Let's assume a world in which the human population and web-of-trade have been severely reduced by a worldwide civilization collapse. How would small community (in the hundreds or low thousands) go about maximizing their standard of living and what would the results be? Specifically, what is the highest point at which quality-of-life would eventually trough at and a sustainable society is re-established?


  • For the sake of argument, we will mostly define quality-of-life in terms of an economic opportunity and minimizing conflict. How close to a post-scarcity society can the people get? Alternatively, how easily can environmentally-imposed challenges be overcome?
  • Indefinite sustainability of the community is the basic goal.
  • Community security is should be a consideration. We can't assume that other communities are not struggling and have resorted to conquest or raiding to sustain themselves.
  • You can provide an explanation based on an arbitrary environment.
  • You Are allowed to consider material stockpiling.
  • I will only consider what can be accomplished within the natural lifetimes of the most last generation before the collapse.
  • It's necessary to consider the whole community, so a feudal society/slave state is out of the question.
  • Detail as many specifics as you can about what can be done to achieve this quality-of-life.
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      $\begingroup$ For the moment is not at all clear what the question is. Specifically: for how long should they be able to maintain that standard of living? Are the responders allowed to design their own "small community" -- composition, location, availability of tools, etc.? What does "no reindustrialization" mean? (Even the Neanderthal man had some sort of industry; it's obvious, at least to me, that in order to survive at all they must "reindustrialize" in the sense of re-developing old industries, such as pottery, wool spinning, fabric weaving, wheat milling and others.) $\endgroup$ – AlexP Jan 17 '18 at 23:06
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      $\begingroup$ Is your community allowed to stockpile pre-apocalyptic supplies? $\endgroup$ – Alexander Jan 17 '18 at 23:46
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      $\begingroup$ And what is the nature of the apocalypse? Have all the Wal-marts, hardware stores, lumber yards, music shops, etc. been destroyed? Is the gasoline gone? Is the power grid working? How about the water/natural gas infrastructure? A biological apocalypse would leave almost everything intact, allowing for a very high standard of living in a short amount of time. An all-out nuclear war a whole lot less so. A near-extinction-event meteor less still. Without all this data (including that asked by my colleagues) this question cannot be effectively answered. $\endgroup$ – JBH Jan 18 '18 at 0:55
    • $\begingroup$ You also have to define exactly what your idea of a high standard of living entails. Like a modern western urban middle class lifestyle? But to some people (me, for one) that's not far removed from battery human farming :-) So a reasonably moderate apocalypse could improve things by e.g. reducing crowding & pollution. $\endgroup$ – jamesqf Jan 18 '18 at 3:16
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      $\begingroup$ @GeoffreyCarlton the thing is that 'well-off' can mean a host of things different for each and everyone. What I consider a high standard might be everything another person would never want to have/experience. There are systems that attempt to categorize well-offness and such, one of them is Maslow's Pyramid - if you could either define your own categorizations or refer to one of these systems i think that would be sufficiently resolved $\endgroup$ – dot_Sp0T Jan 18 '18 at 17:32
    1. They have to set up coordinated effort to PRESERVE as much high tech artifacts as possible.

    A tractor or a rifle laying in the open will become unusable quickly. But it would take relatively little effort to preserve them in working conditions at least for decades.

    1. They need to set up coordinated effort to CONVERT their artifacts for new conditions.

    There would be no fuel, but even small community could convert their vehicles to use gas generators.

    Chips have have limited time of live due to diffusion processes, but if you stock up some transistors, learn how to make simple radios from those, then you can have radio communication for hundreds of years with little effort.

    Ammunition can be home-made as well. Black powder, potassium chlorate primers, Martini–Henry-like cartridges...

    1. They need to keep for themselves large TERRITORY.

    Using wood for fuel would require large forests.

    Herding cattle would require little effort, but large pastures.


    With this for the first 30-50 years they can enjoy standards of living even higher than before The Fall.

    They would keep noticeable amount of vehicles and complex electronics, pre-fall clothes and other simple stuff for 100-200 years - level of living comparable with modern.

    And even centuries after they will have firearms and transistor radios, stocks of metal, etc. - level of living way above medieval.

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    • $\begingroup$ That's a good start, but would this be a sustainable way of living? $\endgroup$ – Geoffrey Carlton Jan 18 '18 at 16:42
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      $\begingroup$ @GeoffreyCarlton No, eventually they all will die because of heat death of the universe. $\endgroup$ – Vashu Jan 18 '18 at 21:46

    I think your question is specifically about the loss of global trade because in a situation where there's a mass culling of the human species the survivors will thrive on the wealth of uncontested resources.

    If for whatever reason global shipping and air transport became impossible there would be a period of a few years during which the value of manufactured goods would soar due to their scarcity. However few countries completely lack any industrial capacity and so most would develop local manufacturing infrastructure very quickly. I expect the whole experience would change people's attitudes, making them more appreciative of stuff that lasts and less tolerant of the cheap mass manufactured crap that stopped working during those transitional years.

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