After the End of the World: Restarting Civilization
by Anonymous 411
As I revised my existing material and notes into the articles that this series became, my ideas advanced from a library that one person could accumulate into a bigger project. This final article will primarily discuss this bigger project: restarting civilization.
With this final article of this series I want to weave together the threads of the previous articles into a plan that, if fully executed, could prepare humankind to restore our technological civilization should a civilization-destroying disaster occur.
I’m going to cover the following points.
- Define the problem – disaster
- What has been accomplished to date
- Propose a solution
- Find the information and tools necessary to restore a destroyed civilization
- Save the information and tools necessary to restore a destroyed civilization
- Survive the disastrous event
- Use the saved technology to rebuild civilization
Define the Problem
Disasters can happen anytime, anywhere and many occur without warning. Unless you prepare ahead of time you run the risk of property loss, injury or death of yourself or a loved one. The immediate danger inherit in some disasters, such as weather, can be over in a matter of minutes or a few days. Other disasters can result in The End of The World As We Know It (TEOTWAWKI) (also known as Doomsday). For those disasters that have the potential to cause the collapse of civilization a plan must be in place to restore civilization. Preserving the scientific, medical and technological knowledge is the mission of this series of articles.
Survive the TEOTWAWKI Event
Surviving a major disaster breaks down into basically four time periods depending on the scope of the disaster. Items 1 and 2 below apply to all disasters. Items 3 and 4 apply to a TEOTWAWKI (The End of The World As We Know It) disaster.
- Surviving the disaster event itself. This is partly about buying the right stuff and learning the right skills you will need in a disaster situation, partly about what to expect and what to do and where to go and how to use the stuff you bought. Covered mostly by the books (especially paper books) and the checklists. You also need to know what the potential Disasters are, be Prepared for them before they happen and be Aware so you are not taken by complete surprise and to know about resources near you.
- Moving to a place of relative safety (hopefully for no more than a few days). This is typically called “bugging out” by preppers. See the article on Maps. The minimum basic tools, supplies and knowledge are typically gathered together ahead of time into a BOB “bug out bag”. If you have to travel on foot or by bicycle you can carry fewer supplies, so pack carefully. There are books with checklists to help you determine what should be in your BOB. Some people will plan to stay home or “bug in”. This allows you to gather more resources, mainly food, water, equipment and books.
- Making it through the first year. In particular the first winter. In winter, after the first freeze, crops won’t grow, unless you can grow them indoors or have a green house. So you must have adequate food supplies stored to feed yourself and your family until you can plant a garden in the spring and begin harvesting food in the summer. You have to assume that the electricity and natural gas will be off so you must be prepared to heat your location by fire. This means a working fireplace that actually burns wood and not gas logs, or a wood stove with an adequate supply of fuel to last you through the winter as delivery of additional fuel will not be available. Coal or oil burning furnace won’t do because you will need electricity to run the fan blower and thermostat. You must have adequate winter clothing and lots of blankets. You must be able to defend yourself, your family, your supplies, and your home from those that didn’t adequately prepare to survive this period of time.
- Long term survival and the rebuilding of some semblance of civilization. Given that in any world-wide disaster that causes civilization to collapse 90% of the world’s population will quite possibly die. Most of those will be older people, many of whom will have been educated in and have many years of experience in useful subjects such as engineering, medicine, farming, construction, mechanics, oil industry, electrical generation and transmission, manufacturing, truck, rail and shipping transportation, operating machine tools, etc. With all that knowledge and experience lost it will be impossible to restart civilization where we were before the disaster struck. Most facilities powering life as we know it, such as: factories, oil refineries, electrical power plants, hospitals, etc. may be damaged beyond use or totally destroyed. Hopefully the assemblage of knowledge presented in these articles will help civilization fall only as far as the late 1800’s or early 1900’s. The alternative is back to the dark ages, if not back to Native American culture prior to the arrival of the Europeans, or even back to the caves. This must not be allowed to happen at all costs!
What has been accomplished to Date
In Part 6 I discussed Preservation of Existing Knowledge, Modern knowledge that must be preserved breaks down into six broad categories:
- The Basics: Reading, writing, history, etc. A complete set of homeschooling books will be needed here. Our children as yet unborn must learn the basics, from elementary school through high school, or they won’t understand the advanced material below.
- Science: Particularly the physical sciences such as chemistry, physics, and many more.
- Mathematics: All types of mathematics, not just the basics.
- Engineering:There are many fields of engineering including chemical, civil, electrical, industrial, mechanical, mining and more.
- Medicine:Yes, the advanced diagnostics machines of today will be gone, but humankind will still need medical professionals and medicines.
- Machines:Generating electricity, petroleum refining, communications, transportation, etc. All of these machines must be rebuilt unless we want to live in the dark ages.
Part 6 went on to list many CDs and DVDs I had purchased on eBay (most of the individual books are listed in the eBay listings for these items and most, almost certainly, could be found on archive.org). Also listed were the many books I had purchased from Amazon, both survival and preserving knowledge topics.
Part 7 was a list of some about all of the above items from Wikipedia.org
So, what I have now is a pile of books from various sources, some paper books, some PDF. I also have 1500 – 2000 articles from 3 prepper websites. Some are good and some not so good.
Below are several projects that need to be performed.
I am a retired software developer. My special strength is that I see the big picture of some things and come up with ways to organize them. A year or two ago I came up with a searchable database for storing the metadata (names, authors, year published, subject material, etc.) on the above books and articles but also the maps discussed in Part 3. Also included is a rating system for the items, like Amazon uses, so users could differentiate the good and useful books from the not so useful. It also has a subject list that would be used to group books in various ways.
When I read books I underline important points in the books that I find to be common sense, wisdom, clever sayings, etc. Then I write the page number of each marked piece on the flyleaf. These I call “tidbits” and these can be stored in the database too.
The database exists but I have only built a couple of input screens, so it’s not finished and has no data in it now. One of my problems is that I find manually entering data to be so tedious that I can’t do it and I don’t have the money to hire people to do this work.
This database, supporting software, reports and etc. needs to be finished, loaded with existing data and made available to all on the internet.
Expand the Library
I want all the (technical) knowledge to cover in depth the six items listed above. Where legal, scan the paper books so they could be stored in PDFs. Also, print the useful PDF books. Of course people experienced in each field need to read and rate the PDFs to know which are worthy of printing, hence the rating system in the database. Lists of subjects must be developed.
Organize the Library
I also want to organize the books/subjects so that first things come first. For example, in mathematics first you study arithmetic, then algebra, then geometry, then trigonometry, then it spreads out into several different fields. The ones I listed are the basics. Math is the one pervasive subject throughout all our technology and a required basis for studying subjects like engineering, science like physics, etc. You have to study the subjects in order as each builds on the proceeding concepts. A list of the proper order for studying each subject must be devised. Nothing is ever easy, buts asking teachers/experts of each subject area should provide such lists. Building the list of teachers/experts in each subject area will be a lot of work.
Machine Shop Built from Scratch
Building precision machines starts with machine tools. The most basic machine tool is the metal lathe. With a working metal lathe you can build all the other machines in a machine shop, including another metal lathe. This is where it starts!
To build machines you have to start with the machines that you have the tools to build. For example, you can’t build all the parts to make a working automobile gasoline engine with screwdrivers, wrenches and an electric drill. If you had the parts on hand you might be able to assemble the engine with these tools, but if you had to make all the parts yourself, from scratch, you would need more tools, i.e. machine tools. After TEOTWAWKI you would have to first build your machine tools from scratch. There are a couple of ways to do that. One is from hobbyist publications. I mentioned one in Part 8 and discussed another in the comments to Part 8. The other way is to study the first version and subsequent versions of each type of machine tool from when they first started building them. I have barely scratched the surface in this area. If you can’t find construction drawing of machines from the 1700s and later, then you have to find the actual machines (in museums and private collections) and take them apart, make the needed construction drawings and reassemble them (reverse engineering). I’m talking about a TEOTWAWKI situation where all you have is the screwdrivers, wrenches and an electric drill (you can only power the electric drill if you have batteries, solar panels or other means of charging the batteries, and an inverter to make 110AC out of the 12 volt DC batteries).
You could simply buy machine tools today and save them until after TEOTWAWKI. But what if your tools were stolen, damaged or destroyed in the TEOTWAWKI disaster, or simply become worn out. If you didn’t know how to build them from scratch, you would have failed.
Choosing Machines to be Preserved
Then the subject really becomes complicated. You have to decide which generations of tools and machines you can skip because the generational change was so small. You don’t necessarily want to start with the first working model of each machine. For example, the first Wright brother’s airplane worked but used somewhat crude experimental techniques. It wasn’t long until those techniques were refined by others into the standard airplane design using a tail rudder and elevators with ailerons and flaps in the wings. The first saved airplane design should probably be one of the WWI era fighter biplanes.
Ok, so let’s say you have a working machine shop with all the tools you need and a reliable power source. Maybe electrical, maybe a steam engine, maybe a waterwheel. So you’re ready to start. Of course getting together all the books, plans, etc. to get this far must be part of my project.
What Machines are Needed by Our Technical Civilization
You have the machine shop so what are you going to build? We must make lists of the machines needed to restore civilization, how they must be employed and the order in which they must be built and used. A reliable electrical generator with the proper electrical distribution transformers, etc. would be nice. A small working oil refinery would be nice too. Now figuring out what to build gets complicated: farm machinery, communications equipment, transportation (ships, trucks, cars, bicycles, etc.). A study of this subject must be made and lists devised. Then, plans and documentation for each machine must be developed. I’ve barely scratched this surface as well.
To figure this all out, gather the books, etc. and plans and working models of machine tools and other machines and build the database you need an organization and money, lots of money. Money is needed to hire researchers, consultants, reverse engineering personnel and facilities, offices, IT facilities, website and storage facilities. This is the non-profit organization I have mentioned a couple of times in earlier parts of this article.
Find the Information to be Saved
Using the book “The Industrial Revolutionaries”, subtitle “The Making of the Modern World, 1776-1914” by Gavin Weightman, 2007, ISBN-13: 978-0-8021-1899-8. A list needs to be made of every person and invention (process, technique, etc.) in the book and search for books that might have been written by each person and books (hopefully technical) about each invention. Some of this information is in the end notes starting on page 394. More information is in the bibliography starting on page 402. There is an extensive index starting on page 407. I found this book so informative and exciting that I would forget to work on the list. So, I suggest you read the book through first, then go back and work on the list. I don’t know if all the information is in the back of the book or not. Probably organize the list with the inventions in some order and the persons associated with each invention. There are books that set the stage for the Industrial Revolution. These should be researched as well. After all, they had to have all the hand tools, processes and techniques in place with which to build the industrial machines.
Some of these positions/tasks need some sort of a job description. Some will need specific “how to” procedure documentation.
This includes books containing relevant material by inventors, persons working with inventors, and other historical figures, including Michael Faraday. In addition to the author’s Bibliography at the back of the book, sometimes other relevant references are included in additional Appendices. Publishers sometimes list related books or books by the same author before the title page in the front of the book.
It is unclear if the International Internet Preservation Consortium (netpreserve.org) and its Webcurator tool, (webcurator.sourceforge.net/) can be put to any use by the non-profit entity. Given that this website is a web crawler, perhaps it can be put to use searching for books, referenced by other books, but that can’t be found, at this time, in the main resource web sites above. This means that all references to potentially useful books will have to be stored in our database. This makes perfect sense because it gives us list of books to be searching for by name.
Given Google’s sharing restrictions, it is unclear at this time if books downloaded from this resource can be legally disseminated by the non-profit entity. But here are the links, anyway. Google Books (books.google.com)
Papers, articles or blogs written by individuals or business entities.
Perhaps there would be a university or college somewhere that would be friendly to thesis papers on relevant subjects in the history or engineering departments. I have no idea how to find any such school.
Museums like the Mississippi Ag Museum will have many devices that can be measured, photographed, reverse engineered and construction plans drawn etc. Need a list of every item/device in the museum along with one or more photos of each. The name, description and intended use of each item. Print some of the photographs and draw detailed measurements, angles, radius of curves, etc. Some idea of how it was made, i.e. blacksmith, hand carved by an artisan, mass produced (make, model, manufacturer), etc. Types of materials, in detail. To say wood or iron/steel is not sufficient, what type of wood what alloy of iron or steel. The different components of a device, for example a wagon, would likely be made of different types of wood. The wheels and axles would not likely be made of pine, although the body of the wagon might be (although it probably shouldn’t). Ask if construction plans exist, maintenance manuals, etc. What tools were used to make each component, using what technique? Perhaps they have spares that can be purchased.
There may still be some corporate museums or archive departments in existence. Not sure how to find these, either.
I have no idea how to find private collections of relevant books or devices, but I am sure some exist.
What about books not written in contemporary English? Could they be translated by existing web based translation software? Such books would most likely come from a few hundred years ago.
Field teams would be required to scan books in private collections and to photograph, measure and reverse engineer devices found in museums and private collections. Additionally some books, of which scanned PDF files have not be found, will exist in libraries and could be scanned on site by one or more persons with the right equipment. One such book is “Inventing the Ship” by Colum S. Gilfillan published in 1935 by Follett publishing company of Chicago. I don’t know how detailed this book is but the title sounds interesting and reasonable efforts should be made to acquire a scanned PDF of this book.
Save the Information
The author of this site has gathered together about 300 paper books and thousands of electronic books and maps in PDF format. A list of these paper was presented in Part 6. The author does not have the time nor, in many cases, the technical knowledge or experience to evaluate these books to determine which books are useful in preserving the technology and which are not. Therefore, volunteers or paid experts are needed. Even more important is finding contributions to fund the information gathering organization and eventually build working machines with the attendant documentation.
The point of all this is to preserve the tools, techniques, and technologies required to rebuild a civilization with achievable technology and human skills without collapsing back into a true dark age. This is a large part of the reason for my plans for a farm/home/business secured compound to be published in the future. If history shows us nothing else it shows us that all civilizations fall. It took a thousand years or more to recover from the fall of the Roman Empire. I don’t want that to happen again upon the fall of the American technological civilization. And yet serious forces are working to bring down our present civilization. If they succeeded, I fear that it will fall far faster and lower than they expect. They actually think they can control the fall and rebuild civilization in their view. Ha! Fools! Once a ball is rolling down a steep hill, you can’t stop it. Think of an avalanche of snow. It can’t be stopped until it reaches bottom of the mountain and everything along the way and at the bottom of the mountain is totally destroyed.
The information, and possibly tools and machines, gathered by this project must be saved in hardened facilities in several locations around the world. In addition personnel must be gathered that know how to retrieve the information and use the information, tools, and machines to restore civilization. These people and their families must also be saved. While these facility locations should be secret and in locations thought able to survive most TEOTWAWKI events, it would be best if near self-sustaining electrical power generating stations. Continuous electrical power would greatly aid the survivability of the information and those that know how to use it.
Svalbard Global Seed Vault
A plan has been underway for at least 10 years now to preserve the seeds of the world’s plants. I have read that there are several repositories for these seeds but the only public one is the Svalbard Global Seed Vault. This project contains many storage and other ideas that could be used for the project described in this article.
Surviving the Disastrous Event
Build a community of technical and subject experts, facilities and store supplies to keep all these people and the people in the non-profit entity and their families alive and well through TEOTWAWKI so they may put the recovery plan into action.
One last possibility is to compile a list of essential industries and by lobbying directly to the companies in those industries or by lobbying directly to Congress or the President convince them to prepare for disaster.
- Determine essential personnel to continue essential operations and build facilities and store supplies to keep those people and their families alive and well through TEOTWAWKI so that their plants and facilities can continue to produce and distribute their essential products.
- Save the facilities and sufficient raw materials to restore production, including spare parts.
- Save the supply chain.
- Save the distribution chain.
Essential industries would include, although not necessarily limited to:
- Electrical power generating plants, fuel supplies, and distribution system.
- Petroleum refining for gasoline, diesel fuel, lubricants, and essential chemicals, including oil pipelines for petroleum supply and distribution as needed.
- Trucking and transportation industry for moving supplies and end products.
- Medicines, doctors and nurses, and hospitals.
- Food – farming and ranching, processing and distribution.
- Water processing and distribution.
- Law enforcement.
- Military forces.
- News services, but not fake news.
- The ability to make and repair existing machines (machine tools).
There are too many unknowns at this point to make detailed plans for rebuilding civilization. Much depends on what information, tools, machines, people, supplies and facilities are saved and in what locations. Also, what existing infrastructure survives, resulting climatic conditions and more in the resulting world.
Founding the Non-Profit Entity and Pursuing the Goals Laid Out Above
I wrote a business plan, once. Hardest thing I have ever done. To convince big-time donors to fund such a project would take business/financial plans, slick presentations, travel to present those presentations, etc. I have lots of ideas but to prepare all this is beyond me. Some of what I lack is the experience and ability to create the financial projections and other documentation and sophisticated presentations, and make the presentations to investors and others. I’m a retired techy, not a deeply experienced executive or salesperson. Some of that is my health issues. Even, if I had an effective presentation I can’t crisscross the country on airplanes and make long presentations. I no longer have the stamina to travel much or make long-winded presentations.
I could consult on this if people came to me. I can be reached by email at [email protected]
Part of the reason I wrote these articles is to disseminate the work that I have done on this subject. I have done that now.