After a nuclear war, only a fraction of humanity is left alive. All infrastructure is gone, and only 15% of humans humans survived ( mostly in the Southern Hemisphere). 2,100 megatons were used in the war, destroying most of the northern hemispheres cities, along with cities in Oceania like Sydney,and South America like Rio.

My question is: with all this going on, to which technological level from our past could the surviving civilization be compared?

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    $\begingroup$ They can't go back in time, just forward. You won't end up with Sumerians, you will end up with something new and different. I think L.Dutch's edit doesn't change this at all. It won't be comparable to anything from the past $\endgroup$
    – Raditz_35
    Mar 15, 2018 at 11:51
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    $\begingroup$ 15% of 7.4 billion is 1.1 b, about the population of 1850, and 3x the current USA population. 1.1 billion folks can collectively retain a lot of skills and knowledge. $\endgroup$
    – user535733
    Mar 15, 2018 at 11:55
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    $\begingroup$ XX century. hey would still have the knowledge, just don't have the need for smartphones, laptops or Twitch.tv. $\endgroup$ Mar 15, 2018 at 11:58
  • $\begingroup$ There's never going to be an "equivalent" tech level in a post-apocalypse; it will always be a combination of old techniques/social structures and scavenged higher technologies. $\endgroup$
    – Azuaron
    Mar 15, 2018 at 13:06
  • $\begingroup$ If you want to better study what the overall effect might be, you might want to dig into how some of the physical artifacts of the Greek/Roman empires were experienced in the dark ages. Long story short? It really depends on the values of those that come after. $\endgroup$
    – Carduus
    Mar 15, 2018 at 13:37

2 Answers 2


On average it will push back the technology level to simple farmers or even more to gatherers/hunters.

Why? Modern lifestyle strongly depends on a network of abilities and competences shared among the population. Few of us can sew a clothe, build a motor, fix some electronic. We mostly rely on others to do it.

To make thing worse, most of the documentation on this knowledge is stored in major cities, which presumable have been wiped out by the war. So kids will grow up listening to elderly talking about airplanes, computers, smartphones and rockets and will take them as fairy tales.

So, we end up wit a still decent number of people (about 1 billion in total) who might know that something can be done (i.e. they might know that an open wound can be cured with antibiotics) but have no clue how to do it and cannot access any book or technology which can help them.

Probably who is already somehow related to farming will have an easier life, but also there issues will come soon: with the chemical industry gone, so are synthetic fertilizer and pesticides, so wave goodbye to high yields from the land. Also mechanicals aids will fade over time, further lowering available primary resources.

Small islands of higher technological knowledge will survive here and there based on the local variety of survivors. But also there our massive dependence from computers will ask its tribute. I.e. consider how engineers in the '60s built the Saturn V with just a sliding rule, while modern engineers (50 years later) would hardly be able of doing anything without a computer.

  • $\begingroup$ The 11th edition of Encyclopedia Britannica (1910-1911) was printed in 1,000,000 copies. One million copies. This is a terminus post quem: there is simply no way to imagine humankind not maintaining late 19th century technology. $\endgroup$
    – AlexP
    Mar 15, 2018 at 13:05
  • $\begingroup$ @AlexP, not so sure. Even understanding technical documentation is a developed skills. Probably in the islands I mention that could happen. But I honestly don't see a redneck making much chocolate out of an Encyclopedia Britannica. $\endgroup$
    – L.Dutch
    Mar 15, 2018 at 13:20
  • $\begingroup$ I would be doubtful whether you will be able to sustain a population of 1 billion with simple farmers of gather/hunter technology. $\endgroup$
    – D.J. Klomp
    Mar 15, 2018 at 13:34
  • $\begingroup$ @D.J.Klomp, isn't this what the 5th period state? $\endgroup$
    – L.Dutch
    Mar 15, 2018 at 15:10
  • $\begingroup$ Yes but that is exactly my point. You need high crop yield to sustain a population of 1 billion. With the same amount of farmland as currently used you can still feed one billion people if your crop yield drops with a factor of 6.6, any more and you won't be able to sustain the population. So in my opinion either the technology level needs to be higher to sustain the population of 1 billion or the population will drop rapidly to well below 1 billion to a sustainable level. Either case might be probable but you can't have both. $\endgroup$
    – D.J. Klomp
    Mar 16, 2018 at 7:34

In real nuclear war I don't think even 15% would survive.

Why do you think human would be set back to older technology?

There would simply be fewer human so we couldn't create new technologies as fast as now because priority would be survival. That doesn't really make humanity forget what they have already discovered.

Also note that most of people that would be saved (get some place in bomb shelter) would be ones that are worth it and that includes smart people with knowledge like engineers, doctors, etc.

  • $\begingroup$ define smart... a dumb guy with a gun in his hand will outsmart 10 Sheldon Coopers trying to reach the shelter $\endgroup$
    – L.Dutch
    Mar 15, 2018 at 12:03
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    $\begingroup$ @L.Dutch In nuclear war you don't get to choose to have a shelter. Shelter chooses to have you... or doesn't... $\endgroup$
    – NoOorZ24
    Mar 15, 2018 at 12:04
  • $\begingroup$ 15% is the premise, you have to work with it. The same goes for who gets rescued. Technology could not survive unharmed, even if you somehow save everything you need to retain the ability to still produce all your stuff and have your business function (let's ignore that you don't need doctors for that ...), the much smaller market would make a lot of stuff uneconomical to produce, thus after a couple of months, the capabilities of humanity = the technology would take a serious blow $\endgroup$
    – Raditz_35
    Mar 15, 2018 at 12:12
  • $\begingroup$ @Raditz_35 Also I have to work with 2,100 megatons worth of explosives $\endgroup$
    – NoOorZ24
    Mar 15, 2018 at 12:23

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