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Thread: Reinvention

  1. #1
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    Reinvention

    Another Q related to my fiction. Let's say modern humanity gets knocked all the way back to the nomadic hunter-gatherer phase somehow. Only the bare minimum breeding population to start with, no infrastructure, no settled societies. Just wanderers in the wilderness for many, many generations.


    Assuming they survive, roughly how long would you say it would take to reach a Neolithic level of tech/social development? I know things like agriculture, irrigation, cities, and writing have been independently invented numerous times in human history: Fertile Crescent, Mesoamerica, Andes, Eastern Agri Complex, Yellow River Valley, Sahel, Ethiopia, New Guinea. And metal was also not a one time thing, even the Americas had a long distance copper trade despite the difficulties of overland travel without proper domesticated animal transport.

    Not under the ideal, best case scenario, but with all the problems and delays life might throw at a group of desperate refugees. Disease, drought, famine, wars once the population gets big enough.

    Again, base assumption is that they won't all die off or fatally inbreed.

    Any takers?
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  2. #2
    So all their memories got wiped as well. People still use tools that somewhat go back to stone age such axes, hammers and such.There are time that I have had to find a rock to bang out another rock out of tiller tines. But there is the argument that some people who have lived in cities and suburbs probably wouldn't know some of the basic survival skills such as growing stuff and cooking. But unless you transport them to another planet a lot the tech would still be around and as long as there is fuel they would have some time to rebuild.
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    Quote Originally Posted by The Backroad Astronomer View Post
    So all their memories got wiped as well. People still use tools that somewhat go back to stone age such axes, hammers and such.There are time that I have had to find a rock to bang out another rock out of tiller tines. But there is the argument that some people who have lived in cities and suburbs probably wouldn't know some of the basic survival skills such as growing stuff and cooking. But unless you transport them to another planet a lot the tech would still be around and as long as there is fuel they would have some time to rebuild.
    OK, but that's not my premise or question.

    For plot reasons, they have no stuff. Assume they have no ruins to scavenge. A start from scratch. And for the past, say, 20 generations they have been nomadic, on the run from a threat with just what they could carry on their person. Would their descendants retain writing? How much ancestral knowledge would they keep of things outside their meager hunter/gatherer experience?
    "I'm planning to live forever. So far, that's working perfectly." Steven Wright

  4. #4
    I really don't understand how that can happen.
    From the wilderness to the cosmos.
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    Quote Originally Posted by The Backroad Astronomer View Post
    I really don't understand how that can happen.
    How is not relevant for the premise. I could lay out several chapters to explain the setting, but for now, let's just take it as a given that they did end up that way.

    I'm asking, if that situation came about, what are the most likely results in technological and cultural development from that point?
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    why would this situation be any different to humans past pre-neolithic past?
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    Quote Originally Posted by WaxRubiks View Post
    why would this situation be any different to humans past pre-neolithic past?

    I said in post 3 that they might have some residual knowledge from their ancestors. Not a lot, but oral cultures train their memories to retain long histories, and they might have kept reading and writing even if there were no books or paper to make writing convenient. Ancient cultures used whatever was available... shards of broken pottery, bark, wood chips, flat stones. They wrote notes and messages all the time. So it could be a skill.

    Neolithic people were starting from a true blank slate, they had to figure out everything from first principles. I think that's what I was getting at. How many ideas would be practical or plausible to keep, to kickstart a new cycle? What would the survivors and their children, and their children's children, prioritize to teach and remember to their own kids to pass down?
    Last edited by Noclevername; 2018-Sep-12 at 04:54 AM.
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    depends on the people. If Hannibal Lecter survived and had kids, I would bet he would insist that all his descendents develop memory palaces, so that huge amounts could be handed down.
    Formerly Frog march.

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    Quote Originally Posted by WaxRubiks View Post
    depends on the people. If Hannibal Lecter survived and had kids, I would bet he would insist that all his descendents develop memory palaces, so that huge amounts could be handed down.
    OK. Start with a group of 1000 fairly well educated, American college grads, around 25-35. A mix of majors, ethnicity, etc. Trained just enough in wilderness survival to, er, survive, but no experience with living off the land at the beginning. Drop them in the woods.
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    The most efficient approach would be:
    -first of course find proper ways of living, agriculture and sustaining your civilization
    -from the start, find a way to store and transfer as much available knowledge as possible (also knowledge that is not applicable at that moment, like the principle of an internal combustion engine or the principles of flight)
    -then focus your efforts on iron mining and processing

    BAM! Now you're already back in the iron age, with a lot of knowledge on what to do with that iron. You can skip the middle ages civilization-wise, so basically you could go from the iron age into the Industrial revolution. Well, in a book at least.

    I think stuff like medical science which requires advanced equipment (to make medicin and to treat people) would lag a lot compared to the coarser technological re-development. You'd have a very frustrating few generation where (if passing knowledge is taken care of) you know what is the medical problem, how to treat it, but you can't treat it.
    Last edited by Nicolas; 2018-Sep-12 at 08:12 AM.

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    Of course, if they're on Earth, there'll be large stockpiles of metals and other refined (or degraded) resources available in the form of city ruins. In contrast, it'll be rather difficult to find similar concentrations of resources in their "natural" form because someone already has dug up all the stuff that's easy to get at. If the population has been dumped on some other Earthlike planet, those considerations probably wouldn't apply, of course.

    FWIW, extensive neolithic mining operations have been discovered, suggesting to me that quality flint wasn't all that easy to find even then.
    E.g. https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Neolit...es_of_Spiennes
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    Given your premise (no ruins or other stuff to scavenge, etc), why would the development of your nomads be different than what humans went though in prehistoric times? Retaining some oral knowledge might cut the time down, but if they haven't have the opportunity to use any of that knowledge (too busy being nomadic scavengers), it would seem to be of limited use, and getting more limited with each generation.

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    Quote Originally Posted by geonuc View Post
    Given your premise (no ruins or other stuff to scavenge, etc), why would the development of your nomads be different than what humans went though in prehistoric times? Retaining some oral knowledge might cut the time down, but if they haven't have the opportunity to use any of that knowledge (too busy being nomadic scavengers), it would seem to be of limited use, and getting more limited with each generation.
    Yup, that is why I'm asking for advice here and not just copy and pasting prehistory. I'm wondering how much knowledge might be preserved that way? How useful (or not) could it be?
    Last edited by Noclevername; 2018-Sep-12 at 04:45 PM.
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    Quote Originally Posted by Noclevername View Post
    Yup, that is why I'm asking for advice here and not just copy and pasting prehistory. I'm wondering how much knowledge might be preserved that way? How useful (or not) could it be?
    Given how much anti-knowledge and misinformation people retain (the Earth is flat, vaccines are bad, the Moon landings were faked), and how little the rest of their knowledge will be useful in a neolithic setting (knowing how to make a PowerPoint presentation or drive a car will not be helpful), I suspect that if the only retained "knowledge" is oral and memory, that there will be no advantage. I suspect the population will have to relearn a lot of things that neolithic people knew (like how to hunt, butcher, start a fire, what things to eat or not eat), as much as passing on what little useful information they might have.
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    Quote Originally Posted by Noclevername View Post
    Yup, that is why I'm asking for advice here and not just copy and pasting prehistory. I'm wondering how much knowledge might be preserved that way? How useful (or not) could it be?
    Understood. I guess my answer is not much useful knowledge will be retained.

    Take bread-making, for example. Probably a number of your college grads will be familiar with the basics, and number of others will be familiar with how people cultivated wheat from wild plants, and a number of people will understand the basics of rudimentary kilns and such. Similarly for other 'first step to non-nomadic civilization' kinds of things.

    Then fast forward 20 generations without any of that knowledge having been put to use or perfected (your folks are still nomadic and in basic survival mode). I'm guessing any useful knowledge will have been lost or diluted to the point of uselessness, and probably corrupted with false knowledge and not just the type Swift suggests. The people that best retain the bread-making lore might by now think the ancients used the blood of raccoons to make bread. No one having ever made bread since the fall of civilization, or grown wheat, who will challenge that idea? It seems to me that the knowledge of how to make bread will arise much like it did however many thousands of years ago.

    That's my guess, anyway.

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    "However many" seems to be more than 14K years ago. Apparently bread was developed by hunter-gatherers long before agriculture was developed, and might have been one of the reasons for domesticating grains.

    https://www.npr.org/sections/thesalt...ng-and-farming
    So she took her burnt findings to a colleague, Lara Gonzalez Carretero at University College London Institute of Archaeology, whose specialty is identifying prehistoric food remains, bread in particular. She concluded that what Arranz-Otaegui had unearthed was a handful of truly primordial breadcrumbs.
    Of course, when you're starving you'll eat just about anything, although many people consider some foods to be, shall we say, less than appetizing.

    Leaning which vegetables are toxic, and attempts to get around that, would doubtless be quite an adventure.
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    Quote Originally Posted by selden View Post
    "However many" seems to be more than 14K years ago. Apparently bread was developed by hunter-gatherers long before agriculture was developed, and might have been one of the reasons for domesticating grains.

    https://www.npr.org/sections/thesalt...ng-and-farming
    I was told it was beer. Although beermaking can leave wet grain mush. If some of that were to get in a fire....


    Anyway. The consensus seems to be, no real advantage to the HGs just because their ancestors were educated.


    OK. I'm off to the prehistory books then!
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    Quote Originally Posted by geonuc View Post
    It seems to me that the knowledge of how to make bread will arise much like it did however many thousands of years ago.
    If they make flat bread or matzo, I guess we can't say that bread making knowledge will "arise".
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    Quote Originally Posted by Swift View Post
    If they make flat bread or matzo, I guess we can't say that bread making knowledge will "arise".


    That joke goes against the grain.
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    Quote Originally Posted by Noclevername View Post
    OK, but that's not my premise or question.

    For plot reasons, they have no stuff. Assume they have no ruins to scavenge. A start from scratch. And for the past, say, 20 generations they have been nomadic, on the run from a threat with just what they could carry on their person. Would their descendants retain writing? How much ancestral knowledge would they keep of things outside their meager hunter/gatherer experience?
    I think it depends somewhat on how many people are left, but I would say that if the number is not very large, they would definitely lose the ability to write. If the community is small enough, you can communicate verbally, and people would be busy with other things than teaching each other to write. So the knowledge would probably be lost though it would be passed down orally. I think that they would surely lose what we consider scientific knowledge, chemistry and all that. And I don't know how fast it would come back. I think a lot would depend on how fast the population grows.
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    Quote Originally Posted by Jens View Post
    I think it depends somewhat on how many people are left, but I would say that if the number is not very large, they would definitely lose the ability to write. If the community is small enough, you can communicate verbally, and people would be busy with other things than teaching each other to write. So the knowledge would probably be lost though it would be passed down orally. I think that they would surely lose what we consider scientific knowledge, chemistry and all that. And I don't know how fast it would come back. I think a lot would depend on how fast the population grows.
    Population starts at 1000. Roughly equal sexes.

    For the first 20 gens pop growth is slowed to say, 50% of normal. Afterwards, normal for HG in a temperate woodland area.
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    Why would they still be nomadic after 20 generations? They might be sheltered city people, but still some of them should have a grasp of the concept of farming and the vast advantages it has over just scouting for food. In a similar way, with 1000 people at least one would have a rough idea of building for example an irrigation system, a rudimentary water mill. So if they have anything between their ears, you could cut the timeline from a very basic nomadic society into farmers with good tooling (though iron tooling might have to wait for a few generations to reach useful quality, just think of the time it takes to find good ore) with thousands of years.

    In my opinion, if they'd still be basic gatherers after 20 generations when generation 1 had a bunch of prior knowledge, they'd be rather pathetic.
    Last edited by Nicolas; 2018-Sep-13 at 08:01 AM.

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    Quote Originally Posted by Nicolas View Post
    Why would they still be nomadic after 20 generations? They might be sheltered city people, but still some of them should have a grasp of the concept of farming and the vast advantages it has over just scouting for food. In a similar way, with 1000 people at least one would have a rough idea of building for example an irrigation system, a rudimentary water mill. So if they have anything between their ears, you could cut the timeline from a very basic nomadic society into farmers with good tooling (though iron tooling might have to wait for a few generations to reach useful quality, just think of the time it takes to find good ore) with thousands of years.
    The original founders grasp the concept just fine. Outside forces prevent them from doing so. It's part of the premise. It's a thought experiment.
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    Quote Originally Posted by Noclevername View Post
    The original founders grasp the concept just fine. Outside forces prevent them from doing so. It's part of the premise. It's a thought experiment.
    Recent article about Australian aboriginees, they kept their survival knowledge going using song and dance for many more generations than 20, recording, it seems accurately form the geology, the sudden flooding of their lands 12000 years ago. Any survival group should learn from that and get their poets working.
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    Quote Originally Posted by Noclevername View Post
    The original founders grasp the concept just fine. Outside forces prevent them from doing so. It's part of the premise. It's a thought experiment.

    If your premise includes that the first 20 generations don't/can't do any practical work at all but only can try to maintain theoretical knowledge, well then you've basically reset the history clock with the exception of those few things they do manage to carry over like Profloater describes. But the premise is becoming a bit acadamic here for me.

    Another bit to put into the thought experiment: we're still teaching people for example Latin, which hasn't been actively used as language for many generations (minus naming things here and there). Same for Roman numbers.
    Last edited by Nicolas; 2018-Sep-13 at 01:22 PM.

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    Could they retain writing? Would they still make use of it even with stone age tech?
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    Quote Originally Posted by Swift View Post
    I suspect the population will have to relearn a lot of things that neolithic people knew (like how to hunt, butcher, start a fire, what things to eat or not eat), as much as passing on what little useful information they might have.
    Now that you put it that way, I have an alternate view:

    They will die off almost right way. Here's why:

    One of the silly questions comedians ask as part of their schtick is: "Who was the first human to pick up an oyster, look it over, and say to themselves: I don't know what this is, but I think I'm gonna crack it open and eat whatever's inside."

    Haha. But the obvious, non-funny answer is: there never was a first. In anything. Every critter who has any kind of complex behavior, ultimately learned it from their pack/tribe/parents. There was no "first" animal that ate an oyster.

    Same with every other human activity.



    All human knowledge ultimately came as a modification of what his recent ancestors were already doing. Building a fire didn't just happen one day, it started with harvesting a fire from a lightning strike.
    Before the wheel came from the rolling log.
    Before cooking came drying and salting.
    Before stone axes came bone axes.

    What I'm getting at here is that, these humans who are dropped into a forest have no cultural history of how to live.
    They cannot be taught how to skin a deer because there are no parents and grandparents to pass their knowledge along.
    They will not learn how to mash grains from their parents, or dry fish without it rotting, or apply salves to their wounds, or what plants need to supplement their diet (to get the right balance of micro-nutrients).





    This knowledge-passing goes all the way back to our ancestral primates (and before), who showed their young how to choose the best fruits to pick and how to use a stick to get termites out of a nest.


    By far, the most important resource we have is the culture of passing on knowledge through generations. If you sever that, you're dead.


    Couple that with this: Wilderness survival is hard. We've seen stories of 20th century humans with 20th century knowledge, who have been lost in the woods, eking by, barely surviving. The survivors say the number one challenge is cutting down calorie burn (because of the astonishingly low calories available), so they sleep a lot, just to survive. It takes a lot of calories (and time) to catch an animal, if you don't have access to traps. More calories than you get as nourishment. Wilderness survivors are typically reduced to eating grubs because they require less energy expenditure to find.




    The implication of what I'm saying is that, were these humans to start out without knowledge, they are not at all equivalent to any prehistoric culture. They are an aberration, that will immediately die off before they have a chance to innovate and acquire the knowledge-base required to sustain a whole village of astoundingly high calorie requirements of their human brains.
    Last edited by DaveC426913; 2018-Sep-13 at 02:27 PM.

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    Quote Originally Posted by Noclevername View Post
    Could they retain writing? Would they still make use of it even with stone age tech?
    They could, of course: carbon from burnt sticks can be applied to peeled-off bark or to cave walls. Of course, bark doesn't usually last all that long. Whether they would is a separate issue. I could imagine survival necessities (hunting all day to find enough food) might preclude having the time to write anything down while there's enough daylight. On the other hand, one has to find something to do by firelight during the long dark hours of a winter night.... Other than the obvious social interactions of course That'd be an obvious time to pass on oral traditions, too.
    Selden

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    I'm with DaveC. If you take a thousand random college students and force them to try to adopt a hunter gatherer lifestyle with no existing infrastructure, no significant supply of tools or equipment, and they can't even build any kind of permanent shelter because they're on the run from some kind of serious threat, I'd expect them not to survive.
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    Quote Originally Posted by Grey View Post
    I'm with DaveC. If you take a thousand random college students and force them to try to adopt a hunter gatherer lifestyle with no existing infrastructure, no significant supply of tools or equipment, and they can't even build any kind of permanent shelter because they're on the run from some kind of serious threat, I'd expect them not to survive.
    OK but that's not what the OP is about.

    In this experiment we follow the unlikely path where some do survive, and branch out from there. That's the premise.
    Last edited by Noclevername; 2018-Sep-13 at 10:31 PM.
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