Post-Apocalyptic Civilizations

Post-Apocalyptic Civilizations

This episode is sponsored by Dashlane. Civilization has collapsed. The only rational way forward is to cover your dune buggy with spikes, craft some leather S&M armor, and resort to cannibalism. Mohawks are optional. A pretty common theme in science fiction,
and just in general discussion of the future, is that some sort of doomsday will occur that
will leave only shattered remnants of civilization behind. Often shattered not just physically
but spiritually too, typically that remnant left behind is portrayed as crazy cannibal
barbarians. Even the nominal heroes of such stories tend to be nihilistic and more than
a trifle villainous in portrayal. There’s some logic in that notion too, we
get the word apocalypse from the Greek word for Revelation, the last book of the New Testament
that has the various survivors on Earth being those left behind after all the good folks
got a ticket to paradise. And a lot of stories set in such scenarios will have similar notions
in play, something has made a lot of folks crazy or evil and that’s part of why civilization
isn’t rebuilding itself to rise from the ashes like a Phoenix.
This too has some plausibility, since technological civilizations are hard to trash by simple
disasters, so something generally has to be making them act weird in the first place.
Otherwise the disaster, natural or artificial, is either going to kill everyone off or be
something we recover from after a while. Of course “a while” is a pretty relative
term, we can dismiss it as irrelevant when talking about things like Galactic Colonization
and the Fermi Paradox because several centuries just doesn’t mean anything on those timelines,
but this episode is in our Rogue Civilization series and our prior two examples, Space Prison
Colonies and Techno-Primitivism were both cases where they seemed like temporary states
of civilization. Cultures are constantly changing, so it seems wrong to bypass ones that would
tend to be fairly temporary, just lasting a handful of generations, since again most
cultures don’t even last that long. We could contrive some particular doomsday
scenario that made a post-apocalyptic civilization linger in a diminished state a very long time,
but while I was considering more plausible options for that, it got me wondering about
what would survive afterwards. For instance, we tend to picture tribes of leatherclad mutants
with mohawks riding around on dunebuggies in a wasteland, something that got so cliché
in fictional post-apocalypses that a lot of shows satirize it like Rick and Morty, but
it raises the question about where they get the gasoline for those engines.
Gasoline does not actually store well. Even if water and oxygen don’t seap in, that
gas itself will separate into light volatiles and a sludge of heavier viscous compounds.
You’d have problems getting it work in an engine a year later even if it had been stored
properly, which is unlikely to be the case in most doomsday scenarios, and even very
good storage and a fuel stabilizer might only get you 2 or 3 years. Gasoline’s not terribly
hard to make but a cracking tower isn’t something you’d expect your typical tribe
of mutants to have and you can’t just go find an abandoned one and dump in some crude
oil or spoiled fuel and fire it up. Well you might be able to but ‘firing it up’ is
probably exactly what would happen. So if you’ve got folks with functioning
engines decades after Doomsday it implies they’ve got folks who are decent chemists
and engineers, or at least repairmen, and who have time to practice their trade, so
your savage tribe of mutants won’t be staying primitive much longer. Otherwise, if they
want those high-horsepower dunebuggies, they need to be pulled by actual horses. Which
kind of ruins the flavor. The Mohawks are fine at least, hair gel and
cutting technology doesn’t need to be very advanced to do that one. The leather is probably
fine too except one wouldn’t really expect lots of cows or deer to be around the typical
irradiated wasteland. Of course it’s often implied to be made from other people, though
rats seem more likely and economically plausible. Cannibalism, literal or figurative, is not
a winning pathway, especially for humans who need decades to grow up, the math just doesn’t
work out. Cannibalism will certainly happen in desperate times, but given that humans
need decades to reach full size, a food industry based on it would be impractical.
Of course they have to get clothes from somewhere and textile factories wouldn’t seem to be
common so fur and hide would make sense. But there would be a ton of clothing left over
from the end of the world. Properly stored most fabrics do hold up for generations, but
they’d be getting worn-out from being worn out in the wasteland and leftovers lying around
ruined warehouses, basements, and attics would tend to get moldy and picked apart. The most
enduring would presumably be polyester, so amusingly the mutant savages are more likely
to look like they’d escaped from a disco than a biker bar.
You’re probably thinking leather is better for absorbing strikes, as is chainmail, but
keep in mind there are millions of kevlar vests in the US alone, and while the ballistic
plates would all break, Kevlar lasts and can be patched, and you could stick a piece of
sheet metal in one as a decent replacement for the ceramic plate, which is for bullets
not knives anyway. Coming up with rubber for boot soles would be unlikely though, so they’d
probably have to go back to wood and hobnails, though maybe they could use sheets of plastic
or metal and hobnails. As to those various ruined houses, even absent
any new production, when the planet’s been reduced to scattered millions instead of billions,
you’ve got spare parts and replacements all over the place, slowly rusting down in
many cases. A prolonged scavenger-punk era wouldn’t be likely, at least where durable
consumables are concerned, since they’d know where every building was and would either
have quickly ransacked all their supplies, or, if they are few in number, have stopped
only because they had acquired more than they could use before spoilage.
People will be getting pretty systematic about it. Someone will think to grab or make maps
and document each building looted and to use things like fiber optic snake cameras for
scoping out collapsed structures. If not, it’s because there are very few people,
in which case they will have more than enough supplies by ransacking the local grocery store
and warehouses, leaving them tons of time to prepare for when their supplies go bad,
rather than get used up. The scavenger aspect of fighting over supplies only applies when
there’s high demand but limited quantities, not when there’s a huge supply with a half-life.
The more enduring stuff is going to be things like stainless steel cookware and utensils,
as well as granite countertops, so the mutants probably won’t be cooking over an oil barrel
with rusty pots, rather, they are going to have very ornate and top-notch kitchens to
prepare their rat-based cuisine in. Things like knives are going to be around
half of forever anyway and there’s no shortage of metal to work with either. Of course we
tend to assume all those electric appliances in the kitchens would be worthless but while
gas powered vehicle engines would be a pain to fuel after the first couple of years, a
stationary electric generator is actually really easy to build and maintain. Especially
if efficiency and mobility isn’t too big a deal, as you can use rather crude parts.
So you’d actually expect them only to stop having electricity when all the things that
used it eventually broke down, and that will take centuries, since a lot of appliances
are incredibly useful and rugged, especially if not used a lot, like sewing machines, LED
light bulbs, food processors, clocks and so on.
In the same vein, batteries won’t last long but battery powered things can, and batteries
are fairly simple to make and can be built out of lots of stuff that’s lying around
like copper pennies or easily made even by copper age civilizations. A good lead acid
battery takes a bit more work but not a lot. Size and weight are a different matter when
it comes to batteries and those post-apocalyptic muscle-bound freaks we see in the movies probably
got that way lugging around insanely heavy batteries for their portable equipment.
We also always assume such folks would go back to a barter culture, when not stealing
anyway, but while paper money wouldn’t last long all those trillions of coins lying around
the planet would make a handy medium of exchange, being rather durable and hard to forge, so
I’d not be surprised if they just kept on using the local coinage, albeit massively
deflated in value so a penny or nickel was valuable enough again to make it worth carrying;
not for its intrinsic metal value, but just because it’s already viewed as money, and
again, is tricky to make forgeries of without the right equipment.
Gunpowder is easy enough to make, as are bullets. Guns themselves are pretty durable and most
of the less durable parts can be jury-rigged, even a lot of the more fragile bits like the
springs in your typical magazine or magazine catch button. Those do regularly appear in
post-apocalyptic settings. What’s missing is that most would probably have working flashlights
and scopes attached to them too, and their wielders are liking to have perfectly modern
body armor to go with them, not just dirty leather or rusty knives.
They probably wouldn’t be terribly dirty either. They’re unlikely to just magically
forget that many ailments are attached to not keeping clean. Soap is easy to make, and
contrary to popular belief, our pre-industrial ancestors never had an aversion to bathing.
When they didn’t do it a lot, it was because they just lacked the facilities and fuel to
make it convenient, and our post-apocalyptic civilizations will remember hygiene’s importance
to disease control and be even more likely to emphasize it.
A collapsed civilization isn’t one that just goes back in time like someone flipped
the calendar back. A ton of technologies are really easy to do once you think them up and
often folks incorrectly assume that if something was invented in, say, the late 19th century,
that it must require all the technology and industrial resources of that period to make
or maintain them. The standard Gem Paperclip is from that era,
but anybody with a length of wire can obviously make them. You don’t picture the mutant
tribes brushing their teeth either, but a toothbrush is an easy enough device and they
won’t have forgotten the value of that or what causes wounds to get infected or a host
of other things it took us a long time to learn but are easy enough to know. They might
run out of canned foods in a decade or so, as all get scavenged or go bad, but they won’t
forget how and why we can food. Similarly, there’s many other ways to make
a refrigerator, freezer, or air conditioner than our typical modern models, like the Einstein
fridge that has no moving parts and just needs piping, fire, and some refrigerant to work,
even ammonia or alcohol does the trick. But even the normal designs could be maintained,
repaired, and cannibalized for a very long time and anyone working on them is going to
develop an understanding of them quickly enough. So the mutant tribes would have freezers for
storing their food too, and we would doubt that only because we think of them as hunter-gatherer
equivalents and such folks walked everywhere they went and so would need to carry stuff
too. But they wouldn’t be, because they wouldn’t be hunter gatherers. They might
have to walk, or use bicycles or horses, as again gasoline doesn’t store well so they’d
have to produce it, though they could and there’s lots of alternate fuels to use including
alcohol. But they don’t need to move where they live. Our ancestors did because their
food did, the herds migrated so they migrated with them, until they domesticated them and
got good at pasture management, those critters are still domesticated and won’t just revert
because the end of the world happened. They’d have tons of building materials lying
around to pick from–many stone, brick, or concrete ones that would work well, and if
their village looks like a junkyard it’s probably just because those would be so valuable
for spare parts they might live there to maintain possession of it.
But they don’t have to move, because they can still grow food. There’s the notion
that they live in a barren wasteland so they have to hunt or gather, but if animals and
plants can live there to supply food that means they can grow food there too. They’d
have an effectively infinite supply of glass to make greenhouses out of too if water or
contaminated soil was problematic. Fundamentally, though, agriculture is more efficient than
hunting and gathering, no matter how wrecked the local environment is, unless it’s so
wrecked you couldn’t hunt or gather anyway because everything was dead, in which case
you’d follow soon thereafter. This though highlights why we’d tend to
regard such civilizations as rather temporary. Over and over again we see why they’d still
prize knowledge and how even in the most brutal and savage setups they’d still benefit by
preserving and utilizing it. And those were just examples off the top of my head, I’m
sure you can think of many more and I’d encourage you to put down your thoughts on
the matter down in the comments below or our facebook or reddit groups.
Just from what we’ve seen today though, they’re likely to have a lot more luxuries
and modern conveniences and advantages than we normally assume and likely to have a lot
of highly skilled technicians hanging around, even if they are sporting Mohawks and dressed
up in rat-leather, or polyester and Kevlar, and such skills are likely to be valued and
lead inevitably to restoring technology and infrastructure. That is much easier if you
still remember that basic science and still have books and diagrams and broken down examples
of such devices to build off of. Personally, I don’t think we’ll ever have
a post-apocalyptic civilization. Either a catastrophe would make us extinct or we’d
recover fairly quickly, but if we do end up with one, I suspect it wouldn’t be nearly
as grim as we tend to think and would restore itself after only a few generations at most.
I was mentioning how we’d expect electricity and appliances to remain in use even after
a total collapse of civilization, and I suspect we’d see the internet, or local equivalents,
pop back up pretty quick. Of course that’s assuming it wasn’t the internet that brought
on the Apocalypse. The internet is like most technologies, it offers many benefits but
with new risks and challenges, both to civilization and to us individually.
Whether or not the internet might end the world, if you do get your identity stolen
or your accounts hacked, it can feel like the End of the World for you. Internet security
and encryption is only as good as your password, and it is important to use different ones
everywhere and not ones that are easy to remember, and thus easy to hack. You could make a minor
account at some small website, use your favorite User ID and password, and they get hacked
and someone sells all those user IDs and passwords on the Dark Web.
Dashlane lets you not only store all your passwords for easy but secure access across
all your devices, but also provides Dark Web monitoring to see if you’ve been hit and
warns you if a breached password has been used at other places, and has an automatic
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you a lot of time and inconvenience, and Dashlane also helps with that by providing instant
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it out for yourself, click on the link in the description or go to
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isaacarthur you’ll get 10% off a a Premium subscription.
So next week we’ll be finishing April out with a look at Matrioshka Shellworlds, truly
immense artificial planets that allow vastly more living area than Earth does, and which
Earth might one day become. Next Sunday, we will also have our Monthly Livestream Q&A,
at 4pm Eastern Time. For alerts when those and other episodes come
out, make sure to subscribe to the channel, and if enjoyed this episode, hit the like
button and share it with others. Until next time, thanks for watching, and
we’ll see you Thursday!

100 thoughts on “Post-Apocalyptic Civilizations

  1. Modern civ started with hi concentrations of minerals and oil. You can not restart and start building deep ocean wells and huge scale mines. At some point a collapse creates an imposible step of economic scale.

  2. In all the videos I've seen you tend to assume that people will maintain their knowledge and build the civilization back up 'in a couple of generations'.

    Have you read 'Earth Abides" by G. R. Stewart? In this book the attitude of the new generations could be described as 'we can scavenge all we need, we know those things work, who cares why or how to make our own.' Until, of course, they don't, and it's too late.

    I am curious what your thoughts on this work are. Human laziness is a powerful (de)motivator, I find.

  3. The buggies in beyond thunderdome were run on methane. "Master" controlled the anaerobic digester that converted waste into methane. Images of the buggies show pressurized tanks strapped to the buggies. Tina was the protagonist of the movie, she gathered together the disparate groups and bound them together with trade, an energy grid/waste management, and a simple code of laws. When I say, "break a deal" my kids both shout "face the wheel", usually followed by questioning me about what's on the wheel. When the apocalypse comes, be Tina, not Mel.

  4. 2030 with the collapse of western civilization ensuing and years of genetic testing on hippie baby boomers and they're millennial offspring. It is discovered that "Social Justice" is not an "ideology" but a mental illness brought on via a blood disease created by Democrats at some point after the "god emperor" Trump came to power in 2016.

  5. Good esp. I do prepping on the side. My thinking is that a EMP which almost happened once has happen in a small area once or the Dollar Become Worthless is my biggest concern until last year when Hurricane Micheal came through. Everybody was without power for a month some are still living in Tents, I was not had generators which I ran off a home made Gasifier, burning wood to keep it going. We have 6 months of food supply, I can hunt, trap, fish, and grow food, We did not have any trouble with people stealing other people stuff, had trouble with people coming from out state stealing..

  6. One thing that I disagree with you on and most Preppers is that coins silver or even Gold will not be the main currency, everybody will not be able to get them today at 1300 an ounce who can even afford 1 ounce, how will they pay for something using 1 ounce? what will it be worth after it? Barting will be the main source of income.. If I have a 5 gallon bucket of Potatoes, Someone is good on construction work or electrical or can give me a day or two worth of labor I will trade that 5 gallon of Potatoes for it

  7. One of the design considerations for the M-16 assault rifle was that the weapons could be b manufactured and maintained in common machine shops in the case of nuclear war. That's why the receivers on the M-16 is machined. It's more expensive but it's low tech. Any common milling machine can make them. By contrast, the AK-47 requires a specialized factory with custom built metal stamping machines.

    It's possible this was a design criteria in the Soviet Union to create centralized weapons production.

    Still the M-16 will be easier to manufacture part-apocolypse.

  8. I changed oil in my diesel-engine last year changed first time in over a decade. For reasons.

    Diesel in the tank (I drive about 20 days/summer) was 6 years old, rather a large tank. I just yearly added some alcohol to suck up the moisture.

    Engine was salvaged in 1990 from one of the "normal" Japanese mini-tractors/town lawnmower type.

    It's installed in my boat which is stored outside, temperatures between -40C and +40C (-40F and random guess about +60F ?).

    Also some diesels run with used self-filtered vegetable oils (just need a bit of change in shaft or they knock a bit). Larger engines (this is 2-cylinder about one liter engine) work better, marine diesels forever with some care.

    For once I both know by my profession and experience more than mr. Isaac Arthur… Well it wasn't THE main point in this episode. Some fact-checking mistake there (yes, gasoline is not diesel I know).

    Oh, I had to change some electric parts (one that pumped fuel 6m from the front of boat and belt and charger when boat sunk-and engine almost all below water-due to through-rusted tailpipe) three years ago. Not oil, and intake wasn't below water or I'd have had bit of a trouble. Bit older engines (or industrial) are lot more durable than today's optimized ones.

  9. I would expect a quick recovery as well. There's probably a science to figure out how durable a civilization is and how many people it can lose before it collapses, but so long as some people are left, and access to libraries was maintained a new civilization would (imho) quickly reform. Once knowledge is gained so long as it's not completely lost, people would relearn with ease. And it's hard to imagine knowledge being lost with the ubiquity of data storage we have, from books to dvds to computers.

  10. Very fascinating. I appreciate the logic of, either it will cause extinction or we will bounce back. I've been trying to think of a counter argument to that, and I haven't been able to, yet.

  11. What about social structure? I know this is a lot more speculative, and you focus more on hard logic, but any thoughts on whether or how societies may develop from, say, a cataclysm lasting 2 generations? What form of governments might emerge early on? The memory of democracy would be fresh, but these would be trying times. As a result of Rome becoming an empire and falling, the western world lost representative government at the state level for 2,000 years.

  12. I always wondered how they could maintain and fuel A-10s in terminator salvation since there wouldn't be any oilfields or refineries left.

  13. Maybe it's possible to overdo the old optimism sometimes. Or maybe I've watched "Threads" (1984) too many times.

  14. Plus, we also assume that Modern governments have no contingency plans to survive said disaster and recover

  15. You could check out the pen and paper game Degenesis. They do a lot of things right.
    Primal punk with a lot of rebuilding and containing tech. There is even a interesting twist. Africa is prospering and getting green due to an ice age.

  16. Can't speak for my friends down south as I haven't been to the States in a while but in Canada our "paper" money is made of nearly indestructible plastic. You can't tear or cut it if you try. I think after a Canadian apocalypse (no doubt caused by a maple syrup shortage or moose attack) we'd be using our bills for centuries to come.

  17. I would rather die then consume the human flesh
    I know many would say it's a way of survival but think carefully, how can you go on living knowingly you eaten a person

  18. I think a simpler but less efficient refrigeration system could be made requiring two larger chambers, one where to store most of the thermal substance (which can be alcohol) and another where to heat up the substance to cause it to evaporate and be funneled by a long funnel into a pipe which to be cooled when under pressure from which to be separated in smaller pipes which would increase in volume enough for the lower pressure to cause it to absorb heat which to then be then returned to the storage chamber, with a check valve keeping the thermal substance from returning from the heating chamber to the storage chamber. The heating chamber would need to be heated, like with a fire, and the higher the percentage of low-temperature boiling point substance (such as purity of alcohol) would determine how efficient the system would be at cooling things.

    Though if we have a source of mechanical power, which is easier to make than electricity, then we can use it for a refrigerator based on compressing a substance. Using some pumps/fans, a pipe cap with a hole to act as a nozzle, another pipe cap (for the outer pipe) and two (preferably conical) long pipes would be more than enough to make a refrigerator, if fed mechanical power. Have the pumps/fans funnel high pressure air into the inner pipe, which would cause it to be heated, then after being cooled over some distance by the air between the inner and outer pipe, the inner pipe ends with the nozzle through which the now-cooled higher pressure air gets released into the outer pipe causing the end of both to cool down, and the air would travel for enough time between the pipes until it either gets released into the atmosphere for new air to make it in, or goes through a heat sink to be cooled before fed back to the pump/fan to be cycled into the system.

    The advantage of the second model is that it can even be powered by a moving cart to keep it's contents cool or frozen. Of course, enough insulation (i.e. wool quilts and blankets) would be needed, but aside from that, everything can be made out of wood, aside the animal (human or not) moving the vehicle. If anything, we might become unable to fine-process hard metals, and would stick to the softer materials for most items. Especially if, for some reason, metals are not safe to handle for a few months to years (i.e. solar flares could make metals hot, while not making other things that much hotter). Plus that there might be enough people fed up with the high tech struggles of the society for cults or even full-fledged religions appearing about using technology as sustainable as possible, for everything.

    It would be interesting to look at different kinds of possible apocalypses. Examples would be global warming, extreme climatic extremes, climatic extremes and global warming, solar flares frying everything which is grounded or connected to the grid, new ice age, economic collapse, nuclear or non-nuclear war causing most people to die in the explosions/blasts and the survivors would be few and far between, extreme prolonged solar flares leading to most metals to be kept hot enough to not be useful anymore (eventually aside from the cold regions, which would likely not be cold for more than a few years), asteroids rainfall causing the satellites to either leave orbit aimlessly or fall on the earth, bioweapon running loose and causing zombie-like creatures to appear from previous animals and humans, and I'm sure a brainstorming would cook up a lot of interesting scenarios. Oh, what about a rotating habitat surviving the end of Earth, alone, with only a few thousand people at most?

  19. Gunpowder is fairly easy to make yes, but not smokeless powder or primer. Those are the things youd need to make semi automatic weapons work. If you figured out how to make just primer (or percussion caps maybe) you could get bolt actions and the like to work but for semi and fully automatic guns they would foul too quickly with black powder to be a viable option

  20. You can get a few gallons of diesel from a barrel of oil with some pretty primitive equipment:

  21. IC engines don’t have to be gasoline/petrol which i agree would be problematic the further out you got. But diesel and bio-diesel are relatively simple to make in from raw stock like vegetable oils, old motor oil etc.
    Also many of the basic machine operations required for maintaining engines can and has been be done by hand in the past. Before electricity basically all heavy machinery was run off water power through linkages of belts.

  22. Excellent over view of just how inventive humans can be no matter what happens
    My thoughts are on my channel 🙂

  23. Holy crap.. are you saying in a post apocalyptic world I wont need to remember all these passwords? Wohoo!! Trump for President… again!! Pity I'm not in the U.S…

  24. OOPSIE WOOPSIE!! Uwu We make a fucky wucky!! A wittle fucko boingo! The post-apocalyptic survivors on our decimated planet are working VEWY HAWD to fix this!

  25. I think I'm glad I have bags of pintos. Now, I need either that big-headed grass that I see in the woods or heirloom grain, and 1 or 2 types of tree (pinon and hickory come to mind), and tomato seeds (a good source of C). (Somewhere, I read that citrus seeds need to be kept wet to keep the for germination.) Hmm… And some dry mulch… So much for Hickory (50 yrs to maturity)… Maybe hazelnuts…

  26. I think it depends on what causes it. If we had a long term disaster say a ice age then we would have to adapt to our new lives thus forgetting the old ways..

  27. I have heard thay cannibalism won't work in the long term, because we can't effectively breakdown our own proteins into the proper amino acids to reform set proteins, so without some other source of those amino acids you waiste away

  28. The last epic iceage lasted twenty thousand years and the tribes that survived were suffering from gender skew. Groups with One breeding female with three to five males emerged from the nasty end. And given the high dust, and low CO2 it was asteroid impacts. Twenty thousand years of heavy asteroid bombardment causing dust.

  29. Mormons would be the dominant faction in post-Apocalyptic America. They're well armed, well stocked, and well organized … those missionaries they send door to door are advanced scouts scoping out your neighborhood

  30. So many bad assumptions in this video!! Coins would be used for money?? Do not think so.. it only works now because it is backed by government, which would be gone. Barter would be the rule. Top notch kitchens just because there is a lot of granite counter top and stainless steel pots?? Doubtful. Look at life before the 1800's and you will be right, not to hard to figure this out…. but I personally will be partial to mohawks.

  31. When somebody ask me again ..why still keep in working condition my old td vw, i'll tell him about post-apocalyptic transport :)))😂, when ONLY cars like that will work.. on vegetable oil or any kind of @liquid fat and with NO NEED of electricity (i've prooved already to some friends :D).
    Also the methanol could be used to fulelling otto engines, but is still very inflamable/volatile, then on very hot post-apocalyptic condition, would be hard to store and transport 😉

  32. it's non-negligible to note that in the case of the mad Max franchise, max was alive when the world fell, so the whole timeline is relatively recent (the nuclear war happened, max was an adult, a bit older in the movies but not by more than a few decades, in the case of the first movie, the nuclear war hadn't even happened yet) and the movies do, at least symbolically, portray the rising barbaric societies as temporary phenomenon on the path to reemerging civilizations based on cooperation and the rise of humanity; furthermore, the gas comes from fully functioning oil rigs and refineries left over from before the war (2 of the movies very clearly display this fact: the 2nd and 4th)….

  33. So would you consider THREADS accurate then? At its 10 year mark at least, where the general tech level was at the 19th century but they still had working TVs.

  34. There's a very specific ingredient that was added to gasoline sometime in the 20th century that was added to increase the energy density of it, that specific ingredient is the only reason gasoline doesn't store well. I remember reading that gasoline supplies before that modification had a 20 year lifespan. I think some preppers are producing and storing the old recipe nowadays.

  35. Well I mean, you're a smidge wrong on the whole 'gunpowder is easy to make' thing. Black powder isn't hard to make at all, it's really only salt peter, charcoal, and sulfur. However, modern smokeless powder would be a lot harder to manufacture, not to mention bullets, casings, and primers.

  36. The thing about agriculture is its something of a niche operation. Yes, a farmer will produce far more food than a hunter, but you can't plant crops just anywhere, but you can hunt almost everywhere. We look at states like Oklahoma and Kansas and think of them as the breadbasket of the western world but we forget how much technology it takes to make that happen.

  37. I would still find a means to incorporate spikes into my fashion choices. If the world ends, I may as well enjoy it.

  38. Pretty optimistic, considering civilization actually HAS collapsed in the past (around 1200 BC) and took centuries to recover, but it's not like this sort of collapse will likely happen now. Something like civilization would need multiple things to go wrong at once – not just a nuclear war, but environmental collapse, a general loss of faith in the current socio-political order. And it would probably also help to have widespread disbelief in the scientific worldview and suspicion of technology. I know that sounds perfectly doable for us, but I actually don't think things are nearly bad enough right now for that to happen anytime soon. If we still don't address any of the issues we're facing now for several decades, though – THEN we'll probably see many trends reverse and a probable collapse.

  39. A medieval society but guns are present among the nobility.

    City States like in Greece, Small kingdoms in the wilderness.

  40. rewatching an old episode while eating dinner and I end up going "Hang on, I have one of those" at 7:40. The lady in the clip has a countertop grain mill. Those things sound like a jet engine when they're running, but she's not wearing hearing protection.

  41. The preservation of technology and learning isn't something that I think would be guaranteed or uniform at all, particularly not in our current world and projected future – take the example of post-colonial Africa, who totally disregarded and even actively chose to destroy all the infrastructure and learning the Europeans built and attempted to impart. Take also the post-antiquity world in which many European tribes disregarded and chose not to use, or chose to dismantle and repurpose, superior-built infrastructure and learning, only preserved through the ceaseless work of religious scholars who copied so much through the centuries, sometimes without truly understanding the content themselves.
    A modern-ish work of fiction some might enjoy which touches on post apocalyptic civilisation is "A Canticle for Leibowitz".

  42. More likely a post apocalyptic society would be a return to a feudal society, very similar to the Middle Ages. Liberal democratic society would be replaced by a feudal hierarchy.

  43. Cannibalism will not work because it will lead to prion diseases. Prion diseases are horrific. Mad cow is a prion disease. Anthropologists have witnessed this problem in tribes who practice funerary cannibalism.

  44. the problem with predicting such a scenario is that the conditions are so dependent on what caused the catastrophe in the first place!

  45. There is an interesting concept of a post apocalyptic civilisation in Andrzej Ziemiański’s novel “Autobahn nah Poznań”. I’m not sure if it was ever translated from Polish, but the premise is that during a global conflict one of the sides used a doomsday weapon based on nanotechnology, which basically turned every single piece of conductor on the planet into an isolator which, combined with a noticeable global warming (Central Europe turning into desert) results in a steampunkish postapocalipse withe remains of old and very advanced chemistry and biotechnologi, but none of the computery stuff surviving

  46. That is assuming the survivors have some semblance of sanity instead of flipping out and giving up on society (even at stone age hunter gatherer levels) altogether.

  47. Diesel engines can run on just about anything that burns, people already know how to make their own fuel. Actually rendered human fat can burn which could be a cool offshoot story for a tribe of bandits

  48. This video makes me think of A Canticle for Leibowitz in the idea of maintaining old world knowledge and the eventual reconstruction of society.

    Love your videos, great stuff. I stumbled across you when I went to look at stuff about the paperclip maximizer thought experiment the other day.

  49. Just like to point out that gasoline only lasting a year is not 100% true, modern ethanol mixes have a poor shelf life but older high sulfur diesel fuel and high octane aviation fuel have a very long shelf life. Especially in cold environments, bush planes in alaska have used fuel from the 50s stored in metal drums and ran fine. Fuel quality of today is better and cleaner but the additives and overall make up of the fuel is different.

  50. In my ideas for post apocalyptic fiction most cars use biofuel and society is not completely destroyed there is still industry but its smaller they can only manufacture crude biofuel powered cars and firearms. Airplanes aren’t anything more advanced that those light mosquito planes. Generally the people are poor.

  51. I'd like to point out one thing which I think we've kinda forgotten in the west. That is that we are a post apocalyptic society. Like seriously the apocalypse basically happened with the fall of the Western Roman empire and people were well aware of it too, people thought they were living in the end times and I mean they kinda were, it was the end of Latin Roman civilization and the rise of new European civilizations.

  52. Engines can also run with alcohol, which I think would be highly available after a collapse, since many people would make it even just to drown their sorrows, or for disinfection, or maybe even as a firestarter (a few drops of alcohol and two rocks creating sparks and you've got yourself a fire). And the chemestry needed to make it is not even difficult. In fact, it's quite easy, and you only need pottery to do it, no metal required. And if you have lots of mirrors, you don't even need a fire to make high-octane alcohol. Especially if you have pressurized alcohol tanks, to store more fuel in a smaller volume, since the oxygen in the air would be plentiful for combustion.

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