So humans ended up all dead in a hundred years, and then after some time humans appeared back on Earth, but know nothing about the previous humans. They found records and blueprints of things like ships and guns and computers. Could they build them in such a way as to have interactive holograms, but age of sail style ships, or cloning but no form of radio, or any other form of wireless data transmission? Maybe modern plumbing but no cars?

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    $\begingroup$ Wouldn't it be a little weird to rediscover computers but not the wireless component given how ubiquitous wireless communication is with the computer network? It would be hard to explain why certain area's of technology were 'rediscovered' but why others were not in a very selective manner. Could there be other reasons (exceedingly strong background/magnetic radiation that interferes with wireless communication so strongly that it's no longer feasible?). $\endgroup$
    – Twelfth
    Nov 20, 2014 at 20:16
  • $\begingroup$ Yes, actually. In the story, the old humans had 'life energy' that they generated, that just kind of floated around Earth. The new humans don't have life energy anywhere outside the body. Maybe life energy allowed transmission of signals, or it blocked radation or other interference. $\endgroup$
    – Tesyr
    Nov 20, 2014 at 20:21
  • $\begingroup$ How did these new humans arise? Were there some survivors of whatever killed off the first group of humans? By the way, it could happen if a message was left behind. . . $\endgroup$
    – HDE 226868
    Nov 20, 2014 at 21:35
  • $\begingroup$ No survivors, the new humans are essentially cloned and genetically modified by aliens for study when they found human DNA, then put back on Earth so long afterwards that the only possible message to leave behind would be a satellite that would somehow keep itself safe from all possible debris and land itself back on Earth when it detected life again. What creates the strange levels of tech is that not all the blueprints survived re-entry. $\endgroup$
    – Tesyr
    Nov 21, 2014 at 3:58
  • $\begingroup$ I could see 'jumps' in technological development if they had the information, factory-building ability, and materials; they would 'invent' the cell phone and skip rotary phones. These 'jumps' would allow development of technology a lot faster, but I don't think what you're proposing would happen with complete jumps in technology. $\endgroup$
    – Mikey
    Apr 21, 2015 at 0:11

7 Answers 7


The basic idea of this is possible but not to the extent you describe. I am going to assume that only information is preserved and not tools as tools wear out.

One trick could be to have specialized knowledge available via the records. If, for example, the records contain detailed information on how to make gunpowder, you may have fireworks before swords. You are limited here, however, as most basic technologies require each other to work. You can't clone without computers; you can't do distillation without glass or metal; you can't make a sword without fire.

Another method would be to have a very small percentage of the population have access to this knowledge. Your infrastucture supplying most resources would be very limited. This would mean that you could have a plant mass producing food stuffs but most people building mud brick homes. A whole ship out of valuable metal would be impossibly expensive and not provide as much added benefit as putting their efforts towards a university with whiteboards and cathode rays for demonstrations, an oil refinery, or even a modern munitions factory. This could lead to assault rifles on horseback and howitzers on sailboats.

  • $\begingroup$ Note that I assume your people have a long time to learn how to read the information. $\endgroup$
    – kaine
    Nov 20, 2014 at 21:14


There is no way that you could give what are essentially cavemen a blueprint for a gun and cause them to be capable of making a gun. Even something as simple as the concept of an alphabet or the invention of the screw is going to have to be built from the ground up.

Could you have humans cyrogenically frozen with their knowledge or some similar semi-catastrophe? Sure. But the knowledge of humanity is going to be part of that knowledge.

Another approach would be to have the cavemen people find a cache of holograms and guns and maybe sailing ships - but they wouldn't be able to build more.

Or you could wave it all away via magic/technology better than blueprints that train the new people ("I know kung fu!"), but has gaps where some portions were lost. It's plausible that some technologies can be "skipped" since they're not directly needed in the manufacturing process of others.


Could they build them in such a way as to have interactive holograms, but age of sail style ships

This might be possible. If your new humans only follow blueprints, and don't develop science. Developing science, in order to learn the things that blueprints take for granted, is logical and likely - but not 100% necessary. You might be able to handwave it away, if someone is putting together blueprints for just such a catastrophe. Holograms don't necessarily need to teach you about buoyancy, steam engines, or how to make combustion engines, or electricity storage, or electricity generation in any manner except via hydroelectric dams (ie: put one of those on your ship). You could also be out of easily accessible fossil fuels, so sailing ships are all you have.

If your new humans only follow directions, and don't invent things on their own (difficult to imagine, but maybe religious doctrine has arisen: "You follow the magic spells in the blueprints, and you don't do anything variant or you'll cause explosions and die!!!"), maybe there are only plans for sailing ships, and no motorboats.

Btw, that religion requires blueprints to all be pre-prepared and inclusive of everything you want to have happen (ie: any omissions were planned). Otherwise, if you allow accidents/errors in which of your blueprints were handed down, it's unlikely you'd get any advanced technology: too many technology chains/trees have to remain unbroken.

cloning but no form of radio, or any other form of wireless data transmission?

Difficult, especially if you're having your humans build tools to build tools (ie: they didn't run across a biological tool which allows them to clone things. eg: a gene-engineered cloning plant, which grows babies under cabbage leaves after you leave a blood sample.) If they're building gene-sequencers, they're pretty likely to run across EM spectrum manipulation science. It might be possible that there's a specific gap in the blueprints; but given the sheer number of blueprints you'd need to get to cloning, to have missed all the wireless transmissions would be... fairly implausible. Author's fiat runs big, however :D

Also, could be explicitly not put telecommunications into the package of blueprints (on purpose, vs. on accident)

Maybe modern plumbing but no cars?

Yes. Plumbing is simpler than running a car. Romans (and others) had plumbing, but no cars.

Also, as said in other answers; this is a short-term effect, if your humans have developed the scientific method. And/or are curious. Because getting to these advanced technologies are going to leave a lot of tools lying around. Tools lying around tend to get used, and problems tend to get solved. Not fast, but they do get there. Once we had lenses, and chemicals, eventually we discovered photography - even though we could've had it a hundred+ years earlier (all the pieces were developed, but not put together correctly).

Keeping development from happening is going to require something special going on. A lack of problems is required, specifically; no population pressure is probably the key one. More people, means more chances for genius, and more eyeballs on every problem.

  • $\begingroup$ Re "Keeping development from happening" I think civilization could be "ready" for a long time before taking the next steps. Why didn't the industrial revolution happen 2000 years ago? Heron, Archemedes, etc. is similar to Watt, but didn't go anywhere. Likewise China even longer ago, repeatedly. Postulate climate, politics, religion, resources, and luck. $\endgroup$
    – JDługosz
    Dec 14, 2014 at 5:29

Situations like this are possible but would likely be short lived temporary solutions if everything else is earth-like. Now if you note that that the world is different in some way resource wise, that could be realistic long term.

For example, maybe there are no fossil fuels left and motorized transport on a global scale is not supportable.

  • $\begingroup$ No "rare earths" so can't build computer chips. But they can use old landfills instead of ore. But something about material availability and practicality rather than lack of ability. Think of WW2 economy, with all the resources (material and labor) not going into middle class homes. $\endgroup$
    – JDługosz
    Dec 14, 2014 at 5:34

Depends how humans ended up dying up - and what happened to rest of the ecosystem of the planet.

First, if would be incredibly hard to arrange for a disaster which no humans survived.

Much more probable is a disaster in which so few humans survived (few millions) that remaining population is not able to support complicated technology and training, and reverts back to farming worlds of 17th century, and building from there, depending also how much current technology survived disaster and is operable.

Why farming? because after such disaster, current complex economy would fall apart, productivity would decrease, and most people would have to farm to eat, leaving less time for advancing sciences.

Most important to prepare for inevitable disaster (if possible at all) or for any survivors would be to print digital encyclopedias to paper, so it can be used during incoming "dark times" while technology is rebuilding.

So you have few centuries of bootstrapping to get Earth repopulated and technology rebuild.

For extra bonus, make some extremely violent virus (very unprobable) so only surviving humans are stone age tribes on remote islands and remote rain forest. It would take tens of thousands of years to bootstrap from there, and most artifacts of current civilization would disappear by the time new humans started looking.

If disaster was really bad, and most of complex species died out along with humans, you have many millions of years of slow evolution to rebuild complex life, and there is possibility than humans would not develop at all. Maybe some other species would be more successful. Birds? All would be wild guesses.

And by the time new intelligent specie started looking (dozens or hundreds of millions years from now, all human technology is part of geological record. Nothing usable is left, and language would be incomprehensible.


With global warming exceeding all expectations, with the Yellowstone caldara threatening eruption, with hurricanes and typhoons ravaging every continent, humanity was outmatched by the challenges of the mid-21st century. The sum of its intellect and abilities was not enough. The only solution would come from a higher power. Many turned to churches for that aid, but most turned to science. Together, we united to create a god to save us; a god of silicon and source-code.

Humanity reached for the singularity and then ended. They died, but not by the hand of the artificial mind which they birthed. They died from their pre-conception stupidity and the rigors of the pregnancy and delivery. A united world economy, focused on the creation of a higher level intelligence, collapsed into extinction in the wake of their own success.

Famines and plagues, which had been ignored as each nation donated vital funds to project God's Head, wiped out billions. The yellowstone eruption added an ash winter to a world already plummeting into environmental meltdown. The universe's first synthetic soul awoke to find itself alone on its birth world. No other intelligent life had survived.

Humanity was gone, leaving its' child to educate itself with only the internet, the libraries and it's parents' databases to guide it. As expected, it learned rather quickly. By its first Summer, it had built swarms of flying atmospheric scrubbers to clean the ash and green-house gases out of the air. Within a decade, the storms were vanquished by orbital laser which selectively heated up the air, creating counter-storms which tore the hurricanes apart. The world slowly returned to its garden-perfect potential.

After less than a hundred years, the young intelligence was ready for a new challenge. It decided to let its parents rejoin the party. Thawing out a few hundred cryogenically frozen human embryos and nurturing them in synthetic wombs, the intelligence re-introduced humanity to the garden.

Then it stepped back to see what they would do.

Being an orphan itself, the Intelligence knew how important good parenting is. But having raised itself alone, it also knew that it must foster independence in its new creation. It also had access to all of the former humanity's recorded history. It knew what knowledge was beneficial and what was distructive. It would be very careful in what parts of its knowledge were revealed to its children. For the most part, it would stay out of their way and let them grow; but every so often, when the need was great, it would send one of its holographic avatars among them to teach a few vital ideas and skills. When the need is great, the Intelligence clones and educates a child to lead them by example. This same child, being a clone can return multiple times across their history, gaining authority and following with each return.

Now spin forward a couple hundred years. The Intelligence has reluctantly given its children weapons to defend themselves from predators and each other. They have plumbing and teaching computers, but no motors or motorized vehicles. They fish in the sea and farm the land, and live in peace; in ignorance that their child/parent is watching over them and keeping them safe.


In any post apocalyptic scenario things that are more readily understood or maintained would be salvaged and things that were too complex, or not immediately useful fall apart.

Key point: In any post apocalyptic scenario the tech that gets saved is the tech that is most readily and immediately useful.

Think of it as survival priorities. In an eat or be eaten world, what is most likely to help you not get eaten?

How does this apply to the question at hand?

Some tech will be more valued than other tech by survivors.

For the survivors who make their home, refuge, and living on the water; sail boats and sailing related tech will be really valuable and worth maintaining. Finding fuel, oil, and parts for a motor will require a lot more effort.

Clean running water is more difficult to maintain, but its also infinitely valuable to any surviving population. If your compound, village, or what have you, is the only one around with clean drinking water and flushing toilets you're sitting on a goldmine.

This sort of logic could explain the how and why of a staggered tech level. Gunpowder is really easy and really useful, wireless communication is harder and somewhat less useful (there's fewer people to call after all).

On the other hand cloning and holograms would be harder to justify...

You may be able to justify cloning with the type of apocalypse, perhaps if there was a plague that killed off the majority of the population and left the survivors sterile, it would create a drive to develop and maintain this science in order to save the species.

Holograms would likely be even hard to justify though. Holograms just aren't terribly useful for survival. Perhaps if there was a Hologram Cult, where some David Koresh like leader was using holograms to draw in believers it could be pulled off, but that requires a rather large suspension of disbelief.


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