education.

In fact, their education system would probably be more rigorous and thorough than our modern one, since there's no red tape or teachers unions, and a 90% failure rate is acceptable if not desired. :smalltongue:

(They'd also start teaching earlier, when it's easier to learn. Expect to find preteens that know advanced algebra in institutions of higher learning.)



3) Yeah, because its going to get rid of anyone older than the age of 40, who are going to be a greater drain on resources; they're going to be ill more often and less productive.
I'll give you that they'll be less productive, but they won't be eating any more than everyone else. Actually, they might be eating less since they aren't working as hard. (To say nothing of the condition of their teeth!)

It's more or less irrelevant, though, since killing elders won't be enough without some form of population control (as in, something that keeps the population from expanding), and once population control is in effect the existence/absence of non-working retirees can be accounted for easily enough.

Kaurne
2013-04-15, 11:34 AM
The same way they enforce any other rule: by punishing offenders. :smalltongue:

By the time society stabilizes, this rule will have by necessity been absorbed into the culture. The constant glamorization from the media will be gone, and instead societal pressure enforces abstinence. Peoples' views towards sex will have changed, if only because it was necessary for survival.

Oh, and the high probability of death by childbirth will probably have some effect, too. :smallwink:

What do you mean, glamorisation from the media? People don't like sex because the media glamorises it, they like it because its ****ing awesome. In the absence of a lot of other modern recreation, people are going to be having more sex, not less.

Personally, I don't have much faith in society to enforce abstinence. I personally think societal pressure would be more successful in encouraging older people to kill themselves to reduce the number of mouths to feed, than it would be at discouraging people from having sex.

Or, of course, they'll simply practice forced abortions and infanticide when necessary. In fact, that seems like a much more likely solution. Again, opportunities for moral questions.


Except for the fact that the people who won't have passed on their knowledge by that age have the most important knowledge of all: Science and Engineering.

Preserving the knowledge of the pre-isolation past is of the utmost importance. Someone has to understand how the machines work in order to keep them running. There will still be computers: laptops powered by lead-acid batteries, used mainly for record-keeping and computational analysis.

No, it's not. Producing food is of the utmost importance. Ensuring you've got a decent water supply so that you don't all die of cholera is of the utmost importance. Being able to defend yourselves from other groups who want to steal your food is of the utmost importance.

This is a common idea people have about apocalyptic scenarios, that there will be some kind of mass movement to preserve knowledge. That's not likely. They'll be basic knowledge retained, and maybe some stuff like medicine might be focused on, but otherwise, it ain't happening. Especially once all the modern books start to rot real quick, and all the computers break down.

Why do you need a laptop for record keeping when you can use lots of other media that don't require electricity supplies to use? That's aside from the fact that the laptops probably won't be running. Also, computational analysis? What the hell are people going to be doing that for? This is a society that'll be mainly focused on agriculture. Computational analysis won't be much use; you're better off with the knowledge at farming and such people will pick up by themselves. That's if any knowledge of computers survives after all this time, which it may well not (see below).


Society certainly won't have regressed totally. There will, at the very least, be enclaves of learning like old-time monasteries. Parents from all classes will try to get their children accepted to them, and that involves education.

...what? Yeah, I think you're vastly overestimating how many people are likely to survive (scroll to the bottom for me to expand on this). Unless we have large amounts of modern farmland on the outskirts of cities, along with the agricultural tech that comes with them, you're not going to see enough of a food surplus for neo-monasteries to pop up.. You might have one enclave. One, not multiple; and thats assuming they can somehow pursuade everyone to give up a some of their food to support these masters of ancient lore.

'All classes'. What the hell does that mean? There won't be a nice stratified class system; they'll be lots of people on the bottom and a few on the top, and not much room in between. Some kind of nobles, yes. Maybe a tiny (I'm talking a few families, tops) merchant class. A few people like doctors, advisors and such. It'll be small at the top.

Either that, or you'll have a classless system with communal ownership and a few important positions, like, again, doctors.

Either way, you're not looking at mass education. You're looking at the upper classes getting education, of a limited kind, at best. Doctors might take on apprentices, and other trades might do likewise, but you're not going to see people being given a freaking classical education here. You simply can't afford to spend so much time educating children about things that'll never be useful to them when children could be helping in the fields or doing a hundred other useful tasks instead.


In fact, their education system would probably be more rigorous and thorough than our modern one, since there's no red tape or teachers unions, and a 90% failure rate is acceptable if not desired. :smalltongue:

(They'd also start teaching earlier, when it's easier to learn. Expect to find preteens that know advanced algebra in institutions of higher learning.)

Again, what? I don't think its red tape and teachers unions holding back modern education, but that's a political argument, so I'll ignore it, especially since you appear to be on the other side of the Pond. Instead, I'll focus on another thing in this section.

Yeah, when people say that its easier to learn earlier, then they mean things like language. Funnily enough, most kids can't learn advanced algebra (also, what the hell do you mean by advanced algebra? Any specifics? I'm British, and I think you're American, and we don't classify maths that way, so I've no idea what specific level or topic you're talking about).

Sure, you can educate children to an insane degree. You can certainly make them good at memorising stuff. But making them be able to do complex mathematical problems? Yeah, that's difficult. Teen geniuses can do that, but they are just that; geniuses, and consequently extremely uncommon.

Hint: If society regresses and modern educational infrastructure falls apart, you're likely to see worse education, not better. Especially since they can't afford a 90% failure rate. That means 90% of children are going to spend a great deal of time working towards getting into this centre of higher learning, instead of spending that time learning how to farm properly, something that would actually be useful to them. A society on the edge can't afford to have nine out of ten children waste so much time they could spend learning their trade.


I'll give you that they'll be less productive, but they won't be eating any more than everyone else. Actually, they might be eating less since they aren't working as hard. (To say nothing of the condition of their teeth!)

It's more or less irrelevant, though, since killing elders won't be enough without some form of population control (as in, something that keeps the population from expanding), and once population control is in effect the existence/absence of non-working retirees can be accounted for easily enough.

Yeah, I'll accept that. It might be considered in lean times, but not regularly; like I said earlier, infanticide will be preferred.


- - -

Overall: I think you're missing something here.

Lets ignore the fact that the amount of people who survive to start farming green areas would be only a fraction (maybe a substantial fraction, but still a fraction) of the number of people who could support themselves on the green space in the cities.

Even if you take one of the greenest cities in the world (like, say, London) you're still looking at a population of, I'd estimate, between 4 and 6 thousand, if we're not using outlying bits of suburbia/farmland. If they were very efficient in using every bit of farmable land, maybe 8000. This will be in communities of no more than maybe 400, I'd say.

Let's take that best estimate. 8000 people. From a city of millions. Depending on the exact area covered, you could easily see a survival rate of 1/1000 to 1/500 or so.

Now here's a question: how many people do you reckon know how to fix a laptop? I'm not even talking about being able to adjust settings or fix software. I'm just talking about knowing how to fix the hardware when it goes wrong. How to repair a motherboard, or at least hook up a new one. How to set up a bank of backup hard drives. How to deal with all the damage that, say, 40 years of use can do to a computer.

Now consider how many of those people are good enough, and understand enough of the theory, to be able to explain to others not only exactly what to do, but teach them enough that when the teacher is gone, those he taught will be able to solve problems he never considered or mentioned.

Thought of that? Now look at that survival rate again. How many do you reckon will survive? Maybe one, two if they're lucky?

And, of course, that's ignoring that that person won't have a valued skill soon after the collapse. Medicine will survive because if a person says that they're a doctor, people will be willing to accept that person into the community because they know how valuable a doctor is, at least in the short term. But if a person says they're a computer engineer? That's not likely to win them a place. Doesn't matter how important it might be in the long term to have computers if you want better living standards, people won't care. They'll think in the short term, and they'll be correct to.

Even if someone does survive, the job they're most likely to be doing is labouring, because that's what almost everyone will be doing. Sure, in twenty years his knowledge of computers might be wanted (but probably not) but by that time, assuming he hasn't died, he'll have forgotten a lot of it, and might not have enough time to teach all of it before he dies of old age.

That's not even getting onto other things, like making lead-acid batteries and stuff. And all the people who survive will be people in the inner city who... probably don't have a lot of these kinds of skills. An awful lot of knowledge will be lost, and there's only a certain amount you can get from books; if you can even find the right books in the first place.

When I say regression to a medieval society, I mean it. This isn't going to be pretty, life is going to be nasty, brutish and short, and pretty much every modern convenience is going to go out of the window. There's room for maneuver, sure, but his world isn't going to have massive amounts of sophistication in it unless he comes up with some really good explanations.

Geordnet
2013-04-15, 02:57 PM
What do you mean, glamorisation from the media? People don't like sex because the media glamorises it, they like it because its ****ing awesome.
And how is someone going to know that without the media to tell them? :smallconfused:

I suppose they could find out for themselves, but it's easy enough to keep boys and girls apart from one another until they're of a responsible age. (Which will come on a lot sooner than it does in modern society, since childred who don't act responsible get whipped. Oh, and adults who don't get flogged.)



In the absence of a lot of other modern recreation, people are going to be having more sex, not less.
If a society reacts to isolation like that, it's going to die out.

Given that we're considering a society that did not die out, then it wouldn't have reacted like that.



Personally, I don't have much faith in society to enforce abstinence.
Does it work for the Amish?



I personally think societal pressure would be more successful in encouraging older people to kill themselves to reduce the number of mouths to feed, than it would be at discouraging people from having sex.
Perhaps, but it doesn't really matter. It's population growth that's the problem, and killing people well after breeding age doesn't put a dent in it.



Or, of course, they'll simply practice forced abortions and infanticide when necessary. In fact, that seems like a much more likely solution. Again, opportunities for moral questions.
The more moral questions there are, the less likely the practice will be adopted by a recovering society.

The only "moral problem" in enforcing abstinance would be "infringing on someone else's pleasure", which is basically in the same category as enforcing food rations against gluttony. The same can not be said for infanticide.


Oh, and both of those solutions would naturally evolve into a culturally-enforced abstinance after a while. Without modern medicine, or giving out extra food rations for non-sanctioned pregnancies, there's going to be a higher fatality rate amongst breeding-age women who practice recreational sex.

Therefore, natural selection will favor women who practice abstinance.



No, it's not. Producing food is of the utmost importance. Ensuring you've got a decent water supply so that you don't all die of cholera is of the utmost importance. Being able to defend yourselves from other groups who want to steal your food is of the utmost importance.
Exactly! :smalltongue:

All of these things rely on Science. Engineers build and maintain tractors, plan efficient land usage, and design secure storage facilities. Biologists breed better crops and maintain what little medicine there is, and in fact can devop new ones from availible sources. Chemists know how to turn old plastics and cleaning agents into explosives and useful materials.

And let's not forget everything to do with electricity... Would a pesant know how to make a radio from scavenged electronics? Or purify water with ozone? Or how rig a laptop to run off car batteries?


The societies which retain knowledge are going to thrive, and out-compete those which forget it. It's survival of the fittest, plain and simple; and in this case, the most technologically advanced societies are the fittest.



This is a common idea people have about apocalyptic scenarios, that there will be some kind of mass movement to preserve knowledge. That's not likely.
Agreed, but I doubt any society which is trying to recover will just toss knowledge aside. Even brutal "might makes right" societies would know enough to take the people who can fix their gear up as slaves.



They'll be basic knowledge retained, and maybe some stuff like medicine might be focused on, but otherwise, it ain't happening.
You vastly underestimate what kinds of knowledge can be practical.



Especially once all the modern books start to rot real quick, and all the computers break down.
Any books which survive the initial phase of chaos have a potential lifespan of many decades ahead of them, and there would be so many scrap electronics in the city that I can't imagine they'd ever run out of spare parts. (Within several hundred years, at least.)



Why do you need a laptop for record keeping when you can use lots of other media that don't require electricity supplies to use?
Paper can't do statistical analysis. It can't calculate anything you could possibly want to know in an instant. It can't tell you who your 10 least productive workers are, and by how much they're lagging.

It can't run simulations based on crop yields, notice patterns and warn you of probable crop failures, or tell you that your yield will probably be ten years down the line. It can't notice that someone's been secretly hoarding grain.



That's aside from the fact that the laptops probably won't be running.
They will be. Unless someone went and took a sledgehammer to each and every one of them, they will be.



Also, computational analysis? What the hell are people going to be doing that for? This is a society that'll be mainly focused on agriculture. Computational analysis won't be much use; you're better off with the knowledge at farming and such people will pick up by themselves.
You think computers won't help? Then you don't understand how they work at all.



One, not multiple; and thats assuming they can somehow pursuade everyone to give up a some of their food to support these masters of ancient lore.
Masters of ancient lore who can get their machines working again. :smallamused:



'All classes'. What the hell does that mean?
It means that the people on the bottom will see education as a means to get their children on the top.



Again, what? I don't think its red tape and teachers unions holding back modern education, but that's a political argument, so I'll ignore it, especially since you appear to be on the other side of the Pond.
I mean to say that the modern education system, no matter how well or poorly designed, is designed to impart universal education. This means that everyone has to progress at roughly the same rate regardless of ability.

But if you don't have to make sure bottom 90% in terms of intelligence won't drop out, you can design a system that imparts a greater amount of knowledge in a lesser amount of time.



Either way, you're not looking at mass education.
What I'm imagining is not as much as a mass education program as it is a massive filter to select the top ~5% of the population in terms of intelligence.

The rest of them would just get some cursory knowledge, and be set out on the fields (or wherever) at the earliest working age.



you're not going to see people being given a freaking classical education here.
Nor did I expect them to be. I expected something where experts are trained in specific fields from an early age.



You simply can't afford to spend so much time educating children about things that'll never be useful to them when children could be helping in the fields or doing a hundred other useful tasks instead.
But you can also not afford to not educate them about things which will be useful for them. How to keep the machines from breaking, for instance.


Sure, you can educate children to an insane degree. You can certainly make them good at memorising stuff. But making them be able to do complex mathematical problems? Yeah, that's difficult. Teen geniuses can do that, but they are just that; geniuses, and consequently extremely uncommon.
Exactly why you'd need to filter through so many people to find them! :smalltongue:


Especially since they can't afford a 90% failure rate.
Why the heck not? Failure means they're in the fields, which is where you think they should be in the first place. Success means that they're destined to become doctors, engineers, and scientists. 90% failure rate might be too low.



Thought of that? Now look at that survival rate again. How many do you reckon will survive? Maybe one, two if they're lucky?
I think that the survival rate among more intelligent people is going to be a lot higher than among less intelligent people. :smalltongue:



But if a person says they're a computer engineer? That's not likely to win them a place. Doesn't matter how important it might be in the long term to have computers if you want better living standards, people won't care. They'll think in the short term, and they'll be correct to.
They'll think "he could get the computers running again!"

People aren't going to automatically turn their backs on technology. They'll try to hold on to as much as they can, only dropping what they absolutely must in order to survive.



Even if someone does survive, the job they're most likely to be doing is labouring, because that's what almost everyone will be doing.
He'll be laboring to get the computers running again.

But I'll admit that computer engineering is going to be one of the skills which might be abandoned. Mechanical and Electrical Engineering certainly won't, though.



That's not even getting onto other things, like making lead-acid batteries and stuff.
Make? :smallconfused:

Scavenge. There's one in every car.



When I say regression to a medieval society, I mean it.
I think you underestimate the ability of humans to adapt.

I realize I'm probably being a bit optimistic, but I figured that the odds of anything surviving are so slim, that we might as well go for a best-case scenario. :smalltongue:

Kaurne
2013-04-15, 07:24 PM
And how is someone going to know that without the media to tell them? :smallconfused:

I suppose they could find out for themselves, but it's easy enough to keep boys and girls apart from one another until they're of a responsible age. (Which will come on a lot sooner than it does in modern society, since childred who don't act responsible get whipped. Oh, and adults who don't get flogged.)

People don't need the media to tell them sex is awesome. They can figure that out by themselves. I don't see how the media somehow educates people about sex. Pretty much everyone in my age group had figured it out by aged nine or ten, and we certainly didn't have access to much explicit stuff then. :smalltongue:

Also, 'responsible age' in this context, means never. I seriously don't think that people are simply going to say 'ok, we won't have sex'. Especially since family units will probably be the core of what survives.


If a society reacts to isolation like that, it's going to die out.

Given that we're considering a society that did not die out, then it wouldn't have reacted like that.

No, because the reaction is one that is pretty much universal. Human beings like having sex.


Does it work for the Amish?

I wouldn't know. Like I said, I'm a Brit, so I know next to nothing about the Amish. Still, if you can find any studies about the amount of sex the Amish have, I'd be intrigued.


Perhaps, but it doesn't really matter. It's population growth that's the problem, and killing people well after breeding age doesn't put a dent in it.

I've already accepted that, although some cultures did practice something similar in lean times.


The more moral questions there are, the less likely the practice will be adopted by a recovering society.

The only "moral problem" in enforcing abstinance would be "infringing on someone else's pleasure", which is basically in the same category as enforcing food rations against gluttony. The same can not be said for infanticide.

Historically, infanticide was a far more common practice among societies than enforced abstinence was, even among societies with extremely limited resources. Therefore, I'm going to conclude that it is more likely to appear in this situation than enforced abstinence is.


Oh, and both of those solutions would naturally evolve into a culturally-enforced abstinance after a while. Without modern medicine, or giving out extra food rations for non-sanctioned pregnancies, there's going to be a higher fatality rate amongst breeding-age women who practice recreational sex.

Therefore, natural selection will favor women who practice abstinance.

Yeah, but why would any of these women practice abstinence in the first place? Not only is sex fun, it gives you more children to help with work. And, of course, their husbands will probably insist on it. :smalltongue:

That's aside from the fact that this seems to miss the point of natural selection. Not only is abstinence not inheritable that I know of, but abstinence kind of prevents you from passing on your genes in the first place.


Exactly! :smalltongue:

All of these things rely on Science. Engineers build and maintain tractors, plan efficient land usage, and design secure storage facilities. Biologists breed better crops and maintain what little medicine there is, and in fact can devop new ones from availible sources. Chemists know how to turn old plastics and cleaning agents into explosives and useful materials.

And let's not forget everything to do with electricity... Would a peasant know how to make a radio from scavenged electronics? Or purify water with ozone? Or how rig a laptop to run off car batteries?

Tractors? Seriously? We're talking about tiny patches of land - they're going to be no where near as efficient. That's aside from the fact that tractors are kind of uncommon IN THE MIDDLE OF MAJOR CITIES.

Yes, I'll accept that they'll try and build or jury rig tractors. That can work, for a while. But they don't have fuel, and they can't afford to spend fertile land on biofuels.

Efficient land usage? What exactly do you mean by that? You've got small patches of fertile ground. You grow crops on them. I don't exactly see what you mean by efficient land usage; especially since the communities we are talking about will be 200-400 people.

Biologists breed better crops? Yeah, farmers have been doing that for thousands of years. Will modern knowledge help? Yeah, but I'd much rather sign up with a guy with actual experience of farming than a biologist. Maintaining medicine, I can accept; I don't know how modern medicines degrade.

Yeah, explosives are useful, I'll admit. But, as someone with training in chemistry, I think you're underestimating how reliant modern chemists are on both facilities to make these chemicals properly (and safely) and on a lot of ingredients that are difficult to get in the middle of a city. Fertilisers will be useful, but difficult to make.

As for those final things? Why would a peasant need to know them? He doesn't need a radio when the entire community is pretty much in shouting distance and he can walk to the next one in 10minutes if they don't shoot him. That's if the Void even lets radios work.


The societies which retain knowledge are going to thrive, and out-compete those which forget it. It's survival of the fittest, plain and simple; and in this case, the most technologically advanced societies are the fittest.

'Societies'. We're talking less than 10,000 people here. I doubt you'd get more than one society.

Yes, to an extent. But people will pass on what has a pressing an obvious use for themselves. That's if people anyone remains who has that knowledge.


Agreed, but I doubt any society which is trying to recover will just toss knowledge aside. Even brutal "might makes right" societies would know enough to take the people who can fix their gear up as slaves.

I think you're underestimating how dismissive people can be of things which don't have an obvious (to them) purpose.


You vastly underestimate what kinds of knowledge can be practical.

No. I know a lot of knowledge can be practical in the right circumstances. However, I'd be willing to bet a lot of people don't, and wouldn't see things as that useful, at least initially.


Any books which survive the initial phase of chaos have a potential lifespan of many decades ahead of them, and there would be so many scrap electronics in the city that I can't imagine they'd ever run out of spare parts. (Within several hundred years, at least.)

Perhaps, if they're the right kind of paper. But I'd think the initial chaos would, at least, damage many buildings. I'm also not sure how long electronics last when exposed to the elements, but they might be sheltered. Still, I can see your point.


Paper can't do statistical analysis. It can't calculate anything you could possibly want to know in an instant. It can't tell you who your 10 least productive workers are, and by how much they're lagging.

It can't run simulations based on crop yields, notice patterns and warn you of probable crop failures, or tell you that your yield will probably be ten years down the line. It can't notice that someone's been secretly hoarding grain.

See, I just don't think people would be willing to bother with that. Productivity in terms of agriculture is kind of hard to measure unless you have a lot of people actually monitoring everyone pretty much full time. I don't think most people would be willing to put up with that.

Besides, what do you do with those least productive workers once you've identified them? Tell them to work harder? What if they're physically limited?

The farming will be a communal affair. There isn't going to be a capitalist economy. You won't 'fire' people, and docking rations isn't exactly going to help. What's the point?


They will be. Unless someone went and took a sledgehammer to each and every one of them, they will be.

Okay, fair enough.


You think computers won't help? Then you don't understand how they work at all.

No, I just don't think people will have faith computers can help; most of them won't be computer literate, and probably won't like the idea of these computers monitoring them.


Masters of ancient lore who can get their machines working again. :smallamused:

Even if they do exist, I'm not sure that people will be willing to give up so much food for things that may or may not benefit them.


It means that the people on the bottom will see education as a means to get their children on the top.

That would be true, if modern ideas of meritocracy survived. Or if there was significant social mobility, which I doubt. My comment was more about how you seem to think theres going to be the complex class system we currently have, which I sincerely doubt.


I mean to say that the modern education system, no matter how well or poorly designed, is designed to impart universal education. This means that everyone has to progress at roughly the same rate regardless of ability.

But if you don't have to make sure bottom 90% in terms of intelligence won't drop out, you can design a system that imparts a greater amount of knowledge in a lesser amount of time.

To a certain extent, I'll accept that. But there's still a limit on what people can learn.


What I'm imagining is not as much as a mass education program as it is a massive filter to select the top ~5% of the population in terms of intelligence.

The rest of them would just get some cursory knowledge, and be set out on the fields (or wherever) at the earliest working age.

Yeah, but here's the thing: I don't think modern ideas of meritocracy will survive. At all.I think we're going to see little social mobility. And we're going to have apprenticeships, like I suggested.

Besides, identifying the most intelligent is going to be iffy at best, especially since I don't think that modern child develoment and education theory will survive.:smalltongue:


Nor did I expect them to be. I expected something where experts are trained in specific fields from an early age.

But you can also not afford to not educate them about things which will be useful for them. How to keep the machines from breaking, for instance.

Yeah, but I expect a lot more limited knowledge and fields of study; inventiveness will be rare.


Exactly why you'd need to filter through so many people to find them! :smalltongue:

Did you miss the part where I explained how small the population is? You don't have enough people to filter through!


Why the heck not? Failure means they're in the fields, which is where you think they should be in the first place. Success means that they're destined to become doctors, engineers, and scientists. 90% failure rate might be too low.

Yeah, but when are you going to test this? The annoying thing about intelligence is that its really difficult to measure and the speed of development varies from person to person.


I think that the survival rate among more intelligent people is going to be a lot higher than among less intelligent people. :smalltongue:

I think that those who survive will be the lucky, the brutal and the cunning. At least where I live, academics don't usually fall into the latter categories, so they'll have to be lucky.


They'll think "he could get the computers running again!"

People aren't going to automatically turn their backs on technology. They'll try to hold on to as much as they can, only dropping what they absolutely must in order to survive.

Yeah, but at that point they're not going to be concerned about computers, they're going to be concerned about food and water and safety. They're not going to care about computers.

He'll be laboring to get the computers running again.


But I'll admit that computer engineering is going to be one of the skills which might be abandoned. Mechanical and Electrical Engineering certainly won't, though.

Maybe not, but I expect most knowledge to be lost.


Make? :smallconfused:

Scavenge. There's one in every car.

Okay, point.


I think you underestimate the ability of humans to adapt.

I realize I'm probably being a bit optimistic, but I figured that the odds of anything surviving are so slim, that we might as well go for a best-case scenario. :smalltongue:

It's more like, I know that people only adapt as far as their environment allows them (have you read Guns, Germs and Steel?). And there's rarely been an environment as limited as this in human history; most land is unavailable for agriculture and the area doesn't produce a lot of resources. The starting population is very unskilled and there isn't anyone to trade with.

It reminds me of the small peoples who lived of coral atolls in the Pacific. They never managed to advance a great deal, and for good reason.

Basically, I think we need to agree to disagree. Responding to each others posts like this is pointless and is costing me sleep :smalltongue:

I just have less faith in people's willingness to preserve knowledge without immediate use, less faith in people's ability to sacrifice a main source of pleasure, less faith in people's ability to keep an egalitarian society...

Less faith in people in general, basically. Maybe if you lived in London, you could understand my pessimism about the chances of things being preserved. Maybe New York or Sacramento would fare better.

Anyhows, an interesting debate - thanks for that :smallsmile:

Zallera
2013-04-16, 02:20 PM
Concerning magic, what level of magic are we talking about low, medium or high?

Even with a ban on all non essential uses of magic you now have worry about nut jobs or cultists who might not be able to suicide bomb or grab a SMG and shoot up a crowded area anymore but can instead blast a crowd with a fireball spell or a flaming sphere, or can summon up some monsters to go on a rampage.

Even though they don't always work the preventative measures to keep people from bringing guns or bombs into a building are fairly simple. Kind of hard to defend against someone who can cause wide spread havoc with words, funny gestures and some bat poop.

I saw the mentioned magic detectors but without any running cars ( I imagine any gas would have been used up after 30-40 years) I'd guess you would have to have mid level casters burning teleport spells to take care of magic using hooligans.

Having magic appear during the chaos that would ensue during a society collapse would definitely add to the mayhem.

Also If they have access to divine magic, I could see there being problems with getting people to give up/limit the use of healing magic or create food/water.