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So I have been creating this one planet recently. It has naturally occurring water, atmosphere, and alien life already there. It's a nice place that is almost a duplicate of pre-human earth, just with a different cast of lifeforms.

In the story I created, which is set in the mildly far future, the human species as a whole united into one gigantic country with the exception of a few tiny rebels here and there. This super-nation controls several solar systems but is still in need of naturally habitable planets. They noticed this planet and started putting down domed cities (looking somewhat like this).

Now this is the part I need help on. For some reason or another much of the super-nation's population dies. The government falls down and communication between planets is completely cut off. Everything falls into anarchy with small groups all competing for power.

At the end of all of this the planet splits into 20 or so different countries and technology has been reduced to something from the medieval period or before.

What kind of circumstance or weapon could cause such a powerful nation to fall apart in a instant? It needed to not destroy the environment and solely target people in a way that cannot be prevented, even by a highly advanced civilization. It wouldn't eradicate all humans but just heavily reduce and shatter society. Is such a weapon or situation possible?

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  • $\begingroup$ Not a duplicate I do not think, but some ideas here. worldbuilding.stackexchange.com/questions/9307/… $\endgroup$ – Willk Apr 14 '18 at 22:30
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    $\begingroup$ Why always the medieval period? $\endgroup$ – RonJohn Apr 14 '18 at 22:39
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    $\begingroup$ A "super" virus ravages the population, leaving not enough people to maintain the current levels of production of raw materials required to maintain their high-tech civilization. Because all of the easily extractable energy and mineral resources have already been extracted, the level of technology quickly reverts to something sustainable by so few people where the resources are hard to get to. $\endgroup$ – RonJohn Apr 14 '18 at 22:44
  • $\begingroup$ What does "still in need of naturally habitable planets. They noticed this planet and started putting down domed cities" have to do with the rest of the question? $\endgroup$ – RonJohn Apr 14 '18 at 22:44
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    $\begingroup$ @RonJohn, or stone/iron age. They're definitely the most popular. For some reason people avoid the Plague years. That would be fun! $\endgroup$ – JBH Apr 24 '18 at 4:53
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The clue is the Earth is controlled by a single "super nation" but still has pockets of rebels. Naturally, a super nation with a very high tech civilization has access to every conceivable surveillance method, and could simply crush the rebels whenever they raise their heads.

So the rebels need to work very quietly in the background, and not do anything obvious that would draw unwanted attention from the security services. So they go to universities and become students in the department of mathematics, and work on the "halting problem".

The rebels release a computer program (gradually assembled over time as small parts) which causes cascading systems failures, eventually crashing power, water, logistics and other systems needed to maintain high level civilizations. Unable to restart the machinery, and generally unable to use or even access more primitive tools and means of production, the population dies of disease and hunger, and the interstellar empire is lost.....

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  • $\begingroup$ It seems a little naive that a band of rebels can do this and nobody in the "super nation" has the knowledge to contrast what basically is a computer virus, which last for many years (I don't think you can lost an interstellar empire in a couple of days...) $\endgroup$ – Gianluca Apr 16 '18 at 9:17
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    $\begingroup$ My interpretation of the OP's post is the "home" nation collapses, leading to chaos and devolution of everything else. IF the colonies were not fully self supporting when the home nation collapsed, then they too would lose the ability to fully support interstellar travel and so on. As for dealing with computer virus, the makers of SUXNET demonstrated you can plant sophisticated malware even in secure locations and run it. The Chinese penetrated the OPM database, apparently for years, before being discovered, so running malware against sophisticated opponents is quite possible. $\endgroup$ – Thucydides Apr 16 '18 at 13:42
  • $\begingroup$ Fair enough.But still, you should cripple the systems for months (or even years) and in the meantime nobody should be able to come up with a solution. Not so likely. As the malware, you are right, but SUXNET was very specialized and one thing is going undiscovered, one thing is infiltrate and destroy everything. Now, if we talk of a Skynet like scenario this can be doable, but a virus with this consequences is unlikely (if you don't assume that every single device is connected, they can be infected all at once, there are no spare device in the warehouse and nobody understand what happen ) $\endgroup$ – Gianluca Apr 16 '18 at 14:26
  • $\begingroup$ A sudden cascade failure might be sufficient to overwhelm the systems for creating backups and so on. An extended power outage in modern America could cripple cities in @ 3 days, since that is all the food supplies in grocery stores and warehouses. If the logistics chains, communications chains and so on are broken as well, then you have a lot more to worry about than looking for backup parts in a warehouse. $\endgroup$ – Thucydides Apr 17 '18 at 4:12
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You might want to look into Coronal Mass Ejections. They're like massive solar flares. They could produce the kind of electromagnetic energy necessary to wipe out a civilization's technology without destroying the planet's atmosphere. If the star/sun experiences these often, they would also prevent rescue from humans outside of the solar system.

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  • $\begingroup$ Please add something about how that would cause most people to be killed off. $\endgroup$ – RonJohn Apr 15 '18 at 7:37
  • $\begingroup$ But if "the star/sun experiences these often", how the system was colonized to begin with ? $\endgroup$ – Gianluca Apr 16 '18 at 9:24
  • $\begingroup$ Lots of different ways. Maybe their power sources are highly volatile without proper containment, and the loss of tech causes these systems to explode. Power plants, vehicles, homes--anything with a power source suddenly explodes or eventually does. Transportation crashes. Maybe their food supply is highly dependent on technology. If they're living in domes, there must be something incompatible with or hostile to human life, and the tech no longer provides a barrier to it. Maybe everyone had to use a kind of life support to help them adapt to the planet, and it fails. $\endgroup$ – Bryan Apr 16 '18 at 9:37
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    $\begingroup$ Stars often go through cycles of high and low activity, and maybe they only observed it during low activity. Maybe something crashes into the star to cause them. Maybe enemies induce them with a weapon. Maybe the civilization itself launches something into it and inadvertently causes it. $\endgroup$ – Bryan Apr 16 '18 at 9:44
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You want a dark age. Reasons:

1: Natural disaster. Examples include volcanism, ice age, sea level rise. Sustained drought / dustbowl. Widespread crop failure (e.g. Irish potato famine).

2: Extraterrestrial disaster. Examples include meteor impact, solar flare, gamma ray burst from not-distant-enough star. Night of the Comet zombie comet.

3: Plague. The Plague of Justinian and the Black Death are commonly given examples. A better example is the plague of Western diseases that crushed Amerind societies after the arrival of Europeans. The Amazonian agrarians were crushed to the point that the jungle had reclaimed their lands by the time Europeans got there, and it was as if they had never been. A plague of extraterrestrial origin could work this way.

  1. Natural resources failure. Running out of oil would cripple our society. The collapse of Mayan classical society was thought to be related to some depletion of resources.

  2. War. Nuclear or otherwise. A fractious total war could cripple infrastructures to the point that larger society would collapse.

  3. Zombies. Gotta include them in a list of this sort, it seems. The zombie Armageddon scenario includes most people turning into zombies. I have to think these zombies are not build for the ages, though: they always look to be wearing out pretty good. I suspect 50 years later they will be all worn out. The 28 days later infected zombie people just die of starvation.

  4. Monsters.

http://biblehub.com/kjv/revelation/9.htm

And it was commanded them that they should not hurt the grass of the earth, neither any green thing, neither any tree; but only those men which have not the seal of God in their foreheads. And to them it was given that they should not kill them, but that they should be tormented five months: and their torment was as the torment of a scorpion, when he striketh a man. And in those days shall men seek death, and shall not find it; and shall desire to die, and death shall flee from them.

Day of the Triffids has good apocalyptic monsters too.

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Maybe think of using some plant feeding of rocket engines' products which would make some toxic gas locking of biggest spaceports, and then switching over to usual plant's stuff to feed and this gas to overtake more and more territory, and after some time it would die off and leave natural terrain and little amount of people that somehow survived.

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A space-faring parasite that normally eats the minerals found in asteroids flows into their systems, carried by their vessels. Unable to stop the explosive growth of the invasive species, space flight capability is lost. With the colonies still dependent on the home world for supplies to support the current population, rioting and looting ensues. A few nuclear reactors go critical due to sabotage, which kills a lot of colonists and destabilizes the weather.

Some survive, the planet eventually reaches a habitable state once again, and as the populations of different clans grow they develop.

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