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Some info:

  • The civilisation travels in a magical, unpredictable, and irreversible way through a magical item. They can only travel from a world once, so they can't constantly bring items through multiple trips.
  • This proccess is initiated by the civilisation. They have as much time as they need between travels.
  • They can transport items in a certain radius, usually around 15,000 square feet, but they also have to transport around 200-500 people.
  • They have access to tech, but they can only transport easily portable items.
  • They also possess limited magic, so feel free to explain some possible solutions that slightly break the laws of physics.
  • Their tech level befor the first jump is unknown, but starting from a tech level of around the late 1900s would have similar results (pretend this is the starting tech level).

I have thought of some possible solutions, but they have some problems:

  • They could have some portable device that can construct individual parts, like a 3D-printer, but I feel like this would be too slow, but if I make it fast, then it feels a bit hand-wavy.
  • They could use factories from civilisations in worlds they travel to, but not every world would have a civilisation, and not every civilisation would be willing to share.

What would be a plausible way for a travelling civilisation to have portable mass production?

@Robert Rapplean has a good point with finding materials. I will have to think about that. They do bring some materials such as food, water, metals, wood, computers, etc. from previous worlds, but they can't fit too many because bigger things take longer to transport.

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    $\begingroup$ The real problem that you'll face isn't going to be the actual manufacturing. A clever, driven civilization could design a set of boot-starting machines. The hard part is going to be finding materials. How many people are you talking? A hundred million people could spend centuries without finding a decent supply of tin. Also, are you expecting other people to be there when your people show up, or is it always a green-field planet? $\endgroup$ Dec 11, 2023 at 15:21
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    $\begingroup$ Can you be more specific about what's "easily portable"? In particular, what kind of vehicles do they have? (A civilization that travels by aircraft carrier is going to have a lot more room to store machinery than one that has to carry everything on their backs.) $\endgroup$
    – Cadence
    Dec 11, 2023 at 15:33
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    $\begingroup$ @RobertRapplean i would disagree that finding materials is hard. That part should be easy. The difficult part is how much industry you need to make fairly basic stuff. Like yeah, you can bring a vapor deposition furnace with you, but you cant make replacements for that. If you want that capability, you need a EUV machine, which also needs replacements etc. $\endgroup$
    – ErikHall
    Dec 11, 2023 at 16:12
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    $\begingroup$ Given the diversity of products you're asking about let alone the range of manufacturing processes that can be used to produce them, this question is far too broad in scope to be appropriate for this site. You also don't define what the technological and magical capabilities of your folks are. The problem becomes trivial if they have access to nano-fabricators, or if limited magic means, can only weave shadows into practical but stylish garments. Please edit this question to significantly reduce it's scope, and define the technological and magical capabilities. $\endgroup$
    – sphennings
    Dec 11, 2023 at 18:37
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    $\begingroup$ Remember that a traveling civilization will need to carry everything. That means that they don't carry things that have limited use. Everything carried has to be of almost immediate need. That means that most of what is in a modern home won't be needed. Anything that can be made on site won't be carried. That includes cooking utensils (hot stones dropped in a straw basket filled with water can boil the food). $\endgroup$
    – David R
    Dec 11, 2023 at 21:18

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Small objects can be still manufactured in relatively large amounts also by a traveling civilization, for example:

  • clothes and the like: gather the needed fiber either in the wild or by trading, then weave them into fabric and then sew the fabric into garments.
  • crafts of wood/metal/pottery: same principle, gather the raw materials and work them into the final product.

Computers might be feasible if you stay in the realm of mechanical calculators or simple, vacuum tube based, devices. Modern, state of the art computers require factories the size of several football fields and a flabbergasting amount of energy and facilities, something that without an adequate supporting infrastructure is simply not feasible.

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    $\begingroup$ This seems to equate "making lots of things" with "mass production" but they are not the same thing - the fact that clothing was ubiquitous prior to the industrial revolution doesn't mean it was mass produced. Mass production typically requires investing capital in machinery or processes, as you need some way to get one individual to produce enough to satisfy many - the problem is that these investments won't pay off as large machinery gets left behind randomly. Having every family sew their own clothes isn't mass production. $\endgroup$ Dec 12, 2023 at 18:26
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They would do what the Polynesians did. Most of what they transported to unknown islands was knowledge and enough to get themselves started. Then they needed to survive for several years until their staple crops like breadfruit were ready to supplement their diets, then several more years before they had enough of everything.

So these were carefully planned expeditions with everything worked out by experts.

Your people would take the basic tech and knowhow to produce whatever they wanted to produce. So you might spend two years smelting ores and refining oil etc,. to make the tools to make the tools to make your machines and twenty years to be in full production. It's just time and knowledge. Several generations later your descendants go and do the same thing.

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    $\begingroup$ It's kinda just time and knowledge. I know how integrated circuits are made, but I couldn't significantly contribute to the design and construction of a fabrication facility. I like your answer, but it presupposes a maximum technology level. 99.9% of all human technology was invented in the last 150 years with a starting population of 1.2B and an ending population of 8.0B There will be a max tech limit and it's not the tech we have today. What do you think that limit will be and why? (Hint: 500 people can't build a modern CPU and feed themselves.) $\endgroup$
    – JBH
    Dec 12, 2023 at 0:31
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    $\begingroup$ @Kilisi that's a nice plan for a happy path - where the civilization travels to a safe, peaceful place, their children and further descendants all value the knowledge that was passed on, and no volcanoes, civil wars or anything else interrupts the development before they can reach the high point again. $\endgroup$
    – Syndic
    Dec 12, 2023 at 13:27
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    $\begingroup$ @Syndic yep, Polynesians populated the biggest ocean in the World using this strategy. It wasn't static, they improved and innovated and built on the knowledge while doing so. They didn't struggle to survive, they had it worked out beforehand. $\endgroup$
    – Kilisi
    Dec 12, 2023 at 13:29
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    $\begingroup$ @JBH you never make much sense to me, just downvote all my answers and save the effort commenting please $\endgroup$
    – Kilisi
    Dec 12, 2023 at 20:22
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    $\begingroup$ @JBH you're getting annoying. find someone else to bug please. You've already gone squeaking to the mods to try and get me suspended, I have no time for your rubbish. $\endgroup$
    – Kilisi
    Dec 13, 2023 at 0:35
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I think the key point is time they plan between travels, I could see a scenario where they plan 2 basic scenarios: 1) the location is not good to live in, then travel as soon as possible, at most after a few days, they would need to bring equipment that help them check that as quickly as possible, a long range surveillance drone would be good, and parts to build more. 2) The location is good, well then they can stay for 200 years / 7 generations and have about 6 babies per women while they build up a population of about a million to create a colony that can maintain the technology level. For this they would need to have packed enough heavy machinery to start farming and create more tractors. And on top of this, they need to bring all the science and engenering plans they can, tablets with this data loaded in none wastefull formats, books for backups, made of durable materials that can get wet etc. Redundancy is the key here.

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They harness the ceaseless persistence of natural life in their technology and way of life.

The seed of a sequoia tree, which as an adult grows to be 300 feet tall and 10s of feet wide, is only the size of the seed of a tomato, a couple grains of rice side by side.

In order to bring mass amounts of wood producing potential between locations, you only need to bring a few of these tiny seeds, find proper soil, and give it time and attention. The natural progression of it's programmed cellular instructions take care of the heavy lifting.

Where we followed a path of industrialization that is often at odds with nature and its natives, this civilization focused on biological solutions that incorporate much time (and patience) in order to reduce man hours required for operation.

Advancing eventually to genetic engineering, their understanding of the nano-scopic machines working within living tissue allowing for manual programming of various plant based machines. From chemical synthesis and component material growing, to biological computational devices (Imagine a head of pseudo-lettuce that can take input and give output), and eventually energy generation/tramission/emitting machines.

Compared to our industry, this civilization knows a patience we could never dream of, but it allows almost all of their industry to begin with a handful of seeds for various functional 'crops' and when it's time to relocate, they can pack rather light. Focusing on the seeds, personnel, and soil preparation materials to setup a fledgling "factory" which can build up their resources to expand with. These starter factory plants (pun intended) would be specifically adaptive and robust so as to have a better chance of surviving, while later expansions would focus more on output once a foothold and viable soil is established.

They don't need to dig for Tin or specific materials, as the root systems of their living factory will, over time, find and deliver what is needed, potentially transforming the soil in the process to make it even more viable than it may have been otherwise. The beginning years requiring much less exotic materials until they started working on the next jumping portal, which by then (many many years later) they would have found the materials needed. Starting off with a small population is beneficial in that it's only a matter of planting enough seeds and having resources to survive while the initial factories spin up food production, less population leaves fewer mouths to feed during that time as the plants construct themselves.

To make these factory plants more portable if this civilization is constantly on the move without resting much between realm jumps, rather than staying put between jumps, there are many biological examples of gas filled pockets, be it in seaweed or swim bladders, to where the plants can be instructed to grow essentially attached blimps to uproot and relocate, or even stay on the move. To be at this level of mobility though, you would be relying less on the soil resources, and more on manually searching for rich areas to stay, ideally near water sources. A stationary factory would spend much less resources facilitating moving around and could rely more on the steady supply of materials from it's root system.

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They could have nanobots that could be let lose to gather resources and build everything they want. This would allow them to rapidly rebuild in a new world.

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The factory is stationary or on boats. The nomadic culture arrives, gets instructed by there predecessor and works, producing stuff. Excess is left behind in storages. Some of the factories are lights-out, means they produce without people present.

Stack Iron Ore into a light focus furnace and have it melt over time. Wind driven auto-lumes spin the wool left behind into textiles. Have sand molten and drawn into crystalls by automation.

The instructing of the new arrivals by the predecessor who worked and will soon leave would be a cultural highpoint. New techniques, discoveries, ideas. Sometimes inventors and specialists leave the caravan and travel against the stream backwards to implement a new idea. The whole society forms one big topological star, ring or line network.

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  • $\begingroup$ Not sure if this was clear or not, but there is no "network"-- such a thing would be impossible, since the magical item used by the civilisation to travel is unique and irreplaceable. Though I like the idea, it might not apply in this case. $\endgroup$
    – value1
    Dec 12, 2023 at 15:56

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