In case of a post apocalyptic survival situation, would a large group of humans be more effective compared to many small groups across the globe? Or will it be just the reverse?

For example there happens to be an asteroid strike. Humans go for an Armageddon approach and try to blow up the asteroid, but unfortunately it doesn't work. So the asteroid is now torn into two pieces both of which are a quarter of the size of London. In my case both the pieces due to some reason fall a couple of days after the other.

In any case, if I want to give poor humans a chance at survival, should I make small groups distributed across the globe or just a couple of large groups which are quite localized? Which group is best for survival of human race as a whole?

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    $\begingroup$ This really depends on how they react. If the two pieces fall in two cities, far apart from each other, the other countries will remain unaffected (somewhat). This won't really wipe out most of humanity. $\endgroup$ – King of Snakes Aug 9 '16 at 12:13
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    $\begingroup$ @KingofSnakes I don't think it's about the crash itself. The two asteroids as large as 1/4th of London will obliterate the regions they crash in and raise ashes into the sky which will probably cause a "nuclear winter". If not, economical, social, sanitarian and migration issues will emerge. edit: see "testimonials" of past events like these : en.wikipedia.org/wiki/… $\endgroup$ – Strannch Aug 9 '16 at 12:27
  • $\begingroup$ @Strannch : I understand that it will still cause a massive panic. But this does not really require the 'post-apocalypse' tag. Survival tag is fine. (Though I understand what you're saying). $\endgroup$ – King of Snakes Aug 9 '16 at 12:33
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    $\begingroup$ It depends the damage of the asteroid. A "London sized asteroid" means not much, you have to consider the speed of the object. How big is the area devastated ? Will it melt the earth crust ? Will there be some massive earthquake around the world. If there is intact countries they will send help. I think your apocalypse is not big enough. $\endgroup$ – Rigop Aug 9 '16 at 12:33
  • $\begingroup$ Also, you're talking about groups of survivors, but what would be the scale of these groups ? If these are twenty or thirthy humans, it makes a big difference compared to a group of the size of a modern day village. $\endgroup$ – Kaël Aug 9 '16 at 12:52

As stated by King of Snakes, it depends on several things.

The first I have in mind is : how much damage did these asteroids do ? Is it comparable to the one that fell previously, which led with several other factors to mass extinctions of species on earth ? Or were the damages slightly smaller ?

Anyway, in case it is the mass extinction, and thus that there'll be plenty of species to die, I think splitting humanity in multiple small groups would give it better chance of surviving. Why ?

  • By splitting the survivors you neglect the risk they all die together because of a devastating epidemic, or a lack of certain resources in their area, or even because of a "civil war".

  • By splitting the survivors, since earth would now have far more resources than the few survivors might need, and more space to live, you also neglect the risk of fights between humans for the control of these resources. At least provided your survivors groups are far away from each other and agree to stay away from the others. Otherwise, it won't happen like that I guess. Anyway, by splitting the survivors you're optimising the use of the resources on earth, you avoid leaving some of these unused.

  • Your survivors will evolve, and develop new cultures around their groups. Could be a good thing, especially if you don't have one big group with multiple culture inside it, which may lead to troubles (cultural conflicts, same thing as nationalism but smaller scale). And if you want Earth to be once more one day, populated with different countries with their own stories, cultures, ethics, then it'll be better to split groups. It would greatly enrich humanity after the disaster and several generations.

I hope it'll help you make your choice.


The answer is going to depend on your definition of "survival".

Many small groups have the ability to survive based on being able to move quickly to avoid danger and take advantage of opportunities. They also need fewer resources overall, so can take advantage of may more places (a tiny valley might feed a "tribe" of 30 people, but not 100, for example).

OTOH, small groups lack the manpower to carry out large and complex tasks, and can only retain a limited number of skill sets. They will rapidly descend into a neolithic hunter-gatherer lifestyle.

A large group has the issue of stripping the area of available resources, and not being readily able to avoid danger or move to take advantage of opportunities (look at refugee columns in the modern world trying to flee a war zone for some organized camp). They will have to choose their settlement area wisely in order to maximize the resources available, and sustain their numbers.

Unlike the foraging tribes, however, they do have the manpower to undertake larger tasks to improve their lives. Building dams, irrigation ditches, defensive walls, sheep pens and agricultural terraces are all much easier when you have a lot of people to do the work, and more people to support the workers (everything from cooks to medics and blacksmiths). Large groups also have much broader and deeper skill sets, and the loss of a single individual isn't going to be a disaster in terms of losing knowledge. It is actually thought that the Neanderthals, living in much smaller groups than Homo Sapiens, were driven to extinction because of this factor (the loss of a single individual might mean the only tool maker or herbalist in the group is gone, and the group starves to death being unable to find, train or recruit a new one in time). If a Neanderthal with critical knowledge died in the middle of winter, the neighbouring Homo Sapiens in the next valley might not even be aware of what happened until spring.


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