I was thinking of a world in which no species of human ever figures out how to use fire. Fire still exist in nature but people never figure out that they can put it to practical use. In this world human history up until the time that people figured out how to use fire is exactly the same but for some reason people fail to figure out how to control fire or put it to practical use.

If people had never figured out how to use fire would humans have been able to eventually use electricity and electronic devices?

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    $\begingroup$ I think this question is a little bit too broad. There are too many possible side affects of such a change. Perhaps if you chose a single aspect, and how it would be affected, then your question would probably be okay. The short answer is that next to nothing would happen. $\endgroup$ – Xandar The Zenon Feb 7 '16 at 20:00
  • $\begingroup$ @XandarTheZenon, it's not too broad because there's a focal point for the use of fire as a technology, to wit: Cooking. $\endgroup$ – Separatrix Feb 8 '16 at 8:47
  • $\begingroup$ We may need to understand why we never figured out fire. Fire is something we would learn to harness by accident along many different technological paths. Arguably even pine trees have figured out how to harness it (some species wait for forest fires to come through before germinating). The reasons for our failure to capture fire would certainly shape our technology in many ways. $\endgroup$ – Cort Ammon Jan 9 '17 at 15:12

Without the use of fire there is no light in the dark, no heating in winter, no cooking meat or baking bread, no burning bricks, no smelting ore, no civilization.

In certain climates and environments a primitive culture can survive without fire, because local fruit provides enough nutrition to counter the occasional raw meat, people don’t need to hide in dark caves from weather or predators, nights and winters aren’t life-threatening cold (when covered in fur), and all in all there is no incentive to invent anything because life is bearable at least. Cultures advance the most when they face some kind of struggle; that can be nature, an enemy at war or results of previous advancements (e.g. population growth vs. harvest increase).

There are some inventions, like the wheel or use of a certain metal (alloy), that seem simple and essential to us, but a civilization can develop to a high degree without making use of it. The controlled use of fire is different. It is essential.


tl;dr: No

Without fire we couldn't have cooked, without cooking we wouldn't even be humans as you recognise them today.

National Geographic: What Makes Us Human? Cooking, Study Says

According to a new study, a surge in human brain size that occurred roughly 1.8 million years ago can be directly linked to the innovation of cooking.

(It says "new" but the article was posted in 2012)

"Apes can't afford both brain and body," said Herculano-Houzel.

Humans can't either. But when we came to a fork in the evolutionary road—brawn this way, brains that way—we took the cerebral route. This development came to be known as encephalization: We ended up with brains that are much bigger than our body size would indicate.

Cooking was the key, said Herculano-Houzel, whose study appeared this week in the journal Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences. Heating our food unlocked nutrition: 100 percent of a cooked meal is metabolized by the body, whereas raw foods yield just 30 or 40 percent of their nutrients.

So the answer is no for a much simpler set of reasons than you're anticipating. Without fire we're just a set of slightly brighter than average apes. We've evolved as a result of our technologies to the point where we could no longer live without fire. It's impossible to maintain the brain mass and body mass that we have without cooking, without fire.

  • $\begingroup$ Actually we probably could now live with electrical heating in place of fire. The weakest link is refining metals from ores with electrical heating but I don't think that's impossible. But developing electrical technology without first mastering fire surely is. $\endgroup$ – nigel222 Feb 8 '16 at 10:08
  • $\begingroup$ Considering how much of the world's population still cooks on fires and how much of the world's electricity is generated by coal/oil/gas(/nuclear) power plants, we're still pretty stuffed without fire. Even in a modern house the heating and hot water will usually be gas powered. We could survive without fire, but it's still the basis of a massive proportion of global infrastructure. $\endgroup$ – Separatrix Feb 8 '16 at 10:15
  • $\begingroup$ It was a hypothetical. We'd need a very strong motive to actually do so. Can't think of any such, even if we do drastically scale back use of fossil fuels in the face of global warming. $\endgroup$ – nigel222 Feb 8 '16 at 10:34

Any race species that is incapable of making use of that fire that is generated naturally is not capable of becoming a high-tech society. High tech requires creativity, inquisitiveness, etc. -- If you can't figure how to use fire, you can't figure out high tech.



Unfortunately, humanity as we know it would not have evolved without the use of fire. A huge part of our current advancement is directly linked to the fact that, some time ago, someone decided to eat cooked meat.

Without fire, it is also quite possible that homo-whatever would have gone extinct long ago.


If they lived in a highly geothermal area they could have used that to cook. Carve a crucible out of high temperature rocks and you could start to refine metals. With plenty of ore they could make some sort of solar oven, and so spread out to anywhere that was highly sunny. It wouldn't be easy and I can't see what would stop them getting fire but maybe you could get high tech.

  • $\begingroup$ Except they wouldn't be able to move out of their location without carying a self sustaining / renewable heat source. $\endgroup$ – MakorDal Feb 8 '16 at 10:48

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