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I have this scenario where the world was thrown into chaos by something and in this event, shortsighted governments launched assaults on numerous military and civilian targets, leading to the collapse of the society. It is a society with advanced robotics, cloning technology (not widespread and incredibly slow), and highly efficient and advanced farming technology following the depletion of all fertile soil roughly 1300 years prior. The plotline follows a clone who was given a false set of memories from a randomly generated backstory AI, which start from birth and end at age of 17. However instead of waking up in a sterile cloning facility which lines up with the medical facility the memories last recall them entering, they wake up in a mostly destroyed facility with little remaining of society.

What scenario takes out society across the continental US, Canada, and Mexico (unified under the Canadian government following the flooding of 40% of the landmass in the US and Canada, and 90% of Mexico) without taking out the robot-maintained power grids? We can assume that the facilities making clones have their own means of creating or acquiring matter to make clones.

Weapon technology in this universe ceased notable progression shortly after oil runs out in the year 2028 and the only notable technologies developed are railguns sized for the secondary armaments' of tanks and the removal of the Geneva convention on suffering.

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  • $\begingroup$ Welcome to Worldbuilding stack exchange! Please read the tour and help center, and ask on Worldbuilding Meta or Worldbuilding Chat if you have questions. $\endgroup$ Oct 18 at 15:08
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    $\begingroup$ Just a thought: Mexico (currently) has a much higher average elevation than the US (and Canada for that matter). What happened to bring it low enough for it to be flooded worse than its northern neighbours? That might point some way towards an answer! $\endgroup$ Oct 19 at 3:38
  • $\begingroup$ Not an answer because I don't have time to flesh it out, but make your power-grid-maintaining robots self-maintaining too, and it can be pretty much any event. The robots automatically fix the power grid according to their inbuilt plan, and automatically keep themselves running. With enough stashes of spare components around this could easily work well enough for a story $\endgroup$ Oct 19 at 9:45
  • $\begingroup$ If anyone wants to nick that idea and write it up as an answer, go for it $\endgroup$ Oct 19 at 9:45
  • $\begingroup$ If it's a "life backup" facility or whatever it absolutely has it's own generators $\endgroup$
    – Hobbamok
    Oct 19 at 14:39
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Power grids don't have to be 'central'!

A power grid is useful to distribute power, but has many drawbacks. We transform the power for long distance travel and change it back to 'usable' energy when it is finally arriving close to homes. All that travelling and transforming costs energy. Of course you can make arguments about 'normal temperature superconductors' and the like, but even then some cuts in powerlines or a melting power transform house (or whatever it's called in English) can make power fail. Even just not having the 'bandwidth' for the power can cause problems.

If you want a stable solution, you'll likely have a distributed power network. That means you make power relatively locally. Solar pannels, wind, geothermal or whatever. With higher efficiency and miniaturisation many power solutions don't have to be giant power plants any more. Together with a future where 'unreliable' power like sun is stored at peak times, you'll have a robust network.

Your cloning facility is connected to the network like everything else, but like a lot of important facilities they are capable of generating their own power. This makes them more reliable as either the incoming or local power could fail without endangering the facility. In your story the normal power grid can be destroyed, but local power can run just fine. For examole, it can be a fully underground geothermal power generator. The facility van be bombed while the power remained safe.

Alternatively the facility could've run on stored power until the automated maintenance robots restored the power grid. Regardless of war and failing society they would assess the damage and repair it. Depending on how resourceful the robots are they would restore the grid over time.

Both scenarios leave a plethora of ways society can destroy itself. From unexpected extreme changes in nature due to global warming, an AI uprising, global civil unrest due to economic destabilisation, pandemic, or to a nuclear war that didn't destroy many automated facilities. It's your pick.

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Clone farms

They have advanced farming technology. It is really advanced. The clones are not from vats or tanks, but gestate in genetically engineered water buffalo and takin. Their memories are implanted with clever biohacks devised by long dead geniuses.

The rain falls and the sun shines. Engineered crops grow and the water buffalo eat. Sometimes a clone is born. There are no pests any more and no weeds. The livestock are tended by semisentient animals. The clones are tended by semisentient animals. There may be some other clones working on this farm.

It does not matter that the power grids have been destroyed. Farms do not need electrical power.

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  • $\begingroup$ how are the robots powered? $\endgroup$
    – user253751
    Oct 19 at 8:21
  • $\begingroup$ @user253751 Unobtainium fueled microfusion reactors? $\endgroup$
    – jwenting
    Oct 19 at 11:26
  • $\begingroup$ @user253751 - direct cellulose fuel cells. The robots eat grass, and breathe, and poop. $\endgroup$
    – Willk
    Oct 19 at 13:12
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This only works if you want this event to be really rare. If you want it to be somewhat rare, Trioxidane’s answer is probably better, and if you want it to be more common than that, Willk’s answer is likely better.

Note: I’m using square brackets to denote that there’s multiple options you can pick from each of the paragraphs below.

Lightning!

A [hurricane] or [weapon misfire] or [case of erosion] or [attack] caused some wires to a [power generator] or [power storage unit] to be hit by lightning, [kickstarting the generator] or [filling up the storage unit]. This [power generator] or [power storage unit] was connected to the clone creation facility, giving it enough energy, to [create a new clone] or [finish creating a clone it had already started creating earlier].

Everybody in that facility died

When you were created, everybody in the facility was alive, but they [died] or [fled] due to a [deadly virus] or [attack]. Therefore, when you came out, what should have been there wasn’t, and you see a [pristine building strangely empty of people] or [a building that looks like it came out of a horror movie]

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    $\begingroup$ I am reminded of “choose your own adventure” $\endgroup$
    – Willk
    Oct 19 at 2:34
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There are two parts to answer this question: First the disaster and second how the cloning facilities survived.

North American Tectonic Plate Shifts

An unexpected and totally impossible thing has occurred the North American and the southern tectonic plates had a sudden an inexplicable shift which results in massive amounts of the southern part of the North American continent underwater. This results in massive tsunami and earthquakes across America leaving so much of it in ruins that America has no choice to unite under Canada.

After that any world war as a result of lack of natural resources would finish off civilization. That then raises the question how the heck did the cloning facilities survive all of this?

The Company

In these settings there is typically at least one company that is so powerful that not even the end of the world can stop it. This can come in many forms from an evil mega corp like Umbrella from the Resident Evil franchise or a research company like Aperture Science from the Portal franchise.

In this case I would recommend a company that caters to the rich by promising them a second chance at life by creating clones that relive a simulation of their childhood to ensure that the clone has the same personality and memories as they had. To ensure that they are able to meet this, they make absolutely sure that the cloning facilities have everything they need to stick around. After all they do not want to get sued by the estate if one of their cloning facilities loses their client's backup copy.

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  • $\begingroup$ Continental plates float on the mantle. No earthquake could move enough magma to allow the plate to sink that far. It would be like an earthquake causing a plank of wood to sink; at best you can splash it, but it isn't dense enough to sink. $\endgroup$
    – Yakk
    Oct 19 at 19:04
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Imminent collapse

With the global political tension, it seemed inevitable that the world would collapse in war.
  • Plan A was to prevent the collapse.
  • Plan B was to bunker down and outlast it.
  • Plan C was there in case humanity failed. To ensure that the human legacy survived.

One of the technologies for plan C so was the cloning facilities. They were secretly changed so as to ensure they survived the collapse by making them self sufficient, self-defending, and self-repairing. Then just add in a repeated delayed order to create a few clones every decade or so. This order gets postponed by presidential order, at the start of the term, so it won't happen under normal circumstances.

Some smaller-scale facilities were created, hidden, just as a backup for the bigger ones. which would remain hidden for arbitrarily long periods.

tldr: The cloning facilities work after the societal collapse because they were designed to survive just that.

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Here is an obvious one: A pandemic wipes out so many people that cloning facilities are given priority so that humanity won't be wiped out...

BUT HUMANITY IS WIPED OUT ANYWAY!

After the population goes to zero, a significant number of clones accumulate and thrive, not fully aware of the pandemic that destroyed humanity...

THEN one of the newly-created humans catches a strain of the disease that managed to barely survive dormant in a warm wet environment, and once again population goes to zero.

After that, the microbes, being selected and rewarded for their ability to survive for a while without human beings, get better at doing just that. The microbes naturally move closer and closer to the cloning facilities, becoming better over time at surviving temporarily in whatever that environment is. After some years, the disease is able infect the new humans immediately after they are created. The microbes that last the longest and attack the quickest thrive best, so as time goes by, the disease becomes more hardy and more vicious.

We are left with a horrific nightmarish reality wherein people are perpetually created and then die very quickly in near agony, year after year, decade after decade, century after century.

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