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following scenario: a group of people (like 20-30) is brought to a new planet by a higher power. They are granted immortality, but can't reproduce - so they have a lot of time, but a hard limit in manpower (no workarounds like ape-slaves or robots please). They also can't take any items with them, but retain their (above average) knowledge about nowadays technology and history from their various backgrounds.

The planet is like earth before mankind developed, so easy obtainable resources that are long gone on earth (like sod iron ore) are still readily available. However the geographical setup is new, so you can't for example just "go to saudi arabia" if you need to find oil.

Probably they could quite easily find water, wood, stone, clay, game on most locations of the planet, and start to domesticate wildlife and plants to reach some quasi medieval lifestyle in relatively short time.

However, given that you can`t just trade with people from far away places, how difficult would it be to gather materials and detail knowledge needed for more advanced technology?

Would building a water mill with a generator, electric light and heating, telephones and even simple relay logic "computers" and steam powered vehicles be plausible?

From there on, requirements of "exotic" materials would probably start to become a problem.

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    $\begingroup$ A community of 30 people could maybe sustain a technological level equivalent to the Neolithic in real history, and that only if they already know how to make stone tools, and pottery, and agriculture, and they happen to be cast in a place where the right kind of stone and clay and plants are available. That's it. They cannot sustain anything higher than that. Even Bronze Age technology requires a population in the thousands. The entire question is moot. P.S. Iron ore is indeed quite common. Copper ore is very much less common, and tin ore is actually rare. $\endgroup$
    – AlexP
    Nov 7, 2023 at 19:40
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    $\begingroup$ Unless the population expands enormously, you will never be able to build things like light bulbs. It takes a city's worth of industrial specialists to produce glass, alloys, and the time and fuel needed to make them. $\endgroup$
    – jdunlop
    Nov 7, 2023 at 19:41
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    $\begingroup$ I'll be a little more detailed as to why the bot came in : It's because you have many question marks "?" in your question. Stack-Exchange has a one question per post rule and so doesn't like that. Here, you are asking how to find basically everything in a world, which is too big of a bite here. As seen in a recent, popular anime/manga, each material required for success can be given a lot more consideration than being all tightly packed in a one-page answer, and so should you focus on one thing at a time :). $\endgroup$ Nov 8, 2023 at 4:20
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    $\begingroup$ @ManoG1234609: You have 30 people. 28 of them are busy scratching the dirt to grow food to feed themselves and 1 potter and 1 boss. There are no idle hands lying about dreaming of how to smelt tin. Agricultural productivity with pre-modern technology is very low. Even the high and mighty Roman Empire at the highest point of its development could only afford to have something like maybe 10% of the population not directly involved in growing food. Long story short, you must first allocate people to grow enough food for the group, then pottery, then textiles. Doesn't leave any for tin etc. $\endgroup$
    – AlexP
    Nov 8, 2023 at 10:01
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    $\begingroup$ Most of these replies help to answer the question. There are a small number of people seemingly kept in good health and sanity forever. They find or grow food, because they do not like being hungry rather than to survive. They are unlikely to have a permanent person smelting metals, but they may produce metal or glass once every so many years and stockpile it. The limit seems to be set by what they can stockpile, and whether it degrades. They could make a light bulb if they wanted it badly enough. One person did, once. They probably never make integrated semiconductors. $\endgroup$ Nov 10, 2023 at 13:35

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Extremely difficult

There are many difficulties with creating technology from scratch. In theory, given infinite time, it is possible, but it is not realistic in many ways. Even if you assume these people know everything, it takes time. If you make something, it will decay quickly relative to how long it takes to develop technology. Even if the robotics requirement wasn't in place, the robots would need maintenance and would stop working. Eventually, it's possible to create technology, but material rarity (although still an issue) will not be as big of a problem compared to other concerns. If you do some simple expeditions, you might find coal, iron ore, etc. if you know how to look, but all the things needed for technology will take very large amounts of time. Consider tungsten, it's rarity in the Earth's crust is estimated to be only 1.5 parts per million (see here). That's not going to be easy to find at all.

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  • $\begingroup$ The abundance of gold in Earth's crust is about 0.004 parts per million, about 375 times lower than the huge 1.5 ppm abundance cited in the answer, and this did not stop people from using gold since the deepest antiquity. In fact, even today, if I go to any shopping mall I will find lots of gold things for sale, while tungsten not so much. $\endgroup$
    – AlexP
    Nov 8, 2023 at 9:40
  • $\begingroup$ True, gold was had even then, but in relatively small amounts even among massive civilizations. $\endgroup$
    – Jakav
    Nov 8, 2023 at 14:12
  • $\begingroup$ @AlexP The use of gold happened because gold could precipitate out of thermal interactions with magmatic materials and form nuggets. The same with copper. en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Native_metal Only after it was valuable, was it mined from other formats. $\endgroup$
    – David R
    Nov 8, 2023 at 14:49
  • $\begingroup$ In fact the harder difficulties would be not dying of boredom or accidents in the meantime. Those people can travel, by foot of course, so they might find a good ridge with a lush valley under it, so they would get both worlds of minerals. I envision that internal problems together with depression due to inability to have children would doom that society early enough. $\endgroup$
    – Vesper
    Nov 9, 2023 at 10:48
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Their organic technologies can flourish to levels well beyond our wildest imagination. Being immortal, your settlers have all the time to figure out the new world's ecology; being few, their overall impact on it will be negligible. Given a millenium or so, they can create their own garden of Eden, and possibly several of them if they end up in an area with pronounced seasons. It will be small though; they won't be able to cultivate more than perhaps a few thousand acres, even under very generous definition of 'cultivation'.

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As easy or as difficult as You/The Higher Power that transported them there needs it to be

This is world building - they are literally on a new Planet. There is no reason why there couldn't be rivers of Oil flowing or metals that are rare on earth just lying about on the ground.

Now, You'll note - I said 'as difficult as the higher power needs it to be' - if they have the power to bestow immortality, then I'm presuming they are a God or at least godlike:

Therefore - in the context of your World think about this:

What is the motive such a being has to do this?

That will determine how easy they make it to get the materials you are talking about.

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The making of tools and metals is very hard. I want to make a pair of tongs, a hammer and an anvil. but first I need to smelt iron, for which I need a furnace and fuel for that furnace. Maybe I can find coal, maybe I have to make charcoal. I will also need a set of bellows to supply air.

I finally get iron, but now i need steel. I need an even better furnace and a better supply of air.

I will need some type of drill to make holes, a lathe to turn shafts, a saw to cut, files to shape.

You probably can get water powered machines, eventually. If I want steam engines for more power, I will need even better materials and tools. For electrical tools I will need to refine copper and draw out wires. Then I need insulation. cloth is probably the easiest. If I want a motor, I may need brushes, metal could work, but carbon works better. This also requires springs. So the motor shaft and easily turn I need bearings. For the simplest bearings I need to cast metal for the races and machine spheres.

You find you need to create a large number of tools to make even simple items.

Even in the paleolithic people had a wide variety of stone tools. They even had a wide variety of privative tools to make stone tools. Leather to protect your leg and hands, hammer stones, antlers, all in both small and large sizes.

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Realistically, they have a lot less time than you depict, and they won't ever advance past neolithic level of technology. However, they can and will first travel to better pastures, away from harsh winters and towards lush green grass with enough game and fruit to not worry at least about these. But there are enough dangers on the path even there: predators, landslides, accidents, sssnakesss, poisonous trees unknowingly used as firewood (there was a story of a Roman legion that used oleander as firewood to cook food, and died out the following night), floods, flash fires, internal conflicts, etc. And each dead person due to these events would cause depression in the survivors. So, normal people won't survive long enough to develop technology higher than neolithic.

Altering their psychics could help negate at least social problems and general boredom which will settle after a few hundred years without visible progress in technology, but even if you'd put social problems aside, this socium is too fragile to external events to last long enough to employ better technology.

However, there is one path that could help them employ the entirety of their knowledge and get back to the stars:

Human-driven evolution

Aka advanced domestication. They would anyway have to find a stable source of food that isn't plants, be it meat, milk or eggs (or fish, but you can't domesticate fish), so if they would be pursuant and retain enough power over unsuccessful attempts of domestication, they would acquire a herd of some wildlife that could be counted as domesticated; if it's big and four-legged, it could be used as horsepower, if it's pawed, it could be used as hunter-seeker (dogs), if it's bird, it can be used as hunters or scouts (ravens, falcons). With either of those in possession, they should search for animals with big brains and try to make them friendly. Bears, apes, velociraptors, griffins, whatever has a brain larger than a dog's and can be trained to do commands, but is also social and not singular, would do. These should be organized into a herd, or a "tribe" and humans should then follow them together with their domesticated animals, in order to help and monitor their evolution.

If the humans would survive alongside those animals for several hundred years, they would be recognized as something "that's always been here" by that tribe, so they could start influencing the tribe by maybe participating in any activity other than mating fights, or doing something interesting in front of them, producing weird noises but interesting and immediately rewarding results. Doing that for another thousand years might trigger one of the animals to attempt to do the same. In case they won't have suitable hands, they'd have to evolve more flexible paws, which seems plausible especially if/when one of them would succeed at least partially in wielding a stick, which only takes time. Past that, encourage them to both transfer the knowledge on how to grab sticks to descendants, and do stuff with sticks to those succeeding, and in several eons (not sure how fast, as this depends too largely on those animals' paw structure and their ability to ever get upright) the former society would behold their first result of evolution - a tribe that uses sticks.

Past that (and we're already counting eons which are of unknown length), that tribe could be taught to use also stones, in a similar manner, then to use a stick and a stone, then two sticks and a stone, leading to gradual brain evolution in that tribe's members (perhaps with their entire species gaining some as well, otherwise that tribe might get extinct from inbreeding). The crucial moment would happen when there would be a mating fight in which one of the males would use a stick or a stone against the other; here, they have invented weapons. Once there, the gradual evolution would start to happen without direct interference of "higher minds", that tribe and those species would eventually raise a civilization of their own, starting with fire and use of bones as tools, probably up to spaceships in another several eons. And should at least one of those initial humans survive until that, the goal is accomplished. In the meantime the surviving humans might play shamans for that tribe, and since it'll eventually split due to overcrowdedness, the shamans might also agree to split up, sharing knowledge and directing subordinates to not fight tribes led by one of them, making a sort of nation, which might help general survival of the altered animals.

After all, no one really knows why humans evolve from animals, perhaps there was some intervention that made australopiteks use sticks before all other species of Earth (say orang-utangs are quite intelligent but they are still apes, outpaced by Homo) and spread wide enough to survive, adapt and conquer?

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First, being 30 at most, you won't get economies of scale; expect any complex goods to be hand-made. Second, do not expect any of the immmortals to ruin their health mining lead or mercury, or do tedious jobs without a clear, quick reward.

Agriculture : Your group will not develop agriculture and remain in a hunter-gatherer state. They are not numerous enough to deplete food sources. Anyway, it took millennia for thousands of people to select and cross-breed plants to get the usable crops we know now, so it is not possible to do it with 30 people that have no trouble getting food. Still, they will probably go on expeditions to get fruit trees and build an orchard.

Energy: A water wheel will provide the energy they need.

Metallurgy: They would probably get copper and iron, will be able to get steel, but no fancy alloys, they cannot operate multiple mines. The water wheel powers the bellows and hammer.

Electricity: Sure, as soon as you get the copper wire. They can use the water wheel to power a generator. It will take some trial and error to get it done, but everyone will be interested.

Refrigeration: They know thermodynamic, right? They may build a cool warehouse underground.

Steam Engine: Forget it. You need coal/wood to make it work, while your water wheel works for free.

Vehicles: No ground vehicles, you don't have the manpower to build and maintain roads. They could try to build a steamboat, but it would take all of them to build and operate it.

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