On Earth, 100 years in the future, there is a global societal collapse when 95% of the population dies. During this time an organization emerges that aggressively gathers and guards technological knowledge.

They basically have all technology and means to produce it and actively stop others from doing the same. They have a network of informants and permanent bounties of people that possess technology or knowledge of it. For all practical purposes they are an invincible force and they will do whatever they can.

So to my question. How effective can they realistically be? In what technological stage can they keep the rest of the world? Can it be early industrial age or even earlier?

EDIT: The current time line is about 200 years after the collapse. We should also assume that until that point they are operating efficiently.

Also when I say organisation, I do not mean 20 people, I mean something like 200k.

EDIT2: What does restricting technology means:

Basically every technology that can be viewed as a threat. Mainly military technology. They are not viewing themselves as murderers but rather as keepers of the knowledge. Their official goal is to prevent an other collapse.

So they leave "primitive" technology free. Things like metallurgy, agriculture etc. to avoid an uprising.

They want a stable and operating society, just in a much lower technological level than theirs. So I was thinking something like medieval technology is mostly free.

I was wondering about things like "can they restrict the usage of gunpowder?" without being too extreme?

  • $\begingroup$ For how long? Presumably a well-equipped organization can keep 300M people from using a lot of technology, assuming there is enough of them, for a while. But will the fanaticism that drives this organization last longer than a generation or two? Will their ability to self-sustain? Details on population spread, type of collapse, and why the organization functions would help give a reasonable answer. $\endgroup$ – Nathaniel Ford Jul 14 '16 at 0:44
  • $\begingroup$ Ah, yes, this is a fair point. I forgot to mention that. I will edit my question. $\endgroup$ – tst Jul 14 '16 at 0:47
  • $\begingroup$ You are describing the Brotherhood of Steel from Fallout. $\endgroup$ – The Square-Cube Law Jul 14 '16 at 1:35
  • $\begingroup$ This is where my question came from. How restrictive can they realistically be? Because in the fallout universe there advanced technology everywhere. $\endgroup$ – tst Jul 14 '16 at 1:44
  • $\begingroup$ @tst advanced technology is indeed everywhere. What the Brotherhood keeps hogging to itself if the knowledge of how to use it. Anyone can pull the trigger of a plasma gun, but it takes a lot of brains to reprogram Liberty Prime, or to mass manufacture power armor. Think of that ;) $\endgroup$ – The Square-Cube Law Jul 14 '16 at 11:28

Power at a point

and that point is the church.

The general population is most easily controlled through religion. If you've just had a technology triggered apocalypse it should be fairly easy to drive an anti-technology religion to the fore. Given a generation of conversion by the sword and reversion to 'monarchy by the grace of god1' you should be able to get maybe a thousand years of technological control if you write your religion well.

Any use of technology will be squashed at a local level as immoral. People will actively turn their neighbours in to the authorities. They'll gossip and tut, even if they don't actually snitch, especially the older ones. Young people will rebel and make potato batteries but they won't have the resources to go further, then they'll grow into old people. And the priests will collect the money that funds the whole thing.

Heretic kingdoms must be crushed, the church will lead holy war against any kingdom that doesn't toe the line. As long as the church can maintain the religion, and hand out "miraculous" healing as required to the worthy2, you can suppress the technology.

tl;dr: Religion makes tech immoral

1Some watery tart threw a sword at him
2People who give lots of money to the church and don't publicly break the rules

  • $\begingroup$ I guess this is the most feasible idea. Plus the only thing they need to fear is a schism. $\endgroup$ – tst Jul 14 '16 at 11:43
  • 1
    $\begingroup$ @tst, if you isolate the two parts of the church, the front end to face the people and the back end to hold the technology, you could accept front end schisms on minor matters as long as the back end and underlying principles remained sound. $\endgroup$ – Separatrix Jul 14 '16 at 12:49

Let's check the assumptions first.

Assuming a population of about 10 billion, only 500 million remain after the collapse. An organization big enough to hoard knowledge and technology, and actively use it, will have many people employed - scientists, technicians, support personnel - without counting the mercenaries needed to "remove" dissidents.

The people needed will amount to tens of thousands per country, maybe one or two millions total, or about 0.2% to 0.4% of the total population. A very small elite.

Few years after the collapse, the survivors not in the organization will notice the organization's work: libraries disappear, smart people are kidnapped, old factories are gutted, anything metallic is stolen. All overt technology and knowledge is stolen from the survivors...

All except what's in their minds. And that knowledge makes all the difference.

I see two paths from this situation:

Path 1: Two or three generations down the line, the survivor's population suffered a second collapse: without tech or metal, and with minimal know-how of agriculture, people died from famine and disease. Any improvised machine is taken by the organization, and its creators are killed. The survivors are forced back to the Stone Age. A few more generations, and the organization is all that remains.

Path 2: The survivors revolt. Some people know enough to make bombs, poison, and crude weapons; and the knowledge is passed ear-to-mouth, to not alert the organization. Nothing is written down. Eventually, in two or three decades, the organization is destroyed by what it would call "terrorist acts".

  • $\begingroup$ What I had in mind was not that they will gather absolutely everything that can be considered technological. I'm sorry I was not clear, I need to expand on this. $\endgroup$ – tst Jul 14 '16 at 1:17

Once upon a time, the United States and a few others decided to topple the government of Iraq. They sent something like half a million troops, counting support and service. This force was able to remove Saddam Hussein from power, but they could not build a stable government afterwards. Various studies show that it takes upward of 20 counter-insurgency troops per 1.000 inhabitants to suppress an insurgency. With a total population of 350 million, that means 7 million troops.

The DPRK is considered to be one of the most militarized countries on Earth. They have about 1 active duty soldier for every 25 inhabitants. During the cold war, a ratio of 1 active duty soldier for every 100 inhabitants was more normal. This number compares active forces with the total population, from babies to pensioners. For a very dedicated fictional organization, assume that there is 1 agent for every 4 people -- half the population is in the workforce, half the workforce is in the military.

Getting 20 agents per 1.000 inhabitants and 1 agent per 4 organization members/supporters would mean 28 million people in the organization.

That means your force is 100 times too small to take full control of your society.


Depends how far the reach of this organization. They have access to nuclear missiles and satellites they could we just wait I searched with the satellites for any sign of Technology getting out of hand across the world and launch a nuke at them.

If they don't have that capability to do this or if they don't want to use weapons mass destruction. Then they have a lot harder time. Sure it will be easy for them to prevent any dangerous Technologies from being created among their own nation and maybe even their own continent but how about people on the other side of the world assuming that there are survivors in other places on the Earth they could theoretically develop the military technology become a threat to your organization.

To prevent this from happening you are organisation you have to maintain, a large military with at least some Advanced weaponry. They would also have to send Scouts throughout the world searching for new civilizations if the scouts come back to report of any civilization that is advancing too quickly then they'll have to send their army and Destroy them before they get out of hand.


5% of seven billion is 350,000,000 people, minus 200,000 and that's still 349,800,000 which divided by 200,000 means there's 1749 people for every one of your operatives, assuming all 200,000 are field agents. They haven't got a snowball's chance in hell of even slowing the rate of progress of an already technologically developed and industrially established society.

Now if this group was sitting on a cache of modern technology while everyone else was reduced to a hunter-gatherer lifestyle then they'd have a far greater chance of maintaining the status quo. For a while at least, the problem is wars aren't simply a matter of technology or tactics, by far the greatest determining factor in any conflict is economics. The afore mentioned 349,800,000 are going to breed faster than the 200k group and in a few generations the developmental whack-a-mole is going to stop when massed armies of moles start whacking back.

Sure your force of 200k could win a battle against an army ten times their number but how much ammunition have they got, where are their resources coming from, the moment it becomes a war of attrition they've lost.

  • $\begingroup$ Well, this assumes that the rest of the population is united. Which is never the case and they will try to keep it that way. Divide and conquer. $\endgroup$ – tst Jul 14 '16 at 1:56

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