Suppose that due to unobtanium instability one wakes up tomorrow to realise that one is the only person left alive. Every other life form except for humans is left intact. Let's assume that all devices that would need constant supervision had failsafes that worked and shut everything down gracefully. Let's assume that one has general knowledge, some common sense and access to libraries and is in mid twenties with normal level of physical fitness. What one would need to ensure one's survival for the longest possible period after which sudden intervention of handwavium will gracefully bring everyone back? Basically there are three questions:

  1. What is worth the effort knowing that any serious injury could be game over? Building electrical generator? Keeping a vehicle running? Maintaining a house?

  2. What resources should be cared for in the first place assuming that I live in a city?

  3. What, if anything, I should learn?

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    $\begingroup$ Welcome to the site Sok. There are a myriad of possible good answers to this question. As it stands it feels too broad, any chance you can narrow it down? $\endgroup$
    – James
    Feb 5, 2016 at 21:34
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    $\begingroup$ @James I will add clarifications. Thanks. $\endgroup$ Feb 5, 2016 at 21:40
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    $\begingroup$ Especially with the edits, I do not feel this is too broad. Either you can survive by addressing the very well known requirements as a human or you cannot, and that is a strong metric for a good answer. $\endgroup$ Feb 5, 2016 at 22:11
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    $\begingroup$ For your second question, this related question might help you. It concerns houses and supposes a larger number of people, but the answers are still relevant to this scenario. $\endgroup$
    – Avernium
    Feb 5, 2016 at 22:13
  • $\begingroup$ @TheAnathema With the edits, one question has turned into three questions that could easily stand separately on their own (one of which may arguably already have been answered on this site). Answers to the question on the tin intersect with the entire spectrum of human survival. That seems too broad to me. Separate questions would be more appropriate to get sufficiently detailed answers and the overall problems could be discerned from there. $\endgroup$
    – Avernium
    Feb 5, 2016 at 22:27

3 Answers 3


Drink water, eat food, don't get hurt.

It's shockingly easy to stay alive without aid from other people when a human reaches adulthood. Humans have done an excellent job of taming the world. There are not a whole lot of seriously dangerous places (except for the humans living there).

If they're the only person left and there are no new dangers, they can simply set themselves up in or near a grocery store and eat non-perishable goods for years to come. If they run out of food or bottled water in one store they can simply go to another one. Canned food can be safe to eat for decades. In that time they can easily find alternate food sources through gardening or scavenging longer lasting packaged food (rice can last more than 30 years).

They can even go down to the local library or bookstore and start reading about various survival techniques, refresh on calculus, or read trashy romance novels out loud for fun.

They are likely to have a more comfortable life than a majority of humans that have ever existed.

To answer you specific questions:

What is worth the effort knowing that any serious injury could be game over? Building electrical generator? Keeping a vehicle running? Maintaining a house?

See below for what to learn. You don't need to build a generator, just scavenge a new one if the first one you find breaks. There will be a lot of them around. A similar idea for a vehicle, you'll only need one for the first few years to bring large supplies back to your home base, store a few small mopeds and vehicles indoors for later excursions. You don't need to maintain a house, just live on the main floor of a modern skyscraper. It's not going to collapse anytime soon and should remain in a decent state for many decades.

What resources should be cared for in the first place assuming that I live in a city?

Food, fuel, hunting supplies, and clean water.

What, if anything, I should learn?

How to hunt and preserve the meat, how to grow your own food, and how to treat wounds and illness.

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    $\begingroup$ And they'd get bored really fast. There's only so many times you can play solitaire. $\endgroup$ Feb 5, 2016 at 21:33
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    $\begingroup$ @Samuel But how long can a canned food last? What with medical care? What with building decay without any maintanance? I was thinking about 60 years time frame. $\endgroup$ Feb 5, 2016 at 21:36
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    $\begingroup$ And read all the book he wants. Or watch all the films... $\endgroup$ Feb 5, 2016 at 21:36
  • $\begingroup$ Books would work, films might get troublesome after the power grid fails. Though a portable generator + siphoned gas might work... $\endgroup$ Feb 5, 2016 at 21:58
  • $\begingroup$ Actually, you'll need to scavenge preemptively. Build up a stock of machinery such as generators, and keep them in good condition. In 20 years they will rust and degrade without care - and you've got to be in it for the long run. $\endgroup$ Feb 6, 2016 at 20:08

Severe isolation.

The effect it has on the mind is huge. In fact, it's so bad that it causes physical problems in the person who's isolated, such as higher blood pressure, confusion, higher rates of dementia, and even inflammation/hormonal changes due to an immune response.

People need to socially interact and have a sense of belonging. It's third on the list of needs on Maslow's hierarchy of needs, and we can observe the mental effects of it even now in certain prison inmates or people who are victims of circumstance or scientific study.

Just a few of the problems:

  • Confusion, disorientation, and a decrease in logical reasoning.
  • Loss of a sense of time.
  • Severe hallucinations.
  • Severe anxiety, distress, and paranoia.

When you have to survive, these problems would interfere greatly. How can you feed yourself or tend to a wound when you are hallucinating and can't make proper decisions?

In the movie I Am Legend, Will Smith's character resolves this problem by setting up mannequins in the grocery stores and around the city. He created names, identities, and even social stories to share with them, as if his city continued to live and breathe normally.

You could do something similar to that, start writing to yourself, or find an animal that you can talk to. Keep dogs and cats around so you can ensure that your social interaction continues. In fact, setting up a shelter that accommodates a healthy number of pets would be one of my first priorities, so that the isolation doesn't get to me and get in the way of taking care of myself over time.

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    $\begingroup$ Actually I Am Legend is what inspired me minus the zombies part. $\endgroup$ Feb 5, 2016 at 21:59
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    $\begingroup$ "Interaction with humans" is not on the hierarchy. The third item is Love and Belonging, which does not technically require other people. $\endgroup$
    – Samuel
    Feb 5, 2016 at 22:00
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    $\begingroup$ Whoops, that was text in the middle of one of my random brainstorming thoughts. I forgot to modify it. Thanks for bringing it to my attention. $\endgroup$ Feb 5, 2016 at 22:03
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    $\begingroup$ So perhaps first thing on the list should be starting a farm? With more pets like chickens or cows it would be easier to keep sanity. $\endgroup$ Feb 5, 2016 at 22:04

He can live relatively well at least until he begin to have some health problems, which can be couple or more of decades. Assuming that everything can be maintained in working state, in various way, he can use basically every modern item he already use every day.

The big problem can be the medicinal. They normally last for some years, if stored properly, but I doubt they can last for more then a decade. But generally everything related to the healt can be a problem: just imagine he had a bad tooth: he need a dentist that is no more present (ok, there is some other ways to handle the problem ;-) )

The food and water are relatively easy to get: as other already said, he has a large supply of canned food, that can last between 2 to 4 years. Honey in glass jars last for some centuries. He had also the possibility to eat fresh food, since all the other life forms are still here, he can breed some domestic animal (cows, rabbits, hens) and use them for food.

He still have access to a large number of books, comics, DVD, Bluray and so on, so I think he can hang out pretty well.

Clothing and equipment are not a problem, just enter a Walmart and you are done.

The big problem is how it reacts psychologically to the fact to be the last one and if he can cope to this without losing sanity.

Edit to handle the clarification
Nothing is worth the risk of a serious injury: the generator stop to work ? Just get another one. Same thing for houses, vehicles and so on.


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