Imagine a setting where, across numerous worlds: people without memory, identity or culture wake up surrounded by the ruins and technologies of a highly advanced spacefaring civilization that collapsed long ago.

In some worlds, people awake in stasis pods, while elsewhere others come out of cloning machines, all of which are partially malfunctioning to some degree. Most computers are heavily malfunctioning and many don't work at all, providing precious little information about what came before. Some wake up earlier or later than others, and some stasis pods and cloning facilities don't even open at all, their occupants are either long dead or have malfunctions preventing certain automatic procedures from taking place. Across various worlds, sparse ruins and technology of unknown function or purpose linger; either destroyed or hidden, but all waiting to be discovered, studied, and have their secrets uncovered.

There is seemingly only one constant: Very little if anything, is known of what these ancient ruins are, nor of the architects who built them.

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    $\begingroup$ "Very little if anything, is known of what these ancient ruins are": That's not a problem. The European civilization developed just fine although they had no idea what the ruins of the Roman buildings were. The problem is that they don't know how to hunt, they do not know how to gather. They will die of starvation. In real life, there are extremely few people who know how make Stone Age tools, and in general very people who know how to practice any Stone Age technology. Those people are all dead in a matter of days. No civilization will develop. $\endgroup$
    – AlexP
    Feb 18 at 14:38
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    $\begingroup$ People use artifacts from other civilizations without knowing how they were originally used. People have used rifles as clubs. Pieces of advanced technology have been used as decorative jewelry. Stones from fancy temples have been reused in stone walls around fields. Statues of Lenin become decorations in bars. We reuse old things for current purposes. In the case of survivors, water, food, and shelter are the most important purposes. $\endgroup$
    – David R
    Feb 18 at 15:00
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    $\begingroup$ I’m voting to close this question because it is an off-topic high concept question that's asking us to write the story for you, which we specifically prohibit (see help center). The civilization(s) will develop as you need them to due to your story's narrative necessity. $\endgroup$
    – JBH
    Feb 18 at 19:03

2 Answers 2


Near-immediate extinction

People "without memory, identity nor culture" are basically helpless, especially since that list of deficiencies presumably means that they have no language to communicate and plan with any other people or working computers in their location. Assuming that they are in an environment with a breathable atmosphere, the first Great Filter will be whether they can obtain fresh water without killing themselves by misusing other objects or drinking something toxic. Anyone who cannot work it out themselves or observe and imitate someone who worked it out is dead within roughly 3 days, depending on their starting health and environmental conditions.

The second Great Filter is whether they can obtain edible, nutritious food. The people have a bit longer to solve this one, but it is less forgiving - there are lots of things that a person can put in their mouth, but even items that are food when prepared properly will cause deleterious effects if not prepared properly. The likelihood of people with no knowledge or memory figuring out what is food, how to get it and how to cook it without dying of bad experiements (or taking too long and becoming too weak to continue) is very low.

In an environment of malfunctioning technology the chance of succeding at both of the above tasks with no starting knowledge and no ability to discuss approaches with other people is negligible, even if they survive any other experimentation with machinery as per L.Dutch's answer. If they somehow solve both Great Filters and all other random experimentation then they had better work out hygiene in a hurry too...

In summary - most will be dead within 3 days, the geniuses who can work out how to get fresh water will be dead a few weeks later. In the unlikely event that there are machines spewing out plastic bottles of water and ready-to-eat food bars, then nutrient deficiencies, disease and/or experiments with bad outcomes will kill off these multiple-lottery-winners over the next few months at most.


Try to picture what would happen if you left a kid with no experience or education in a room full of various gadgets: the kid would start playing around with them until they would get either hurt or killed.

  • Grabs firmly shiny flat and long metal pieces with bare hands, resulting in deeply cut fingers and hand
  • grabs heavy metal object with a hole at an end, accidentally fires shot either in their face or into someone else's body
  • tries to taste liquid from the bottle, ending up poisoned by a chemical of choice

the possibilities are endless: there is only one way to correctly use a device and many more, potentially infinite, ways of using it wrongly, and most of them end up harming or killing the user.

If they learn quickly to stay away from those things, they might develop further. If they don't learn it, they will soon stop learning anything.

  • $\begingroup$ I can definitely see that happening at first. Perhaps when they develop their own technology to a sufficient degree they'd gain a better understanding - at least marginally - to return and effectively reverse-engineer the ancient ruins? $\endgroup$ Feb 18 at 11:18
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    $\begingroup$ In all fairness most dangerous things are fairly obvious (sharp = dangerous is pretty insinctive). And in most of the world you won't find a gun lying around. Poisoning is possible, but most poisons in common world taste bad $\endgroup$ Feb 18 at 20:02
  • $\begingroup$ They're not going to last long enough to develop any of their own technology if you drop them as tabula rasa in a bunch of ruins. $\endgroup$ Feb 19 at 11:05
  • $\begingroup$ To say it with James S.A. Corey: "It killed humans, therefore it was a weapon. But radiation killed humans, and a medical X-ray machine wasn’t intended as a weapon. Holden was starting to feel like they were all monkeys playing with a microwave. Push a button, a light comes on inside, so it’s a light. Push a different button and stick your hand inside, it burns you, so it’s a weapon. Learn to open and close the door, it’s a place to hide things. Never grasping what it actually did, and maybe not even having the framework necessary to figure it out. No monkey ever reheated a frozen burrito." $\endgroup$
    – MarsMagnus
    Feb 20 at 8:36
  • $\begingroup$ In nature, most sharp things get blunted fairly quickly. Steel rusts. Glass shards get bumped into and the edges break off. Stone tool edges are sanded down. $\endgroup$
    – David R
    Feb 20 at 15:59

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