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If some catastrophic event happened that wiped out humanity tomorrow, not destroying any objects or places, which parts of our civilization would survive for 1000 years? What would the world look like?

  1. What parts are cities/bigger structures is it reasonable still would exists? How much of concrete buildings survive that long? Any metal structures? What level of overgrowth would be expected?
  2. Which types of areas of the world handle time better or worse than others on factors such as temperature, humidity, sun exposure, altitude, seismic activity or other factors?
  3. What would happen to modern technology, circuit boards, etc if kept in a safe environment. Would be recoverable or would they be completely decomposed? Could they be analyzed, could any type of harddrive be recoverable?
  4. Would any written information be recoverable, papers, books, etc?
  5. How would a completely sealed facility in optimal conditions be able to help items survive time? (Technology, long-term storage, books)

Edit: Duplicate suggestion gives good information, but rather looks at how long traces of our civilization can exist, not what the world would look like in approximately 1000 years and what would be recoverable.

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closed as too broad by L.Dutch, Mołot, adaliabooks, EveryBitHelps, Rekesoft May 15 '18 at 10:01

Please edit the question to limit it to a specific problem with enough detail to identify an adequate answer. Avoid asking multiple distinct questions at once. See the How to Ask page for help clarifying this question. If this question can be reworded to fit the rules in the help center, please edit the question.

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  1. What parts are cities/bigger structures is it reasonable still would exists? How much of concrete buildings survive that long? Any metal structures? What level of overgrowth would be expected?

    • There are buildings which are 2,000 years old and still in daily use. See the list of ancient roofs on Wikipedia.

    • The buildings above were maintained. But we have many ruins of 2,000 old cities, which were unmnaintained but are quite easily recognizable. So we can safely say that some structures will still be recognizable as structures.

    • We don't build in pure concrete. Pure concrete is very resilient; see the Pantheon in Rome, which is some 1,900 years old and still standing.

      We build in reinforced concrete. Reinforced concrete is a different beast, and we have no idea how long it will last, basically because there are no reinforced concrete buildings more than one maybe two centuries old. It is thought that the rebar will self destroy in such a time span.

      I would rather go for brick walls; good fired brick is very resilient.

    • Overgrowth depends on climate. The ruins of ancient Egypt have not be overgrown with vegetation because they are in a desert. The city of Pripyat was overgrown in a decade, but is stil recognizably a city. The abandoned Maya cities are completely hidden by the jungle.

  2. Which types of areas of the world handle time better or worse than others on factors such as temperature, humidity, sun exposure, altitude, seismic activity or other factors?

    The drier the better. Cool is better than warm; cold and hot are bad. The less daily temperature variation the better. Altitude doesn't matter. Earthquakes are bad.

  3. What would happen to modern technology, circuit boards, etc if kept in a safe environment. Would be recoverable or would they be completely decomposed? Could they be analyzed, could any type of harddrive be recoverable?

    • Modern microelectronics is simply not designed to survive for more than a few decades. Any survival over a millennium would have to be considered miraculous. For example, microchips will be destroyed by diffusion; capacitors will leak; electrochemistry will take care of soldered connections.

    • Hard drives: won't survive 1,000 years. Hard drives are mechanical devices, using high precision bearings which won't last 1,000 years. The platters themselves may or may not survive, depending on what a "safe" environment means. Food for thought: quite a lot of hard drives are encrypted.

  4. Would any written information be recoverable, papers, books, etc?

    • We have documents on 3,000 years old papyrus.

    • We have documents on 2,000 years old parchment.

    • We have documents on centuries old paper. (Not as old as papyrus and parchment simply because there was no paper 2,000 years ago.)

  5. How would a completely sealed facility in optimal conditions be able to help items survive time? (Technology, long-term storage, books)

    It would definitely help, especially if filled with an inert gas such as argon. Don't forget to put in some sort of humidity control, or at least reduce the humidity to about 10% before sealing the facility. Don't forget to put in some sort of temperature regulation, or at least place the facility in a place with small daily temperature variation.

    Some phenomena cannot be stopped. Diffusion in semiconductors cannot be stopped. Electrochemical corrosion cannot be stopped. Gumming of any kind of small high precision mechanisms cannot be stopped.

    Books will fare well in a sealed facility, especially if printed on parchment or high-quality archival paper.

    Actual factory-made CD-ROMs and DVD-ROMs will fare much much better than hard disks. (Not those rewritable CDs and DVDs, they are perishable. Actual factory-made CDs and DVDs, with the data pressed into metal.)

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  • $\begingroup$ Thank you for this very detailed answer on every point! It's interesting that while (afaik) we believe we are the civilization that has progressed the furthest, our traces may be wiped out far faster than our previous civilizations. $\endgroup$ – jsmars May 15 '18 at 9:08
  • $\begingroup$ @jsmars, most of our buildings have terrible build standards, but the same has been true of most of history. We are building structures that will stand the test of time, but not many, just as not many Greek or Roman buildings have done so. The vast majority will be gone within a few decades, just as has always been the case. $\endgroup$ – Separatrix May 15 '18 at 9:21

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