Author Topic: How strong is civilization  (Read 130 times)

0 Members and 1 Guest are viewing this topic.

Offline epidemic

  • Postgraduate
  • *****
  • Posts: 908
  • Darwins +61/-14
How strong is civilization
« on: November 19, 2014, 02:53:27 PM »
I am a bit of a pessimist,  maybe I have watched too many apocalypse movies.  But how far have we come from our hunter gatherer backgrounds. 

how long would it take for society to collapse completely if say SARS, or avian flu ravaged the country.  Let say a disease (lets call it SARS became as communicable as the flu and 10 times more deadly.   How long would it be before people stopped going to work and delivering food and services to our big cities.

Would an EMP bomb or Giant solar flare taking out technology break down civilization in a first world technological society like America?  If EMP's really robbed us of virtually all technology for months what would happen to society?

Offline wright

  • Reader
  • ******
  • Posts: 1938
  • Darwins +83/-1
  • Gender: Male
  • "Sleep like a log, snore like a chainsaw."
Re: How strong is civilization
« Reply #1 on: November 19, 2014, 03:39:17 PM »
There are certainly a number of ways our current civilization is vulnerable. For one, it isn't sustainable at our present rate of resource consumption / depletion.

Your first scenario seems far less survivable than the second. A disease with that combo of easy spread and lethality would probably lead to a major die-back of the human species. Some would survive in isolation or because of natural immunity, but their ability to keep the lights and water on is unlikely. I'd expect, unless it was recognized and ruthlessly quarantined very early on, that civilization as we define it would grind to a halt in a few years. The pieces would still be there for survivors to pick up; regaining the knowledge base would probably take much longer.

I read one SF novel where the US is reduced to small, isolated communities after an internationally-coordinated EMP attack. If I recall correctly, the collapse in that story took only months. IRL, I'd expect at least some military infrastructure to survive and our military to retaliate against who they perceived as the attackers, likely leading to at least a few nukes being tossed around.

Again, I'd expect isolated communities where people know how to subsistence farm to survive, at least for a time. It wouldn't be a bucolic paradise by any means, though.
Live a good life... If there are no gods, then you will be gone, but will have lived a noble life that will live on in the memories of your loved ones. I am not afraid.
--Marcus Aurelius

Offline eh!

  • Reader
  • ******
  • Posts: 1967
  • Darwins +83/-37
  • Gender: Male
  • jimmy hendrix is jesus
Re: How strong is civilization
« Reply #2 on: November 19, 2014, 03:59:46 PM »
this has already been observed in real time many times in recent history, look at the Katrina aftermath or how people responded to fuel shortages in the US during the 70's or the LA riots or the Somalia genocide......

I think it is only about 2 weeks of extreme conditions when  civilised society breaks down.


the good thing is it recovers just as quick.
Signature goes here...

Offline Fiji

  • Reader
  • ******
  • Posts: 1313
  • Darwins +89/-2
  • Gender: Male
Re: How strong is civilization
« Reply #3 on: November 19, 2014, 04:21:05 PM »
Paris ... if you add together all the food in all the supermarkets, corner stores, bakeries, butchers, pantries, basements and vending machines, Paris has a reserve of 48 hours.

If something were to interrupt the distribution of food, within two days, some two and a half million people will be without food. Though, of course, some have well stocked larders while other will be out of food by dinner time after whatever the event is.
That, right there, will be a massive breakdown in civilization. LA riots will seem like a barroom brawl.

An EMP that fries every piece of electronics in all of Paris will do the trick. The EMP will fry the entire rail infrastructure. Any modern cars or trucks will also be lost. Except for a handful of specially shielded of landlines, there will be no more phone communication and no internet.

Now, this is France we're talking about. If it's just Paris that's hit, they'll just have the army and airforce deliver food ... oh, and drinking water. Emp = no more pumps = one day's worth of tap water.
But it'll be pandemonium for a while.

And that's just Paris ... imagine this happening to ... say ... New York.

Now ... the superflu scenario ... A good number of people will abandon their jobs pretty much from day one. Hell, US-ians have skipped work because of ebola! Quite a few sectors can handle 10 ... 20 ... maybe 30% of employees skipping work. But the energy sector is especially vulnerable. Nuke plants can keep going with very few people operating them but coal plants are notorious in this regard. Even if power can still be generated, it still needs to get to the people. The power grid needs to be kept at 50Hz. Tiny fluctuations are ok, but a big deviation will destroy nearly every engine hooked up to the grid. Keeping the grid at 50Hz is a job that has so far not been automated successfully and only a handful of people know how to do this. Oh, and it takes about a year to learn it properly. So, if a just a couple of people bail, or you know, get the superflu and die, and there will be no more electricity.
Ever seen the TV series Revolution ... ?


Science: I'll believe it when I see it
Faith: I'll see it when I believe it

Schrodinger's thunderdome! One cat enters and one MIGHT leave!

Without life, god has no meaning.

Offline Nick

  • Laureate
  • *********
  • Posts: 10493
  • Darwins +189/-8
  • Gender: Male
Re: How strong is civilization
« Reply #4 on: November 19, 2014, 04:59:46 PM »
Hell, according to the "right" it is already happening just from there being a black man in the WH.
Yo, put that in your pipe and smoke it.  Quit ragging on my Lord.

Tide goes in, tide goes out !!!

Online ParkingPlaces

  • Professor
  • ********
  • Posts: 6613
  • Darwins +791/-6
  • Gender: Male
  • If you are religious, you are misconcepted
Re: How strong is civilization
« Reply #5 on: November 19, 2014, 05:00:16 PM »
The ebola-sticken countries right now are having trouble getting goods and services delivered, because of the fear (which is quite justified in some of those areas, where they lack both proper sanitation and proper medical facilities). If something similar hit Europe or the US, we would probably have similar problems. Add to that isolationists who might blockage their community and shoot people trying to intrude, the breakdown of delivery systems (as mentioned by Fiji), interruption of power distribution, gasoline, heating oil and other basics of civilization, and things could get ugly fast.

If the catalyst is some sort of armed conflict, especially a more concerted terror attack, such as the aforementioned EMT problem or biological warfare type weapons, that wouldn't go well either. Especially if trust between normally civilized people broke down in the meantime.

If anything big goes down, the problem will always be exacerbated by irrational responses. People who are more frightened and/or protective than they need to be would be no more helpful than roaming street gangs and/or oppressive regimes. If the original source of the problems, be it global warming or a huge volcano that causes a couple years straight of year-round winters, or nuclear winters, or just plain old world-wide war with lots of shooting everywhere, the odds or rebuilding will decrease with each day of dystopian conditions or behavior. Toss in individual shortcomings, like the inability to efficiently grow food, slaughter game, build shelter, make a frickin' fire without matches or fix an engine, and the problem gets even worse. And then, just because I can, I'll mention medical problems. A shortage or disappearance of medicine for chronic conditions (diabetes comes to mind) would doom millions almost instantly. And if enough people get forever deprived of reality TV and/or sports, then so many will have so little to live for that the rest of us will have to spend half our remaining lifespan stepping over bodies.

Luckily for me, the morose can survive anything.  ;D
Jesus, the cracker flavored treat!

Offline shnozzola

Re: How strong is civilization
« Reply #6 on: November 19, 2014, 06:49:57 PM »
   I thought this would be more of an argument for or against religion, not avian flu.  As for the continuance of civilization - interesting argument, isn't it?  Think how strongly extreme Islam believes the western view of existence will ruin the planet, and their view of truth is worth killing and dying for.  Think how strongly many Christian's views are convinced that non-Christians will go to hell for eternity......strange and horrible that people used to kill over that - over such a thing as refusing infant baptism.  If only the religious could see that current views aren't much different.

   ....... While we here condemn the intolerance and narrow-mindedness of religion, also sure that abhorring education for women, abhorring vaccines, abhorring abortion, abhorring homosexuals, abhorring difference, abhorring never-ending search for truth through every possible means, etc, etc, etc, etc, etc - is so very wrong.

And nobody is sure who is right.....ahem.....sorry

Anyway, avian flu, ebola, the sun, et al, may become problems for civilization.  Are some of you selling generators?  Selling 100,000 gallon diesel tanks?

Oh, can anyone volunteer to dig a moat around the White House?
« Last Edit: November 19, 2014, 06:54:12 PM by shnozzola »
“The best thing for being sad," replied Merlin, beginning to puff and blow, "is to learn something."  ~ T. H. White
  The real holy trinity:  onion, celery, and bell pepper ~  all Cajun Chefs

Offline eh!

  • Reader
  • ******
  • Posts: 1967
  • Darwins +83/-37
  • Gender: Male
  • jimmy hendrix is jesus
Re: How strong is civilization
« Reply #7 on: November 19, 2014, 07:28:47 PM »
US is 60Hz I believe.
Signature goes here...

Offline epidemic

  • Postgraduate
  • *****
  • Posts: 908
  • Darwins +61/-14
Re: How strong is civilization
« Reply #8 on: November 20, 2014, 03:43:25 PM »
so it is pretty universally agreed that our society lives on the razors edge of falling apart with just the slightest push :)


What is funny is that the most backwards societies would fare the best IMO.   Third world countries basically would become the global leaders.

Offline Fiji

  • Reader
  • ******
  • Posts: 1313
  • Darwins +89/-2
  • Gender: Male
Re: How strong is civilization
« Reply #9 on: November 21, 2014, 03:06:34 AM »
so it is pretty universally agreed that our society lives on the razors edge of falling apart with just the slightest push :)

Well, a superflu or an EMP that takes out every electronic device in a major city are not 'slight' by any measure. And the EMP thing might be very expensive to fix and kill a whole bunch of people, but it's not a civilization ender.

But take the electricity away from a country or two and, yeah, you'll have Mad Max pretty quickly.

What is funny is that the most backwards societies would fare the best IMO.   Third world countries basically would become the global leaders.

If by global leaders you mean that after the superflu is done killing people, the way of life will be less impacted, then yeah sure.
But if you mean that the Saan, Papuans and Inuit will be conquering the planet, then no. Sooner or later, the survivors in the more advanced countries will use what is left from before to rebuild. It might take a dozen decades or so, but a technologically advanced society will reemerge.
Science: I'll believe it when I see it
Faith: I'll see it when I believe it

Schrodinger's thunderdome! One cat enters and one MIGHT leave!

Without life, god has no meaning.

Offline Fiji

  • Reader
  • ******
  • Posts: 1313
  • Darwins +89/-2
  • Gender: Male
Re: How strong is civilization
« Reply #10 on: November 21, 2014, 03:22:31 AM »
And just as we're discussing this, WatchMojo produces this
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=NxCl5xV3pv4
Science: I'll believe it when I see it
Faith: I'll see it when I believe it

Schrodinger's thunderdome! One cat enters and one MIGHT leave!

Without life, god has no meaning.

Offline eh!

  • Reader
  • ******
  • Posts: 1967
  • Darwins +83/-37
  • Gender: Male
  • jimmy hendrix is jesus
Re: How strong is civilization
« Reply #11 on: November 21, 2014, 04:27:26 AM »
so what we can learn from the above clips is that female survivors are all physically very attractive.

not lame at all.
Signature goes here...

Offline Fiji

  • Reader
  • ******
  • Posts: 1313
  • Darwins +89/-2
  • Gender: Male
Re: How strong is civilization
« Reply #12 on: November 21, 2014, 06:42:28 AM »
And ... when the apocalypse comes around, you had better not be black.
Science: I'll believe it when I see it
Faith: I'll see it when I believe it

Schrodinger's thunderdome! One cat enters and one MIGHT leave!

Without life, god has no meaning.

Offline One Above All

  • Laureate
  • *********
  • Posts: 11134
  • Darwins +294/-37
  • Supreme ruler of the multiverse; All In One
Re: How strong is civilization
« Reply #13 on: November 21, 2014, 06:53:26 AM »
For a while, we'd go back to the Dark Ages. However, human curiosity cannot be repressed for long. We'd get back on track ASAP. If there was absolutely no chance of getting back on track, though? Expect humans to go back to acting like other animals even more than we already do.
The truth is absolute. Life forms are specks of specks (...) of specks of dust in the universe.
Why settle for normal, when you can be so much more? Why settle for something, when you can have everything?
We choose our own gods.

A.K.A.: Blaziken/Lucifer/All In One/Orion.

Offline epidemic

  • Postgraduate
  • *****
  • Posts: 908
  • Darwins +61/-14
Re: How strong is civilization
« Reply #14 on: November 21, 2014, 09:42:17 AM »

If by global leaders you mean that after the superflu is done killing people, the way of life will be less impacted, then yeah sure.
But if you mean that the Saan, Papuans and Inuit will be conquering the planet, then no. Sooner or later, the survivors in the more advanced countries will use what is left from before to rebuild. It might take a dozen decades or so, but a technologically advanced society will reemerge.

nah I mean that places like China with huge swaths of the country still traditionally farming with barter still in the common culture, the middle east, Backwoods India... Hell even Mexico could be a world leader.  Europe, USA, would probably take longer to gain their balance leaving them in the dust IMO.

Offline epidemic

  • Postgraduate
  • *****
  • Posts: 908
  • Darwins +61/-14
Re: How strong is civilization
« Reply #15 on: November 21, 2014, 09:49:12 AM »
For a while, we'd go back to the Dark Ages. However, human curiosity cannot be repressed for long. We'd get back on track ASAP. If there was absolutely no chance of getting back on track, though? Expect humans to go back to acting like other animals even more than we already do.

Yeah, I think our rise to a technological society would happen much faster.   We would never have to go through long periods of stone age, bronze age and Iron age before returning to the space age.    Who would be the leaders in that new world I think might not be who one might expect.  Especially in the case of a Tech disaster like Super EMP.   

Our best and brightest live in cities and will be the first to die with out tech.   Again bottom tier people technologically speaking are the one who thrive.  Bumhump Nebraska and Nowhereville Wyoming fare far better than LA, and NYC.

Wall Street executives and bankers all die off in the first cut :)   that might not be so bad :)