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HungryGuy's avatar

What sort of detailed knowledge can we accumulate that will allow a reasonably competent person to reconstruct basic technology with common materials that would be lying around a post apocolyptic world?

Asked by HungryGuy (15969points) March 15th, 2012

There have been a number of questions posted to Fluther over the years asking how you would survive a societal or technological collapse, or a dramatic reduction in human population.

I want to know what sort of steps one can take to rebuild civilization after such an event?

How can we “reboot” technological civilization quickly from an agrarian society?

For example, electricity. Most people who are scientifically minded know that to generate electricity, you spin a magnet inside a coil of wire. Connect that spinning magnet to a fan blade inside a pipe at the base of a waterfall, and you can have a primitive hydroelectric plant. But does anyone know how to construct such a thing from basic parts?

For another example, refrigeration. Again, most people know that to build a refrigeration system, you compress a gas (doesn’t have to be Freon, any compressible gas will do, such as ammonia), send the compressed gas through a series of back-and-forth pipes welded to a bunch of thin sheets of metal (otherwise known as a radiator), then send the compressed gas though a thingy that will relieve the pressure and send it through another radiator, and ‘round and ‘round. Put a fan against each radiator. And put the radiator of the high-pressure side outdoors, and put the radiator of the low pressure side indoors, and you have air conditioning (assuming you have electricity to power the motor to drive the compressor). But exactly HOW do you compress gas, and HOW do you expand the gas so that it just doesn’t equalize pressure everywhere and not do anything?

Most people also know that if you take a lead plate, a lead oxide plate, put them in a glass vat and add hydrochloric acid, you have a powerful battery. But is that all there is to it? Or is there some detail missing that would cause our battery not to work if built like that?

How about paper?

Glass?

Steel?

I guess what I’m getting at is: what sort of detailed knowledge can we accumulate that will allow a reasonably competent person to reconstruct basic technology with common materials that would be lying around a post apocalyptic world?

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9 Answers

flutherother's avatar

What would help would be a collection of patents. The earliest ones would be the simplest and the most useful but we could then move on to the more advanced. We wouldn’t have to re invent the wheel or anything else. All technological ideas would already be there. We would need paper copies however. Electronic databases would be of no use in a post apocalyptic world.

HungryGuy's avatar

@flutherother – Of course! You’re right! All the world’s knowledge on a thumb drive will be useless. Back to the 6 books question, too…

Imadethisupwithnoforethought's avatar

I think you are putting the cart before the horse.

In a post-apocalyptic society, you should assume technology will be blamed as the cause of the fall into disorder. The apocalypse will be assumed proof that technology displeased God (or Gods, or the Zombie Overlords), for several generations.

Anything lying around for people to find and rebuild with, encyclopedias, collections of patents, diagrams, etc… would be burned.

You want to hide this stuff, so that it maybe reintroduced much later to a society that has passed through the initial stages of collapse and is on an uptrend into enlightenment. Probably in hard to detect caches, like the dead sea scrolls, or Irish Monasteries at the edge of civilization.

KoleraHeliko's avatar

Hang on a tick. A whole bunch of people have solar powered things. Many houses are solar powered even. All you need is a computer with this stuff stored on there and some power source to keep it running. You would never need to start from the ground up.

Jaxk's avatar

An interesting dilemma. A lot depends on what you mean by common materials. In other words how basic do you have to get. With a fistful of transistors, I could build a basic computer. But I couldn’t build the fistful of transistors. Much of our technology is built by technology. I could build a basic engine but I’m not sure I could manufacture the wiring. Even in you generator example, I don’t know where to find the magnet. Mining is my short suit.

wundayatta's avatar

I think we would be able to keep much of our knowledge intact locally on hard drives and servers. It will be possible to generate enough electicity, even by human power, to access the information from time to time. If we have laptops, we will be able to find replacement batteries in our scavenging. We’ll make electricity with portable bicycle powered generators.

The key will be the libraries. The key will be Google servers. The search will be on to get those online or to get access to them, after the apocalypse. In fact, I can see a kind of search for the holy grail story that follows our post-apocalyptic heroes as they see to find working Google servers. First, they have to find out where they were located, and then they have to seek them out. Many will turn out to be destroyed, and the readers will despair of a happy ending, but at the last moment, they will find viable servers in Hawaii or something, and the new, post-apocalyptic worship Google civilization will have its start.

Or maybe Wikipedia servers.

Jaxk's avatar

Probably just porn servers

funkdaddy's avatar

Always liked the Let’s Say You’ve Gone Back in Time single sheet for this sort of thing.

Not exactly the same as the world ending, but it’s pretty close and it’s handy-dandy single sheet sized for easy stowage in your zombie/bomb/superbug proof bunker.

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