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I was wondering on others people's ideas on how to take a Space Age civilization and send it back to the stone or bronze age. My own idea was that war and disease broke out, crippling the nation as cities became destroyed, emp's wiped out electronics, and disease forced the survivors to spread out and form smaller tribes.

What are your ideas? How would you send a space civilization back to the stone or bronze age?

Edit: Space Age being a civilization that has achieved colonization outside of its home system.

Edit 2: Wasn't sure how to choose an answer since I was just wanting to see how people would do it. I decided to choose one that I think might help others the best if they were looking at how to or if they could do it

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    $\begingroup$ depends on your meaning of what actually makes it space civilization. If just traveling in space - so we are space civilization, just not very fast and not much peoples. (which we are not, at the moment, by my opinion). Make clear what space civilization means in your context. What differs space civilization form us? $\endgroup$ – MolbOrg Jun 18 '16 at 13:33
  • $\begingroup$ @MolbOrg thank you for the question. I have edited it as being a civilization that has at least one colony outside of its home system. $\endgroup$ – Devin Jun 18 '16 at 13:37
  • $\begingroup$ kinda expected (i do not know why)). It's more complex then that. Think about what it meas to be able to settle colony, and more deeper, have need in that. I recommend to answer my first question deeper. Or probably think about it and formulate question, or maybe i may ask it, hm interesting opinion based question. $\endgroup$ – MolbOrg Jun 18 '16 at 13:57
  • $\begingroup$ @MolbOrg What exactly do you mean? One reason to settle another world is overpopulation. Another is the biological and evolutionary desires ingrained in our species to create diversity and ensure our species survival. If something were to happen to earth today, the entirety of the human race would be finished, so it is desirable to inhabit multiple star systems for the continuation of our kind. $\endgroup$ – Devin Jun 18 '16 at 14:28
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    $\begingroup$ I also consider humanity to be at a Pre-Space Age level and won't be at the Space Age Level until or if we colonize Mars or another object in our solar system or beyond it. I just happened to be interested in a multi star spanning empire for the question. To me the requirements for Space Age are 1.)Space Stations, Satellites 2.) Adequate or Advanced knowledge of its home system 3.) Colonies outside of home planet. $\endgroup$ – Devin Jun 18 '16 at 15:09
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The only way you can send us back to the bronze age is to eradicate knowledge. The main difference between the bronze age as it was and now is that now we know things that we did not know before.

And even though quite a bit of our knowledge is on computer storage today, and even if you could through some magic EMP destroy all electronics, enough of it survive on paper in the form of books to effectively make sure that we never get back to the bronze age again. A simple junior high school book on physics or chemistry contains so much knowledge that at the most you could fall back to the 1800's.

So on Earth... forget it. You cannot succeed. Even if you wipe out, say, 99% of the world's population and destroyed all computers... books and mouth-to-mouth will still contain so much knowledge that it will keep us firmly in the 1900's, at the very worst.

To create this sort of scenario, you need to go to another planet. Have a bunch of unschooled colonists crash land on some unknown, strange planet. Like the B-Ark of Golgafrincham. Only then have you made enough knowledge unavailable that you have people revert into the equivalent of a bronze age.

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    $\begingroup$ about knowledge is very good point $\endgroup$ – MolbOrg Jun 18 '16 at 17:49
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    $\begingroup$ @nitsua60 Society-building, trade, law, language and such things are also dependent on knowledge. It's not as if people forget what a king or a town council or a vote or human rights are just because our computers goes to poops. $\endgroup$ – MichaelK Jun 18 '16 at 23:05
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    $\begingroup$ @EveryBitHelps Well people carry knowledge with them too. Just knowing about electricity and that you need only pass a magnet over a conductor to generate it puts you in the 1800s. Knowing about protons, neutrons and electrons the 1900's. That light is photon particles makes you Einstein! So your new bronze age colony needs to be the laziest bunch you ever knew in school... that can barely even multiply two numbers greater than 100. Only then have you erradicated knowledge enough to make a new bronze age. $\endgroup$ – MichaelK Jun 20 '16 at 15:54
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    $\begingroup$ My immediate thought when I saw this question was, "If I was placed by myself in the middle of the wilderness, I would still have many advantages over bronze-age people. I know about agriculture, I know how wheels and axles work, I would be able to reproduce simple machines without too much effort- I know how to produce electricity!" You are right- knowledge would prevent this. See Mark Twain's "A Connecticut Yankee in King Arthur's Court" for a very exaggerated (and funny!) view of this. $\endgroup$ – Tyrannosaur Jun 20 '16 at 17:20
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    $\begingroup$ @AndyD273 You are right- only knowing abstracted things makes things pretty darn difficult. But knowing that something does (did?) or can exist eliminates many of the largest barriers to making something exist: a) the conception of the idea itself. If I already know that something like a motor is an idea, I don't have to think it up from nothing. b) many fewer paradigm shifts are needed. I wouldn't have to perform experiments and demonstrations to convince everyone that heavier-than-air flight is possible, I already know it! Etc... $\endgroup$ – Tyrannosaur Aug 1 '16 at 15:39
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The space age civilisation has heavily computerized systems. That is, all important aspects of the space ships, factories, and whatever else advanced technology they use is completely controlled by software. People don't know how to make things because they don't need to; "the system" provides them with everything they need.

One day, an artificial intelligence goes bad, usurps control over all systems and declares war on the humans. After the AI gets control over space stations or any systems on a planet not supporting human life on its own, people there have no chance: The AI simply disables all life support, and the people are doomed. However on earth (and possibly other life-supporting planets, maybe terraformed ones) people manage to survive and fight the machines controlled by the AI. Of course the AI itself destroys all factories that produce stuff only needed by humans (like food, medicine, and so on), and the humans can only win against the AI by destroying as much of the technology as possible (especially anything mobile or able to create mobile objects), and then hiding somewhere where the AI won't find them; thanks to the complete computerization of technology, this is a place where no technology exists. But people lack any knowledge how to make stuff without that advanced technology; they cannot even read about that in books, as all books are long electronic, and any access to electronic books would be visible to the AI.

So the humans are thrown back to stone age because they no longer have access to the advanced technology, and no longer know how to make anything without that advanced technology. Indeed, even making fire is something they have to figure out on their own again.

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    $\begingroup$ What really needs explained is how the AI fails to kill off everyone? If the AI has control of all the high tech, how do the humans destroy it? They can't even walk to the factory without being run over by a self driving car. The AI isn't stupid, and it can wait until everything is set up before attacking. One minute everything looks fine but the nanobots are in position, then everyone drops down dead. The population won't know how to survive in a stone age world. $\endgroup$ – Donald Hobson Jun 18 '16 at 15:08
  • $\begingroup$ The AI has first to fight against the other AIs that originally control those facilities (those AIs are not programmed to protect the humans — that wasn't assumed to be necessary — but they were programmed to defend the factory systems against any attack from outside, which includes attacks from the bad AI). This buys time for the humans. $\endgroup$ – celtschk Jun 18 '16 at 16:58
  • $\begingroup$ @DonaldHobson nice point, agrre. celtschk AI fight, I like that, but I do not see how it will make stone age, one of strategies for AI use human skills to advantage, costs near nothing to keep(10kW day per person), easy to tame. They are not much useful as combatants, but as randomizing factor for thinking, and extend own capacities to think they are useful. But, no stone age here, die or convert, be AI-monger true power of that universe. What is taken is yours. $\endgroup$ – MolbOrg Jun 18 '16 at 17:46
  • $\begingroup$ Because the Amish are unaffected? $\endgroup$ – JDługosz Jun 18 '16 at 19:55
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    $\begingroup$ @JDługosz hm, it's ok for amishes to space travel? $\endgroup$ – MolbOrg Jun 19 '16 at 14:07
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If the civilization has advanced to the point of having colonies in other star systems there are likely several in-system colonies.

For example by the time humanity would spread to nearby systems you would expect colonies on the Moon, Mars, the Moons of Jupiter and/or Saturn, and multiple asteroids or space stations. Most or all of these in system colonies would require high technology to exist (lose technology and you don't have air to breath). Whatever cataclysm brings down your worlds technology level would have to wipe out these in system colonies or set up a reason why they wouldn't help reestablish civilization on the home world.

Large scale war seems to be a likely possibility, either between groups of people, or possibly an AI machine war, or even an outside alien attack. The attacks would need to destroy or severely damage the off world high tech colonies and cause severe damage to the home world technological infrastructure.

Plague, either nanotechnology or biological. This could allow your in system colonies to stay functional with the home world devastated and quarantined.

Some natural disaster that effects technology. Massive solar flares, local star going nova flooding the system with radiation or other radiation based near extinction event. Scientific experiment gone wrong or naturally occurring change to the local laws of physics that make electrical technology cease functioning.

These were just a few of my first thoughts there could be a number of possible reasons for technological regression.

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  • $\begingroup$ "or naturally occurring change to the local laws of physics that make electrical technology cease functioning." — such a change would also make humans cease functioning. $\endgroup$ – celtschk Jun 18 '16 at 14:46
  • $\begingroup$ Those who keep some of their tech will have sanitation and quarantine. Mabe even medicines can be made. They are likely better able to survive the plague. How does it get into the remote asteroid habitats anyway. If they are self sufficient and in deep space then they are easily quarantined. $\endgroup$ – Donald Hobson Jun 18 '16 at 15:13
  • $\begingroup$ For a plague it doesn't have to get to the habitats, if civilization collapses on the home world with all the survivors as plague carriers. Any surviving space habitats or travelers would avoid the home planet so as not to be infected. Similar to how earth was attacked and quarantined in Babylon 5. $\endgroup$ – Josh King Jun 18 '16 at 15:33
  • $\begingroup$ @DonaldHobson they will have sanitation and quarantine long before plague. It's very important moment at same begin of stations - you have to control them and any who in/out on microbiological level - because stations have different sets of micro biological live. There is actually even problem which have to be solved - to synchronize that live between stations to keep common immune reactions of peoples living across different stations and earth. It can be solved differently, but it have to be solved. Josh King - technology is knowledge how to make, there will be no effects after hw collapse. $\endgroup$ – MolbOrg Jun 18 '16 at 18:01
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Something like that could happen if humans would colonize most of the Solar System, with colonies on the Moon, and Mars. Technology would probably evolve to the level of ubiquitous computing, with very little people knowing exactly how technology works, kind of like today. Computers would be at the nano level and present in all objects, making everyday life appear magical with inanimate objects responding to the requests of the people. If for instance, a natural or artificial disaster would happen on Earth, such as a planetary pole shift knocking out all the electronics and causing climate change such as a rapid global warming or ice age, the people on Earth would not be able to rebuild their civilization again. Science would be degraded into religion or perhaps a cult. Scientists would be like priests or shamans. If climate change happens most of the cities would be flooded, like Atlantis. The only thing that would remain would probably be perhaps some scattered hi-tech artifacts or rusted machinery, and nobody would know who built it. Perhaps the off-world colonies would survive. They would land on Earth once in a while to check on the people of the mother civilization. The Earth people would think that they are UFO's or aliens. On various ufology and/or alternate history websites there is a suggestion that this scenario could have happened in the distant past. There would have been an ancient advanced civilization before Noah's flood, or orally told distorted legends of the catastrophic end of a magical civilization. Perhaps the alleged "alien" ruins on the Moon and Mars were built by us.

http://listverse.com/2013/04/12/10-mysteries-that-hint-at-forgotten-advanced-civilizations/ http://www.bibliotecapleyades.net/vida_alien/esp_vida_alien_66.htm

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    $\begingroup$ The key part being here that people don't even have the slightest clue to how their technology worked, and so would not even be able to begin to replace it were it to disappear. $\endgroup$ – Tyrannosaur Jun 20 '16 at 17:17
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In Russia, there may be a fully automated nuclear launch system known as the dead hand. (source) Assuming this system was hijacked, a nuclear winter could occur, If this took place 20 years from now most information would be stored digitally, causing us to lose access to it. If we came out of bomb shelters in five years, there would still be plenty of documentation for society to rebuild its self, but after multiple generations not only would the paper degrade but we could lose the capacity to understand the information(try giving a high school textbook to a kindergartener.) However, this probably could not happen to a civilisation as advanced as you described.

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Hunger. Hungry people kill eaxb other. They wouldn't help each other until that's solve. A plausible option is to make a nuclear winter. These are the steps. 1) Make a huge nuclear war (even a small one would fit). It would destroy all electronics around the hlobe almost at once. Even if some survive the things to come... well, you'll see. 2) After the nuclear war, only a few hours or days after, the ash would block out all sunlight. This would last from one to ten or even a hundred years. (It's really unclear because of the atomic arsenal at the beggining of the war). Even if it is only one year, we would be back to the bronce age, and after a few years nothing would last. Someone say that books would last. That aint true. Maybs a few would, but nobody sould ne ther to read them or even care. You need to think this: Would you really care reading books after seeing everyone murdered and eaten up, and you have done the same to others (if you choose not to eat anyone congratulations, you are still civilized human, just a dead one.) Aaaannnnddd that all. Everyone would forget there was even a before. It would take at least many thousands years to the enviorenmente to recover tottally (and human kind with it), and just a thousand years after the bombs explode there wouldnt be a single rock of human history standing.

See: The Road by Cormac McCarthy Threads (1984) UK documentary When the Wind Blows After Humans

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Apocalypse cleanup gone wrong

First, there is a thermonuclear war that destroys most of the planet and poisons the rest. The remaining scientists come up with a plan:

They create a nanotech swarm to clean up all the pollution and robots to restore the ecosystem from seed banks. That's going to take several hundred years or more, so the remnants of humanity will wait that out in hibernation, using tech from space travel.

Fast forward some 200 years and a large group of humans is rudely awoken by the failure of their hibernation system. It's being broken down by the nannite swarm. The pods housing the scientists failed in a more dramatic way: they were flooded when the nannites broke down the water pumps housed on the same level, drowning them all the moment they were defrosted.

The humans make their way to the exit, to find that the great cleanup has gone for beyond its intended scope. The nannites have broken down all ferrous metals and most plastics in order to fertilize the land and especially the oceans. The deeply buried bunkers were among the last sources of metal, but everything on the surface is gone. Even the robots that replanted parts of the land are gone, recycled by the nannites.

There simply isn't anything left but copper and tin to work with and even when a few of the smarter survivors try to mine for iron, the nannites detect it in short order and take it away.

With all that knowledge now useless, it is not passed on to the next generations, whose lives are taken up by the struggle obtain enough food.

Soon, only stories remain about beings that resided in the heavens, could create whatever they wanted, fly, cure diseases and even revive the dead.

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Well, if you don't want to bend physics, per se, I think you need some boogeyman/boogeyIntervention to knock electronics out. One frightful way of doing this is via a techno weapon/sabotage, as in John Barnes' Directive 51 series: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Directive_51_(novel) -- in which zealots release self-reproducing nanomachines that seek out alternating electrical fields and synthesize nitric acid there, out of the air.
Yes, there are workarounds -- if one has the time and resources. But if it happens suddenly and massively, back to the steam age!

Hope this helps!

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