If we specifically engineered a doomsday bunker to preserve technology and weaponry, what could we preserve and how long could we make it last? I'm looking at a timeline of circa 300 years.

You can assume that it has power (e.g. geothermal) and is completely undisturbed until it is opened. Any type of preservation we're currently capable of is on the table: airtight, vacuum sealed, submerged in oil, wrapped in your grandmother's couch cover, etc.

I'm looking for things that would work "out of the box", so a gun without working gunpowder isn't much help. Would any kind of explosives still work? Nuclear weapons? Computers or electronics? Motors (with fuel)?

EDIT: Sorry, first time on the site. Thanks for the responses. I did read the other posts, but they were all centered around how long our current technology would remain working. I didn't see anything about how long things could last if we specifically tried to preserve them.

I'll try to answer/clarify things here.

Say the human race knew that we were facing an extinction event like an asteroid collision and wanted to preserve ourselves. We built a number of bunkers to house and preserve the human race. One of these was a military bunker that did not contain people, but was designed to rearm them whenever they were able to come recover its contents. What would they put in it and how long could they make it last?

Our hero discovers one such bunker. What would he find it in it? Assuming he has all the knowledge necessary, what could he pick up and use more or less immediately?

EDIT #2:

Good point on the word "technology". I mean stuff. Maybe some specific example questions would help:

Assuming the bunker had a continual working geothermal power source, could they build electronics that still worked? Computers?

My current version of the bunker is protected by a large blast door that requires a motor to open it. Ideally, I'd like to have working electronics and motors so that a single person could open it. For example, a modern keypad and keycard. Could that still work? Is there another way?

I'd like our hero to be able to fight his way back out of the bunker with some kind of advantage. For the sake of this discussion, assume he can figure out any technology. It sounds like it would be possible to preserve guns and gunpowder for that long, so that would be an option for this.

There also needs to be a reason that the new nations of the world want to get into the bunker. Guns are a good motivator, but bombs are better if they would keep that long.

Hope that helps and thanks again.

  • $\begingroup$ Please narrow your question. It would help to look at specifically one type of technology over that time period. And if you're looking at ANY type of preservation, then many things will still work after 3 centuries if you put millions of dollars into the preservation technique. If you use your grandma's couch cover, well . . . I suppose books will still be readable. The question's just too broad. - DDM $\endgroup$
    – user47438
    Commented Feb 13, 2018 at 2:12
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    $\begingroup$ This question is asked in many different ways on this site. As written, it's very, very broad. You don't have an infinitely sized bunker, for example, and "technology" refers to a breathtakingly large amount of information and equipment. Bear in mind that most high technology will not last long without the substantial high-tech infrastracture (manufacturing, repair, support, supply, etc) it depends on. So, very, very specifically, what is your goal? (Edit your question with response, please.) $\endgroup$
    – JBH
    Commented Feb 13, 2018 at 2:26
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    $\begingroup$ Also, welcome to Worldbuilding.SE! If you have a moment, please take our tour and review what makes for a good question on our site. Cheers! $\endgroup$
    – JBH
    Commented Feb 13, 2018 at 2:26
  • $\begingroup$ Q: Only three books: Restarting technology After civilization collapses $\endgroup$
    – IEW
    Commented Feb 13, 2018 at 3:19
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    $\begingroup$ Technology is the knowledge of how to make things. Do you really mean technology (that is, knowledge), or do you mean the things themselves? There is a great difference between preserving a knife and preserving the technology of making stainless steel. $\endgroup$
    – AlexP
    Commented Feb 13, 2018 at 6:03

3 Answers 3


Simply placing a device in a vault and hoping somebody finds it is by technical definition preserving the technological artifact itself, but it is not preserving the knowledge of what it's for and how to make it. If you handed a modern smart phone to a guy from the 17th century he wouldn't even know what the heck its intended purpose was, what it was made from, how to use it, or how to make it. It might as well be an inert glass tile to him.

In order to preserve the technological knowledge just the artifact isn't enough. you need to be able to not only explain what it is and what its for, but how to use it, what its made out of, how it works, and how to make it. This becomes a GARGANTUAN task when you consider that most modern technological devices require other machines to make, which themselves require machines to make them. Though seemingly counter-intuitive you want to store simpler components and devices and trust that your regressed descendants will be able to discern useful tasks to apply the devices to. Things like steam engines, electric motors, dynamos, batteries, simple radios, etc etc. In this manner your descendants who fell back to a pre-industrial level can create and combine things in the most useful ways to themselves. Simpler components of more complex devices also means that they can find existing artifacts left over from the old civilization elsewhere and discern their function and have a basis for back-engineering the remnants of society on their own.

Rather than trying to hoard a cache of every piece of technology in society you ought to instead plant a sort of seed for your descendants to re-grow their own technological prowess with.

  • $\begingroup$ Thanks for the response. My thinking was that the people creating the stockpile expected some numbers both sides to survive and re-emerge when they were able to. Naturally the military would want to preserve their strength if they could, so I imagine they'd build a bunker like this. Other bunkers would contain the re-seeding of technology from cultural or survival standpoints. This is a specifically military bunker. $\endgroup$
    – user47709
    Commented Feb 15, 2018 at 18:03

Modern 5D data stores could keep all of known history in a stack of disks that would fit in a soft drink can for the estimated remaining life of the sun. That's technological information storage, technological artifact storage is both more simple and more complex:

The problem is going to be with fuels, propellants, and explosives; you can have guns easily enough, grease and vacuum bags will keep most metal built mechanisms good for decades, but bullets are tricky. By their nature fuels, propellants, and explosives are unstable and readily oxidised, they break down or burn when left alone for long periods. Propellants and explosives are especially problematic because they are self-oxidising so even in a vacuum they will decay and possibly detonate spontaneously. You could potentially store bulk chemical components and processing equipment to make the fuels, explosives and propellants you need to run stored machines with solar power equipment kept in storage to kickstart things but I think that's as close as you're going to get to army equipped and ready when you open the bunker.

  • $\begingroup$ For some explosives I would agree. For gunpowder, however, that seems to last a long time with minimal effort. You can find youtube videos of people finding their grandparents nearly 100 year old ammo and shooting it (obviously with a few duds) and people buying antique ammo also that old and likewise shooting it. Some of the ammo boxes work, some don't; those that don't probably received too much moisture. But the point is they were not stored to last 300 years. Put it in a good ammo box in a cool, dry place and it might last even longer than 100 years. Stored even better, who knows? $\endgroup$
    – Loduwijk
    Commented Feb 14, 2018 at 1:11
  • $\begingroup$ Thanks, Ash and Aaron. That's really helpful. I was going to use geothermal power to kickstart things. $\endgroup$
    – user47709
    Commented Feb 15, 2018 at 17:58
  • $\begingroup$ @Aaron True I was thinking purely in terms of modern weapons that use nitrate based propellants, if you're willing to take a small step back then there are a lot of options for storing black powder and/or it's precursors. $\endgroup$
    – Ash
    Commented Feb 19, 2018 at 11:08
  • $\begingroup$ @mentalsoap Geothermal needs to be in place and stay in place; the nature of the working fluid, superheated, chemically saturated water, is not conducive to long term mothballing. Without a good maintenance program in place, steam piping systems would probably only stay viable and intact for a decade or so at most. $\endgroup$
    – Ash
    Commented Feb 19, 2018 at 11:20
  • $\begingroup$ Thanks, Ash. I'll have to rethink the power question. I don't know of anything we currently have that would last 300 years without maintenance, but if we put the top minds of the world together I wonder what we could come up with... $\endgroup$
    – user47709
    Commented Feb 21, 2018 at 23:53

This way of thinking is very... American. You see, preserving weapons for later use. Against whom? The whole technological advance was made because some people wanted to kill people who didn't wanted to get killed.

The use of black powder by Europeans. In the early age of using it regular cuirass was able to deflect bullet and protect the owner. So we figured out how to kill them even if they were wearing it.

Why do you need automatic, systematic, hydromatic weapons? To hunt? A string and a stick would suffice and you would call it a bow.

Conquer? How many people are left on earth that you need to kill them by the thousands a day? How large army you will gather?

Imagine this, your hero discover said bunker, he take more shiny metallic weapon. A rail gun. And he go for an adventure to avenge his gather because his name is Inigo Montoya. He wait, he shoot, he miss. He is killed with a sticks and stones because he can't figure out what the quack "reload time" is.

What would be more needed is technology to make good quality steel. Easy to preserve in form of pictures, chemical reactions, sample example. How to make artificial fertilizer. How to acquire water and purify it.

Use of nuclear weapon in post apocalyptic world scare us because we don't live in such world. If in post-apo you have N-bomb what you gonna do? Set it off in the most inhabited city and kill all 2 thousands of it citizens?

Also, for "how to preserve technology" see Cheyenne Mountain Complex and Svalbard Global Seed Vault.

  • $\begingroup$ Several things. One, there's no guarantee that only one nation would be left standing, and without the UN to whinge and complain the post-apocalypse would be the perfect time for some conquest. Two, you underestimate just how useful firearms are. If you're hunting in the mountains of Montana, the ability to make a thousand-yard shot might be the difference between you eating or going hungry, and you just can't do that with a bow. Third, Cheyenne mountain is a CIC complex built to command our nuclear forces in the end-war, not a vault. It only has a few months of supplies. $\endgroup$
    – UIDAlexD
    Commented Feb 13, 2018 at 14:59
  • $\begingroup$ @UIDAlexD there would be several nations but when your population is decreased from, let say 300 millions to 50 why bother with conquest? Native americans were using bows and spears and didn't go hungry. So where other nations for hundreds and thousands of years. Cheyenne is a complex designed to survive nuclear attack so as OP question. And guns don't need to eat or drink. $\endgroup$ Commented Feb 13, 2018 at 15:08
  • $\begingroup$ Historical grievances, eliminating possible competition, seizing better land, capturing another nations vaulted resources... There's plenty of reasons to start your imperial ambitions with the end of the world. Plains Indians (The ones that relied on hunting instead of subsistence agriculture) definitely went hungry from time to time, as did the peasants of every feudal nation (not that hunting would've helped a European peasant). And while Cheyenne Mountain was designed to survive a nuclear attack, it was not designed to survive several hundred years without maintenance. $\endgroup$
    – UIDAlexD
    Commented Feb 13, 2018 at 15:17
  • $\begingroup$ Still, you would need a lot of people to be in those places to call it conquer and not just nomadic. If you move to better land and there is no one there (because the one that were are dead) what do you conquer? 300 years is not several and you overestimate the need to maintenance. In Europe we have places abandoned for 100 years that, if not robbed, are just gathering dust. $\endgroup$ Commented Feb 13, 2018 at 15:22
  • $\begingroup$ And what if I move to better land and there is someone there? It's not like people are just going to ignore fishing grounds and fertile farmland. Better yet, what if I've moved to somehow-empty good land and the 24th century Mongolian horde decides to plunder my bounty? Not to nitpick, but the definition of "Several" is "More than two, but not many." 3 is more than 2. And while those abandoned structures are still standing, what about water ingress? Climate control? Making sure that stored items don't rot? If you left machinery in there, how much of it would be free of rust? $\endgroup$
    – UIDAlexD
    Commented Feb 13, 2018 at 15:38

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