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Clarification: based on the info below, are there non-obvious ways Matter Dulicator could be used to push the “tech level” of such a society so far past the late Medieval level that common dangers and struggles (and thus, plot points) become irrelevant? Or put it differently, what non-obvious “clever hacks” a rational person could use with it, that would push the setting out of the constraints of “late medieval at best” level of technology?

Society: Starting from today, every adult and able bodied person who died instant and violent death (car crash, explosion, plane crash, headshot etc) is perfectly replicated on a pristine copy of the Earth where humans never evolved. The Survivors appear about a mile apart from one another. They appear naked, without any tools. 90% of them appear in immediately safe location (remaining 10% might appear high up in the air, inside a rock, underwater etc, and thus, die horribly unless quickly rescued.) The rate of appearances is rapidly accelerating (2 people appeared in the first month, ~100 in the second, at least a 1000 in the third. It is not known what are the limits of this process.). About 1/3 of those survive long enough to find one another and form larger groups.

The environment: The part of the Pristine Earth when the action takes place has the same overall climate and weather as Northern USA or Southernmost Canada, and to be specific, looks as if a pristine version of Minnesota was bordered by a sea on its south side (With the Mississippi spilling into gargantuan swampy delta rather than a more polite version from our world).

Wildlife: the Pristine Earth had no human predation and pollution, and thus has all the fauna and megafauna it would have had if it evolved unbothered since the Miocene. Additionally, the fauna and flora was distributed on Pristine Earth the same way human survivors were, causing an odd mix of animal and plant life (ie: pandas living alongside cougars, bamboo growing next to English oak, Arctic and Antarctic species side by side etc). It caused significantly greater biodiversity, as well as longer survival of species that would be normally extinct (like terror birds, sabretooth cats, mammoths, and premodern hominids). Within days since the arrival rate accelerated, local predators learned that the naked bipeds are an (usually) easy source of protein.

Native Inhabitants: the Pristine Earth is already home to a tiny population that evolved from previously copied Neanderthals and Denisovians. The Neo-Anderthals are at about Aztec level of technological sophistication, but are semi-nomadic due to being primarily hunters (hunter gatherers but strongly leaning towards carnivorism). They are also universally hostile towards homo sapiens (for Uncanny Valley-related reasons elevated to violent racism), and their attitude towards the Survivors ranges from “kill on sight and eat” to “enslave, attempt to breed with, eat later.”

Matter Duplicator. An Artefact of a catastrophic copying failure. The Duplicator is a fault in the fabric of the universe that looks like a pair of identical holes 10 cm across. The holes, due to the fact that they bend and suck in light as well, appear as faintly glowing tiny funhouse mirrors. Matter that touches the “surface” of Hole A is sucked in, and ejected out of Hole B with a 1 second delay, and then again, 1 second later, creating an identical copy. The initial suction is negligible and causes a gentle wind between the holes. If matter is held touching the surface of Hole A, but not immediately allowed to be sucked in, the force of the suction grows exponentially with every second. The greater resistance, the greater the suction. The Duplicator is currently placed on a tree stump 10 meters away from the river shore, top surfaces of the Holes facing directly up, spaced about 10cm apart.

problems I already explored in the setting:

  • Putting stuff in Hole A causes Hole B to shoot out two copies. Putting stuff in Hole B is impossible. Hole B is “exit only” and attempts to put stuff in it are met with rising resistance. Blocking Hole B is Not Advised, as even the pressure of emerging air will rise dramatically until the barrier is destroyed and the duplicated matter released.
  • Stuff that goes in the Hole A at an angle, emerges from the Hole Be at the exact opposite angle (from both horizontal and vertical standpoint). So for example, stuff that freefalls down into the Hole, shoots upwards completely vertically.
  • pouring liquids into Hole A, so that they shoot out doubled from Hole B and fall back into Hole A causes non-sustaining feedback loops and thus, geyser. Attempt at more self-sustaining feedback loops are considered dangerous and ill-advised in setting (though not impossible.)
  • There was an attempt to put rope in hole A, catch the emerging ends, tie them in a loop with the opposite end of the rope, and cause the rope to pull itself and endlessly duplicate. Needless to say, the energy of the pull rose dramatically, the amount of rope doubled every second, and in the end Hole B simply belched out shredded rope at hurricane speeds thus destroying the loop.
  • Putting an iron bar in Hole A and preventing it from being sucked in for about 5 seconds caused it to be torn out of the hold, and copies shot out of the Hole B with sufficient force to embed them in a tree trunk, 30 meters away.
  • Otherwise rare natural materials, like toadstool poison, amber, or spider silk were Duplicated. Spider-silk cloth and rope were created, and estimated to be significantly superior to regular silk. Wisely, spider-silk rope was NOT used in the Rope Loop Experiment.
  • Duplicating live creatures has no ill effects on them (since the duplication process was designed for that purpose in the first place).
  • It is not known in the setting what would happen if the Duplicator was destroyed, or if the Holes touched, or if they were accessed from the bottom (which currently sits flush on a tree stump.) Messing with the Duplicator in any such a way is generally considered Incredibly Bad Idea, and the current hypothesis among Survivors is that it would cause at least as much destruction as a nuke, possibly much worse.
  • The Duplicator Holes are shrinking in diameter, at a steady rate,destined to disappear completely within 16-20 years, though the shrinkage was not yet noticed in the setting, as the human survivors only found them 3 months ago.
  • The Survivors already explored all the “low hanging fruit” of Duplication, making Stone Age tools, materials for shelter, food, and forayed into basic metallurgy, pottery and simple chemistry with duplicated resources
  • While the survivors who control the Duplicator (about 100 people) can easily duplicate enough resources to use and food to feed themselves, there are concerned that the rate of new arrivals will outstrip their capacity to produce, or the logistics of distribution. (whether this is true or not depends on how well they manage it. Im willing to reduce the population growth OR increase the rate of Duplicator shrinkage to keep it a Very Difficult Problem rather than it becoming an Impossible Problem, or inversely, a Problem Free Utopia).

To narrow my question further: I'm aiming to create a world in which the Survivors can, well…survive, thrive, and develop to about the level comparable to the Late Medieval period, but without overshooting it due to some clever hacks that the Duplicators allow. Therefore, I need to know what such hacks could be, so that I could counter them or use them.

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    $\begingroup$ If you have people taken from modern day earth then why oh why would it become a medieval society? Electricity is known, industrisation is known, this isn't even including the matter duplicator. Unless these people lose their memory they can get to early 20th century in years. $\endgroup$
    – HSharp
    Feb 7 at 14:48
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    $\begingroup$ @HSharp the Survivors start naked and with no tools, in pristine wilderness. The only knowledge they have is the one inside their brains, and extremely few people have the knowledge of all the steps needed to go from completely zero technology to modern technology. My assumption is that it should be possible to advance by trial and error to about late Iron Age while the Duplicator lasts, but how many people know how to exactly go from there to modern tech? Consider also that the Survivors are random, the only commonality being that they are healthy adults, and died violently. $\endgroup$ Feb 7 at 15:03
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    $\begingroup$ The knowledge that something is possible changes it though. All of science now is trial and error but in relatively blind hope. For all these people though they know things are possible. It would be impossible to be stuck in any medieval age you would probably have people struggle for survival in neolithic lifestyle and then jump to renaisscence period once metallurgy takes off. The ability to get to late medievel age tech would lead to industrialisation level tech. $\endgroup$
    – HSharp
    Feb 7 at 15:24
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    $\begingroup$ One useful aspect is you have interchangeable parts instantly. Much tech is limited by precision but if every part is identical you don't need manufacturing precision, just one off high precision. ditto for standardized measurements, everyone will be using the same standard measurements. $\endgroup$
    – John
    Feb 7 at 22:15
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    $\begingroup$ Frame challenge: If the survivors are average modern day humans and arrive one by one naked into a pristine environment resembling North America but inhabitated by megafauna and hostile Neo-Anderthals, most of them will be dead (a minority first enslaved and then dead) within days. Maybe some will survive the first week and set up some kind of shelter, but there will be no rescuing, no smelting or forging and little to no experimenting with the duplicator beyond the trivial "I have found one half of a rabbit carrion but now I have two halves" - that is, if someone even finds the duplicator. $\endgroup$
    – zovits
    Feb 8 at 8:28

7 Answers 7

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A tiny flake of gold, titanium, or iron is precious. A spec of refined aluminum was so rare it used to be more precious than gold. Spider silk or a single strand of cotton or other plant fiber could be massively upscaled for use in fabrics and ropes. A natural oil seep or a speck of coal could form a viable fossil fuel source. Rather than digging to find a large usable deposit of a mineral you could sift through river sand for tiny specks of metals or setup a furnace and heat random rocks and sift for tiny amounts of metals from the ashes. Rather than selectively breeding plants for generations, find the one natural mutant and clone it. Your population would be searching for the miniscule rarities and duplicating them over subsisting to mass producing basic necessities.

Your only limit is time, the group should form shifts and be constantly duplicating items, with possibly multiple people having dedicated jobs planning item schedules, and moving items into and out of the holes.

The shrink rate you specified works out to about 0.5 cm per year. You can bet they would notice this within at least a year, if not sooner. Personally one of the first things I would make is a size gauge to check if something fits through the hole. Lay a stick on the hole and cut it to length. Duplicate the measuring stick and distribute so everyone can check. No use making the perfect clay pot or metal tool, if it doesn't fit through the hole. This would lead to many items being sized differently than we're used to in order to fit through the hole.

Once they see it shrinking, it wouldn't take a scientific genius to figure out it will be gone in few decades. If they're smart they would shift to mass producing basic feedstocks such as refined metal blanks or a crude oil pipeline that could be used to fuel their civilization after the holes disappear.

Non obvious uses:

The holes should be producing a constant high pressure wind source. Slap even a leaky pressure vessel made of leather around it and you have a constant air source to replace the bellows for the blacksmith fires. Make a better containment and you can drive a pneumatic powered sawmill.

The average newborn head diameter is around 11 cm. If you want a rapid population increase a healthy slightly below average (10 cm diameter head) baby could be cloned to rapidly increase the local population.

In terms of food, calorie dense items are more valuable. Sending meat, butter, vegetable oils or other high calorie foods would be the most efficient.

Enough chemistry to make a basic battery (refined metals and acids) could provide a constant stream of materials to generate as much electricity as you needed. Allowing electro chemistry and mass production of aluminum.

Mass duplication of copper would easily allow production of pressure vessels, piping and electrical wire.

Salt or other spices would be in the list of high value per weight, making them valuable to duplicate.

Clean fresh water would be a valuable resource. Drought wouldn't be an issue for agriculture. As alluded to earlier a pipeline would be helpful for mass exploitation. This could also probably power a water wheel based mill or effectively act as a water pump to distribute the water.

I would be interested in what happens if you start a fire at the input hole, do you get twice as much fire coming out of the outlet, this thing could act as an infinite heat source causing lots of interesting problems with similarly interesting associated opportunities.

Or similarly what about an electro-static charged object, can I make a static charge accumulator from this thing to generate electricity.

Now, I just need a lightning rod and a good thunderstorm and were going to have a plasma loop based fusion reactor going in a couple years.

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    $\begingroup$ thanks, lots of those go along the lines of what I was envisioning. Im not sure about the baby cloning, because a slight mishap or delay in putting the baby in Hole A would result in baby-salsa geyser. As for fire/heat/electricity, this would work in theory, but a gemoetrically rising feedback loop of heat or plasma is almost certainly going to go kaboom in a spectacular fashion. Im not against the idea, but would rather use it as a suicide-bomb in case the Survivor Civ is overrun by enemies, than an energy source. $\endgroup$ Feb 8 at 7:57
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    $\begingroup$ Cloning humans means you could clone chickens. Throw in a lot of chickens. It takes one second to produce an extra chicken. That 3600 extra chickens an hour. A human needs about one chicken in food a day, so the machine can feed 3600 humans for one hour $\endgroup$
    – Trish
    Feb 8 at 13:02
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    $\begingroup$ @Trish and you can first cook the chicken and then clone it. You can duplicate processed food. Some smoked meat can bring the whole population through winter. $\endgroup$
    – Falco
    Feb 9 at 9:25
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You have successfully invented the world's most efficient doomsday machine. Dr. Farnsworth would be proud!

This is a Frame Challenge.

As it sits, atmosphere enters one side and exits the other. This will create a small high pressure zone at the exit hole, which will spread to the entrance hole sitting only 10cm away. Then more atmosphere will be duplicated. Then more. Faster and faster.

Until everything on Earth dies.

Animals, being a heckuva lot smarter than humans, will run away from this soon after the machine is put into action. Humans standing next to the machine will likely discern the problem immediately... but anything put on top of the hole gets sucked into the hole because, even if an iron pot is used, the resulting vacuum at the entrance hole will eventually damage the pot. That assumes a perfect seal is obtained, which is unlikely.

Anyway, while the nearby humans are scrambling to figure out how to stop atmosphere from being duplicated... those farther away simply see a nasty storm brewing. Wind whipping trees, clouds moving away... and it gets worse, and worse.

Until everybody's running. Anybody who tries to stay by the holes (even if they try thereafter to leave) eventually dies from some form of Barotrauma.

Until everyone in the world dies of some form of Barotrauma.

And that's assuming that the air pressure increase due to this unbounded cycle doesn't eventually result in some form of nuclear fusion. And if that doesn't get it, the increase in planetary mass will eventually cause it to collapse into a black hole, which — if the duplicator has no practical limitations — will eventually become the biggest supermassive black hole in the universe, eventually sucking in everything until even is mass can't withstand the pressure and a second big bang occurs.

Cheers! Not only would Dr. Farnsworth be proud, Bender would be envious.

What can you do?

I suggest your matter duplicator is limited by density. It can't duplicate gas of any kind. This could be a benefit to your story as it limits the kind of technological growth your survivors can experience.

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    $\begingroup$ @GoingDurden annother way out would be the stargate solution; the portals produce a faint back pressure so air (or anything) doesn't flow through the portals on its own; only if pushed $\endgroup$ Feb 8 at 10:34
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    $\begingroup$ @RichardTingle yeah, that is the best solution here, I think. Basically make it so that more than 1 atm of pressure on the surface of the Hole A i needed to breach it, after which the suction takes over. Come to think of it, this is a bit like liquid surface tension works, and the Holes resemble pools of mercury. $\endgroup$ Feb 8 at 11:00
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    $\begingroup$ @Bobson wouldn't completely empty lungs, intestines etc have hard vacuum in place of gases? Im not sure it would be healthy. Should be the health equivalent of trying to take a deep breath in the vacuum of space. $\endgroup$ Feb 8 at 11:52
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    $\begingroup$ The maths on this completely doesn't stack up: although the amount of air duplicated is massive, the amount of air in total is far, far more massive (by at least six orders of magnitude), so the effect will be imperceptible. $\endgroup$
    – Stephen
    Feb 8 at 15:14
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    $\begingroup$ @JBH I'm not disputing that the duplicator causes a physics-breaking exponential increase in local density, and yes, eventually it will result in barotrauma, fusion, black hole, everything you say. I point out in my answer that the process is so slow that over the 20-year lifetime of the hole it will increase atmospheric pressure by 0.0001%. It will take hundreds of thousands of years to achieve one doubling. The ambient increase is trivial and ignorable. $\endgroup$
    – Stephen
    Feb 9 at 10:22
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Thinking through three ideas, but none of them seems to break your society:

Agriculture vs. Crafts

In a typical medieval or earlier society, 90% of the people or more are working in agriculture. Their surplus feeds a small class of artisans, merchants, and rulers. And the surplus is far from certain, famine is frequent.

On the local scale, your duplicator can feed a community as long as there is any food to start with. Take a ham sandwich, duplicate, give one away and duplicate the other again.

You can also clone your very best seed corn, possibly even the best chickens and rabbits.

But as long as there is just one duplicator, that won't change the entire world ...

Weights and Measures

You can duplicate yardsticks, weights, and measuring cups. That helps with trade and science, but you need to be rather far for this to make a difference. So again, not decisive ...

Coinage and Seals

If the access to the duplicator is tightly controlled, you can have one master craftsman strike one coin, one seal ring, etc. Try again and again until it is close to perfect. Then duplicate.

Like the food example, above, this will allow the location with the duplicator a surplus which can be spent on R&D.

But again, a local effect, not society-wide.

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    $\begingroup$ The agriculture one is game changing at the local level, not forgetting that making clothing consumed a similar proportion of people's time to growing food up until relatively recently. Just make sure the food has a long storage life - the ham sandwich is going to keep getting older as it is fed through repeatedly! Possibly best to focus resources on duplicating dried fish/meat and flour - the foods where it has taken lots of time and/or effort to get it to that point of preservation/refinement. $\endgroup$ Feb 7 at 21:43
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    $\begingroup$ @KerrAvon2055, I'm thinking about a combined perpetual motion machine and duplicator. Feed standard-size containers in on a ramp, two come back, their weight turns a wheel to lift one container back up and take the other to the warehouse. When the hot soup in the containers color-coded with red-and-blue stripes is starting to get cold, take the boxes with this color code out of the feed ramp, serve the last portion, and clean the container for re-use. For dinner, it will have venison and potatoes. In the meantime, the machine produces more iron nails (already in shipping containers ...). $\endgroup$
    – o.m.
    Feb 8 at 6:51
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    $\begingroup$ my main concern with the ideas above is: what happens when the Duplicator vanishes? Sure, people would be well fed and taken care of up to that point, but helpless the day after. My main concern here is how to ensure their survival after it is gone, or how to support people who are too far away from it, or if the population growth outpaces the Duplicator output. $\endgroup$ Feb 8 at 8:16
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    $\begingroup$ @GoingDurden, those are all possible adventures for your characters. We cannot write your story, we can only talk about the logic of your setting. $\endgroup$
    – o.m.
    Feb 8 at 16:20
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    $\begingroup$ @GoingDurden: This seems like a key source of potential conflict. Especially if a fair population has built up relying on the free stuff, buzzkill long-term thinkers pushing for a reduction in comfort/luxury production in favor of a crash program of preparing for self-sufficiency are going to face resistance. Who controls the means of production, and how beholden are they to public opinion? Who sees short-term advantage in denialism? How blatant is this metaphor? $\endgroup$
    – Jay McEh
    Feb 8 at 17:09
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The clever hack would be to get advanced metallurgy, engines (steam, internal combustion, electric) and machine tools. Which, depending on your wishes may or may not happen.

If you wanted it to happen you could have 2-3 people with working understanding of relevant technologies to survive and help the others to reach sustainable early technological civilization within few years. Free duplication trivializes food production and search for specific resources like coal or ores. So there would be enough work force for defense, resource hunting and construction.

As you don't want it, you can just make such people to not appear at all or make them fail for any reason. E.g. power struggle, wild humans attacks or jealousy. There likely to be significant gender imbalance as men die violent death more often. It is also plausible that there would be plenty of violent or/and criminal survivors. So, it is not a very healthy mix of people.

Even in this case the survivors would have definitive edge over the locals. Whatever local population has by the moment of their arrival they can learn and easily improve upon. On top of that survivors get lots of free good spears, bows and arrows, hand grenades, Molotov cocktails, stirrups, muskets, better understanding of medicine, hygiene, agricultural processes, animal husbandry. They would have relatively good idea what are the next key technologies they should work on. But knowing how steam engine works and making it are two very different things. If they don't have the base they will need a lot of time to build it.

I don't see any magic technology that allows to bypass the basics - metallurgy, engines and machine tools.

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    $\begingroup$ problem: how to sustain low-modern tech AFTER the Duplicator is gone, and all the extra fuel, spare parts and resources need to be produced the regular way? Another problem is scale and logistics balance. As population grows and needs to be fed, clothed, sheltered, do they focus on basic needs or tech advancement? There is only one Duplicator, so should they rather let a 1000 people starve when they produce steam engine parts, or feed the people and never produce the engine? Similarly: Food vs water, clothing vs construction materials, simple crossbows vs complex guns, medicine vs bullets etc $\endgroup$ Feb 8 at 8:25
  • $\begingroup$ Well, you didn't want them to overshoot late medieval tech level, low-modern would be rather far above. The thing about metal tools, engines and machines is that they allow to increase productivity of workers many times in comparison with pre-tech methods. Which makes self sustainability of tech much easier to achieve - you just need to get fuel (e.g. coppicing + charcoal) and ores. Iron is one of the most abudant metallic elements in nature due to star evolution pecularities. $\endgroup$
    – D'Monlord
    Feb 9 at 2:33
  • $\begingroup$ Food production is a separate problem. Hunting looks like a good option - pristine earth would have plenty of animals. Muskets were used in late medieval period, making them should be possible. They should try to domesticate some animals though. Nomadic people would likely have at least dogs and horses. Agriculture is trickier, but edible plants must exist - again, look what locals do and do it better. $\endgroup$
    – D'Monlord
    Feb 9 at 2:36
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Don't overestimate the impact if you try to just make normal things easier

A lot of the answers here overestimate how much material you can actually move through your duplicator in the time allowed. In particular the choked flow of air through the portal, even assuming that the air is sucked in as if to a vacuum (ie 1 bar of pressure differential) is only about $\mathrm{2\ kg/s}$ and scales as the square root of the pressure. Over the lifetime of the portal (about 500 giga-seconds) it'll naturally duplicate about 500 megatons of atmosphere (assuming that it's the area which decreases linearly rather than the diameter), which is about a millionth of the total mass. Remarkable, but hardly world-ending.

More generally, there is a fundamental limit on how much volume you're going to be able to replicate, which depends on how fast you can shove stuff through the duplicator. If we imagine they might be able to move things through at $\mathrm{10\ m/s}$, that's about 20 billion cubic metres of 'stuff', or 1 billion cubic metres per year.

That feels like a lot, but it's really not in societal terms. The average modern human consumes 675kg of food per year, which might be 675l (no, this is not how dimensions are supposed to work), so if all you did was duplicate food at that insane rate, you could sustain 30 million people, which is good. But if you use it to produce water you're making a mere 80 litres per second, which is the discharge of a small stream, useless for irrigation.

Aside: scheduling problem

There's also a bit of an Infinite Hotel Problem with the way the duplicator works. If I push a chicken through I get one chicken immediately and then another duplicate one second later. If I push a chicken through and then one second later I push a cooking pot, does the second chicken emerge inside the first cooking pot? what if I push two chickens a second apart?

Instead you must be smart

The reality is that the society will fall far, far short of this hypothetical maximum, especially from a standing start. Instead, they'll try to be selective about what they take the time to duplicate, and how many times. I think the reality is that this portal will actually not provide a transcendental advantage, which is Good because that's what the OP wanted.

Except

The two holes of the duplicator are actually very close together, easily close enough to be incorporated into a single device. Wrap the device in a containment vessel, fill it with water (or even just leave it with air), and you have a pressure source that will output 80l per second (at ambient pressure, more at higher pressures), regardless of what pressure it needs to reach to achieve that. You just invented hydraulics and pneumatics, at least two hundred years early.

The point is not that it produces material, but that that material is created with arbitrary energy, according to whatever the metallurgy of the civilisation is able to provide in terms of containment. A simple animal skin balloon would be able to power a bellows, which could smelt copper with which you could make the boiler for an aeolipile. The increased airflow from this could power a blast furnace in which you can smelt steel, and reach the steam age, because literally all you have to make is a tank big enough to fit the duplicator in with a nozzle on the front.

The replicator even adds energy of its own: you say it sucks metal bars in with extreme force? Magnetise the bars, and we can easily extract energy from that. It replicates the temperature of the material? Go to the trouble of melting one lot of steel in the blast furnace, then replicate it while it's still molten to save the effort.

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  • $\begingroup$ Minor nitpick: The lifetime is 500 megaseconds not gigaseconds. $\endgroup$ Feb 10 at 6:30
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Duplicator not required to completely skip your target.

You're thinking about technological development in far too linear a fashion. All you need is someone with basic engineering knowledge and a simple technological shortcut.

Copper and magnets, they're things we know about now. Anyone with the knowledge of how to build a motor can also build a generator. You're asking for late iron age/medieval but you can skip straight from copper age to electrification simply with the aid of a source of copper, permanent magnets (which can be found in the wild) and a little creative wire drawing. The joy of this path is that it doesn't require a massive industrial base, it can potentially be done by a single person*.

Most of the intervening period is entirely unnecessary if you already know the answers. You could even say that attempting to pass through the intervening historical periods is a spectacular waste of time for no benefit.

If you get a good engineer and a couple of miners you can then go straight on to induction furnaces and full industrialisation.

*Nobody survives alone, but a single person could work on the project without drawing much in the way of further resources from the group.

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    $\begingroup$ Strong disagreement. Technological development is at least as much about institutional support as it is about knowing basic principles. Finding, extracting, and refining sufficiently pure copper isn't just a weekend project for some folks with flint tools and charcoal burning mounds. Drawing copper is going to be tricky without iron or steel, which is yet another set of sources and processes. Even this elides all the intermediary steps of pottery and leather tanning and the chemical inputs to those processes, and by the way these people are naked and starving pre-agriculture or domestication. $\endgroup$
    – Jay McEh
    Feb 8 at 15:03
  • $\begingroup$ Yes, a prepper engineer would be a great accelerator, assuming they survived long enough. But bootstrapping involves enormous investments of human-hours at every stage. Especially at the early stages those hours are mostly going to be needed for extremely basic survival, and populations will necessarily be diffuse and difficult to coordinate until several critical thresholds are passed. $\endgroup$
    – Jay McEh
    Feb 8 at 15:08
  • $\begingroup$ @JayMcEh, you've missed the bit in the question where the basics have already been solved. They have the liberty to focus on such a project and it's going to be a lot easier than say, decent steel. $\endgroup$
    – Separatrix
    Feb 8 at 15:19
  • $\begingroup$ @JayMcEh I should probably also explain that nothing is done by one person alone, but one person with the knowledge and support of the group (e.g. food, housing) could focus on the project alone. $\endgroup$
    – Separatrix
    Feb 8 at 15:22
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There was a science fiction book with a similar theme. Residents of one neighborhood were sucked into a parallel world. The problem is they were all naked and didn't have a matter duplicator. What the book recounts is the problem of civilization and tech. To build advanced tech you have to create the earlier tech.
To make the saw blade you have to have a foundry To have the foundry you have to know how to smelt metal To do that you have to have someway to make a flame hot enough.

You get the picture. Making advanced tech could take years if all you have are sticks and stones to start with.

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  • $\begingroup$ I'd love to remember the name of the book btw. 60's 70's early sci fi $\endgroup$ Feb 8 at 18:48
  • $\begingroup$ The scifi stack exchange accepts questions for book identification. Ask there. scifi.stackexchange.com $\endgroup$
    – fectin
    Feb 9 at 12:56

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