3
$\begingroup$

Let's imagine Contact with some space-faring civilization tomorrow. We will meet them, "shake their many appendages, <...>, and even attempt diplomacy."

The result is that in a few years, dozen of military ships appear on Earth's orbit and destroy all production- and storage-related facilities of major computer hardware manufacturers. The facility is targeted only if it directly stores or produces cpus.

Legacy CPU production is still possible and it is still possible to make controllers, but nothing like PC and server-grade processors.

No major climate impact, but, possibly, big human casualties.

How fast humanity will recover technology-wise if nothing else is blown up and there would be no more contact with the aliens?

Let's imagine that a few years is not enough to adopt any significant alien technology, so the tech level is almost the same as it was before the Contact.


EDIT: I thought a little more about the question, comments, and answers and decided that the question failed to convey the original idea.

The reason I asked the question is that I wanted to explore the aftermath of aliens wiping out CPU production to delay Humanity being a space-faring civilization.

Turns out that the way I worded the question makes it hard to believe it was possible in the first place. In just a few years and all the production facilities will be up and running again.

Maybe the question I should have asked is "What is the most cheap and fast way to delay human-like civilization becoming spacefaring one?".

$\endgroup$
1

5 Answers 5

4
$\begingroup$

Frame challenge

Direct open attack is completely illogical and irrational move if you want to delay a species from going into space. And illogical and irrational civilizations don't tend to build interstellar civilizations - in fact, irrational life usually lose the evolution game and die off.

Main reason being that if right now someone were to destroy our civilization and kill 90% of humanity - and then left us alone - that would still only delay us by a few centuries. If some multicellular life were to remain on the surface, then so would ruins and in them parts of our collective knowledge. Not to mention even knowing something is possible is a big step towards the discovery. And a few centuries of a delay is nothing! Especially since those aliens already have a head-start on us by having FTL technology (otherwise they couldn't have brought those warships a few years after the first contact). There has been life on this planet for hundreds of milions years, so a century or three doesn't make any differenec whatsoever.

The question in this scenario is also why would they do an one thing intervention. Why not conquer us and control our level of development directly. Or come by every decade or so and bomb us again. Or better yet, exterminate us completely (which should be easier than proposed plan)? Or just quarantine us to our planet/solar system? We cannot possibly be considered a threat to them. Them having multiple ships means they have a space industry up and running. Which means they are at least centuries ahead of us, even if we are really near the development of FTL. Much more likely they are thousands or milions of years ahead. They have nothing to fear from us, so why would they do something so limiting?

If they really wanted us delayed (and for some reason didn't want to contemplate xenocide) one would think they saw as as a potential problem. In that case you either deal harshly, or subtly. In this scenario they did neither. You don't give a potential problematic opponent a reason for hatred. Especially since they could sabotage us so subtly we wouldn't even notice a problem.

$\endgroup$
2
  • $\begingroup$ Your scenario is operating on the assumption that progress is exponential over time. I sympathise, but it is not that great for the setting with FTL aliens. If life is common enough, then it should be a good idea to delay it for a few hundred years or even for a few decades. It will allow you to have some prep time $\endgroup$
    – FrogOfJuly
    Aug 22, 2023 at 11:48
  • $\begingroup$ @FrogOfJuly It doesn't matter if progress is exponential, linear, or if it achieves a peak. On a cosmological time-scales a thousand years is nothing. So that delay is irrelevant. And prep time for what? If humanity is potential threat to them they could easily conquer or eradicate us. But if somehow you need that delay (for example, if there is a galactic population census or some other bureaucratic reason) you would never do it in a direct way. Because if life is common there will be consequences for your actions. $\endgroup$
    – Negdo
    Aug 22, 2023 at 11:59
3
$\begingroup$

There are people who make silicon ICs in their garage. This is more industrial archaeology than practical production. The circuits are typically very simple: proving you can make a simple amplifier or memory chip shows you can do what our forebears did in times of yore. This uses a lot of pretty toxic chemistry, so always Ask Mother before getting out the HF.

I imagine there would be two responses. One would be to build another conventional production line somewhere in secret. This is where all our experience lies, and would be the low-risk solution. The other might be to look at alternative technologies (ion beam implanting and milling, amorphous semiconductors, carbon semiconductors), that can be done on a smaller scale. Almost all our research has gone into improving monolithic silicon for many years, and it is time we broke off and did something new.

$\endgroup$
3
  • $\begingroup$ How long do you think the reconstruction would take? Would it be possible to produce CPUs with the same quality before old ones become unusable? $\endgroup$
    – FrogOfJuly
    Aug 19, 2023 at 12:09
  • $\begingroup$ When I worked for Canon in the early 90's I looked at buying a ~1 micron fab plant for MEMS development. Those could be bought for about a million pounds then, as people swapped them out to get the better new kit. That was possibly the last time plants like that were small enough to sell and move. I guess about three years to build a new plant if there was the money and the will, and the plans for the old one were available. This was about the plant lifetime at the height of Moore's Law. $\endgroup$ Aug 19, 2023 at 15:22
  • $\begingroup$ "If the plans for the old one were available" might be a sticking point. I notice that the aliens conspicuously didn't destroy chip producers' data archives (you do have offsite backups, right?) but if I were them, I would consider that a significant part of "wiping out" chip production. $\endgroup$
    – Cadence
    Aug 19, 2023 at 16:46
3
$\begingroup$

Maybe the question I should have asked is "What is the most cheap and fast way to delay human-like civilization becoming spacefaring one?".

Top up the space debris orbiting Earth. Have a rock-throwing machine on the Moon, tossing rocks to graze the Earth's atmosphere. The atmosphere slows the rocks putting them into low Earth orbit. That would putting anything into space more risky. That might delay us for a bit. But it would also serve as a challenge, which might get us sending more stuff into space to take the Moon back.

If your aliens are cunning, they might try sabotaging rocket launches. It might not take a lot of failed launches, and enquires that failed to show a cause, before we got dispirited. Imagine how we might have felt if the Webb space telescope, after its many delays and budget overruns, had blown up on the launchpad. Happily, it is up there and working fine.

The aliens would not reveal themselves. If we saw that there were aliens from the stars, we would know that interstellar travel was possible, and we would be fired to do it ourselves.

Suppose your aliens were really cunning. They might show us an intelligent probe that seems to have come from the stars, taking hundreds of thousands of years to make the journey. Make space travel seem really expensive and hard, even if your culture has a million years of technology, and all for a bunch of lifeless rocks that aren't worth it.

$\endgroup$
3
  • $\begingroup$ I like the idea of space-debree making machine! $\endgroup$
    – FrogOfJuly
    Aug 20, 2023 at 8:52
  • 1
    $\begingroup$ Space is really, really big, you can't fill it with enough debris to make space travel impossible. Kessler syndrome only precludes the use of particular orbits, it doesn't mean you can't leave the planet. You also can't aerobrake into stable orbit - if an object hits the atmosphere once, it hits on every pass and the orbit decays. And trying to do that from the moon doesn't make much sense, even if it worked you'd be putting obstacles into a highly elliptical inclined orbit that nobody uses anyway. $\endgroup$ Aug 21, 2023 at 14:51
  • $\begingroup$ It would also be glaringly obvious that someone's deliberately throwing rocks at Earth. $\endgroup$ Aug 21, 2023 at 15:49
0
$\begingroup$

Destroy governments, armed forces & major industry. Breaking the armed forces of the World will precipitate anarchy, add destruction of major industries and all organisation will fall to pieces.

People will put up with a lot when there is a hierarchy capable of punishing them. But if there isn't then things get messy very quickly and won't recover in a hurry on their own.

People won't be manufacturing CPU's, or cars or anything much. They'll be taking whatever they want and trying to protect themselves.

$\endgroup$
4
  • $\begingroup$ I thought in the same direction, but can you imagine how expensive it is to glass enough people for government to collapse? I was searching for something cheaper, easier, cruder, requiring little amount planning. Aliens are waging their wars, fighting their own interstellar crisis. They just can't be bothered with Humanity. The mood I am after is: "Just do something, so they would be late for the party for 50-100 years and then forget they exist for this period." $\endgroup$
    – FrogOfJuly
    Aug 21, 2023 at 4:09
  • $\begingroup$ @FrogOfJuly you don't need to wipe out govt physically. The people will do that for you once the military is history. Even gangs outnumber cops 10 to one in many countries. It would not take long at all. Govt is always on the verge of collapse, only the underlying threat of armed force keeps it viable. My country would be chaos within a week. But I'm not first World. $\endgroup$
    – Kilisi
    Aug 21, 2023 at 4:46
  • $\begingroup$ Can you describe more precisely what do you mean by destroying government then? Like orbital bombardment or something more elaborate? Also, I suspect there would be some unification against external threat, that would greatly strengthen existing governing structure $\endgroup$
    – FrogOfJuly
    Aug 21, 2023 at 5:23
  • $\begingroup$ @FrogOfJuly there would be no unification. Take away constraints and people redistribute the wealth in their favour asap. History is full of it. $\endgroup$
    – Kilisi
    Aug 21, 2023 at 5:39
-3
$\begingroup$

Everyone except the Third World is now Dead

Everyone in the First world either has a computer at home or smartphone in their pocket.

Most libraries have computers, so our written store of Knowledge is gone, as is the Internet.

Most modern manufacturing has a processor that controls part of the system.

In short, we are back to pre-industrial civilization and without the collective memory to restore the lost knowledge.

I think we would see the kind of stagnation in civilization that we saw when Rome was destroyed till the Renaissance

$\endgroup$
9
  • 2
    $\begingroup$ The library does not store or produce cpu's, so it would not be targeted $\endgroup$
    – FrogOfJuly
    Aug 19, 2023 at 8:28
  • 2
    $\begingroup$ @FrogOfJuly - The Computers in the Libraries store CPUs, so they absolutely would be targeted. $\endgroup$ Aug 19, 2023 at 8:35
  • $\begingroup$ Saying everyone dies is a bit of a stretch regarding the question's context. Indeed, the aliens targeted facilities of major manufacturers which stores or product CPUs, a.k.a factories and warehouses. Perhaps some libraries could be targeted because they could hold some computer museum. However I don't see myself, my home or my workplace to be such facilities. $\endgroup$ Aug 19, 2023 at 12:17
  • 1
    $\begingroup$ @Tortliena - Possibly - however - the question doesn't make sense if it isn't this way. If every Computer that was already built was intact, then in terms of 'how long' would be at most 1-2 years (Existential threat of Aliens would be great for bypassing much of the red tape around building new manufacturing facilities) but realistically (looking WW2 production) it would be less than that. Probably only a few months. $\endgroup$ Aug 19, 2023 at 22:05
  • 1
    $\begingroup$ @TheDemonLord Perhaps, but that's missing entirely my point. What the querent should have made is not what you should have done : Answer the question as told instead of changing it, then answering it. What you've written is not even really a frame-challenge, as you don't question the alien's targeting decision at all in the answer, you just modified it ^^'. Also, note that saying it will take 2 years (or a few months) to rebuild because "War time!" is a valid answer, technically. $\endgroup$ Aug 19, 2023 at 22:48

Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged .