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I'm looking for the perfect kind of apocalypse that not only can kill great parts of the people on Earth leaving the survivors spread in little primitive groups across the world ,but can also avoid the possibility of humanity arising again too soon.

I need something that other than killing people, something that can also destroy the memories of the survivors and leave no signs of the past civilizations. All modern buildings have to be taken down, no books remained and nothing digital, even wild tribes in Africa and isolated isles have to become more primitive than they are.

I want the few survivors to return the technological level of 400000 years ago or before hominids first started to make sharp sticks and throw them at each other.

To obtain this state, any means necessary as long as it respects the known laws of physics, the only thing excluded are aliens.

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    $\begingroup$ You want an apocalypse event to devolve us to pre homo sapiens technology? $\endgroup$ – Twelfth Aug 15 '16 at 22:21
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    $\begingroup$ Do you care about happens to the rest of the biosphere? $\endgroup$ – ApproachingDarknessFish Aug 15 '16 at 22:41
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    $\begingroup$ If you wanted a simple handwave you could have a small percentage of humans shifted to a parallel world that is much like Earth was 400,000 years ago, with the exception that no primates achieved sapience in this world. Jerry Sohl created something similar in "Costigan's Needle" where a group of people are shifted to a parallel world deliberately, and have to start from what they already know to build a new machine to return. $\endgroup$ – Howard Miller Aug 15 '16 at 23:18
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    $\begingroup$ the problem is that when you knock it back 400,000, there is zero guarantee that humans will evolve to our present level. Biology evolution is pretty random, we got here largely by chance $\endgroup$ – ming yeow Aug 16 '16 at 0:57
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    $\begingroup$ I saw the question title, and all I could think was "I, Garland, will knock you all down!" $\endgroup$ – Mike Kellogg Aug 16 '16 at 15:58

16 Answers 16

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Humanity 400'000 years ago had much lower mental capacities than we see today (as a species, we would still be Homo Erectus 400'000 years ago) and if you take any person from today and planted them in any environment, they'd already be well ahead of 400'000 years ago.

To this extent...you need something that outright attacks our intelligence. A virus is the most likely candidate, something that attacks our minds ability to process language and perhaps results in massive swelling that inhibits other functions of the brain, basically reducing humanity as a whole to the brain capacity of Homo Erectus.

The rest goes from there. If we as a people were unable to cohesively think, our society would crumble pretty fast. Being unable to maintain any of our existing infrastructure would see it crumble...and in a potentially explosive manner (not being able to maintain any nuclear power plants would eventually result in meltdowns). 100 years later, we'd live in an apocalyptic wasteland.

Not entirely sure how well these devolved humans would survive. Part of our evolution from 400'000 years ago includes our minds taking the time to stop and think as default behaviour. If you take a gorilla, it is significantly stronger than humans from a weight to strength ratio...it turns out that the more time is dedicated to thinking, the weaker our physical forms become. With a weak physical form and a badly hindered mental state, humanity might die off to competition from stronger, more adaptable creatures. It's possible our digestive systems wouldn't handle anything less than the modern diet now as well...if we can barely sharpen a stick, do we know what fire is? Could our bodies handle a diet without fire anymore?

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    $\begingroup$ Actually nano-machines might be able to do the job. Introduce nano-machines as a excellent healthcare robot that will help you stay healthy forever. Once everybody on earth has it[I'm sure you can kidnap a few tribes and villages], program them to kill and destroy memories. Another batch of nano-machines can then spread across the world and destroy all of mankinds achievements and constructions. Effectively, we have reduced the population, removed languages and all cities, towns and etc etc. only that we still have tigers, lions and elephants. $\endgroup$ – Skye Aug 16 '16 at 12:09
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    $\begingroup$ @sky - I do agree with that...I didn't go down the line of an entity (corporate or individual) purposefully causing the apoc. Good call $\endgroup$ – Twelfth Aug 16 '16 at 16:36
  • $\begingroup$ I’ve seen stories with that idea. $\endgroup$ – JDługosz Aug 16 '16 at 21:56
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    $\begingroup$ Another possibility: a pandemic, where the severity of effects (mortality/sterility/permanent debilitating effects) is negatively correlated with mental capacity. A big population drop (and consequent crash of any institutions that might co-ordinate a scientific response) followed by a few hundreds (or, better, thousands) of years of selection under that constraint = low mental capacity for all! $\endgroup$ – Peter LeFanu Lumsdaine Aug 17 '16 at 7:29
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To dissolve every single trace of human civilisation and memories whilst obeying the laws of physics would require some nifty handwaving with what I can only imagine would be extremely futuristic/alien technology. At real-world technology this would require systematic brainwashing of survivors and the demolition of every single building on Earth, which doesn't seem too plausible without a higher motive.

Naturally, this could be achieved by triggering a mass-extinction on Earth similar to that which ended the Dinosaurs. This destroys a healthy portion of the planet and thus Human infrastructure as well as most life on Earth. Since humans are pretty much everywhere, all you need is at least one pocket of survivors who may have moved underground to escape surface extremes and toxic gasses that would arise. By the time Earth is anywhere near to settled the populations would have been in isolation for so many generations that all traces of civilisation are buried under masses of ash, rock and sediment and virtually all stories of our past have faded away and our knowledge tailored specifically for survival. Given such an extent of time, there isn't a lot to say these humans won't look a bit different than those we see today but in a post-apocalyptic scenario, environmental factors will start to play a role on us regardless and evolution will be kick-started.

Or perhaps there was a multi-generational experiment where children are reared in a large, sealed off area of the rainforest with no human interaction or innate knowledge to see if they would form a culture or to observe how our intelligence evolved. And it just so happened that whilst this experiment was in process, the rest of the world devolved into chaos.

Given the impracticality of destroying every trace of human civilisation, I would say the best choice is to bury it under sediment and I only have a vague knowledge of the how long this takes but you're not looking at anything too long when it's on a global timescale.

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  • $\begingroup$ In the question "I want the few survivors to return the technological level of 400000 years ago or before hominids first started to make sharp sticks and throw them at each other." even a mass disaster would leave us thinking in modern terms..language can't survive this event either (thats the part that differentiates this question vs most other apoc style questions on this site). $\endgroup$ – Twelfth Aug 15 '16 at 22:52
  • $\begingroup$ Aftermath: Population Zero suggests that if humans stopped maintaining buildings, nature would completely take over within only a few hundreds of years. $\endgroup$ – Dan Dascalescu Aug 17 '16 at 8:33
  • $\begingroup$ Buildings fall apart relatively quickly. Removing all traces of civilisation on the other hand, takes MUCH longer $\endgroup$ – Sobrique Aug 17 '16 at 10:17
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The war

In a world where fuel are resources are what dictates the wealth of the nation; peace is once again broken. With globalisation the alliances are bigger, warcraft is on a different level like never before — all people of every country in the world are involved.

The purge

With different weapons of mass destruction in a moment of despair the losing side unleashes its arsenal of weapons forbidden by international laws: nuclear, bio, anything goes. The rich countries die from the weapons, poor countries die from lack of support and complete pollution of drinkable water.

Multiple new volcanos would form at ground-zero of some nukes thus destroying the architecture of largest cities.

The survivors

All survivors on Earth are dead, those who survive the terror of war, escaped the nuclear bombardment, haven't died from trauma or injury would succumb to the bio-weapons such as virus (it's possible to create virus to live for X generation and have a self-destruct gene) and/or radiation.

The wealthiest of people would take to space in space-pods and live there for Y years until it's safe to return to Earth once again. Their children would have very limited knowledge about the world as the parents cannot teach everything ( and no more Internet on Earth ). The children's children would know even less.

As time goes by the technology would fade away: book rot, CD-ROM decay, hard-drives and all.

The space-pods would come back to Earth by auto-pilot but the children would be ill-prepared for life. Some would survive, most would die and thus the Earth's population is down to some 1000–5000 people with no skills and no language that would describe the world they'd have to live in.

The old technology would probably be buried by a plaster of soil and some items that could be found would be useless. Would you be able to play back a Dandy cassette if you have nothing but stones and a couple of trees?

The advanced technology of the space pod would wear out from decades (millennia) of use by the survivors and thus only durable items like hammers and crowbars would remain.

And there you have it — a primitive society.

If you want to return the people to pre Homo Sapiens state, make the bio-viruses dumb-down people but make the people to either ultimately develop an immunity or have the virus self-destruct after M number of replications.

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    $\begingroup$ see my edit: note that there is a header format code available in the edit toolbar. You can have multiple levels of headers too. So don’t try faking it with an all-old paragraph. $\endgroup$ – JDługosz Aug 16 '16 at 22:04
  • $\begingroup$ "warcraft is on a different level like never before — all people of every country in the world are involved." - you mean, as opposed to the two aptly titled World Wars? $\endgroup$ – Puppy Aug 16 '16 at 22:08
  • $\begingroup$ @Puppy if you read the history books you'd know that there were basically three alliances; the war was mostly European countries at first, America join in a lot later. Japan and other asian countries were involved, but large parts of Africa and Latin America weren't. More countries were dragged in during Cold War but the war itself didn't happen simultaneously even in the countries most involved. In my answer I'm talking about all countries that have any military would participate from day-1 since now (unlike WW1 and WW2) we have the Internet. $\endgroup$ – Creative Magic Aug 17 '16 at 1:14
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There are several potential means of erasing or reducing the cognitive ability of humans, but before we go there you need to consider one thing:

Stupid humans are going to die without technology. Even Homo Erectus had the use of fire and a kit of stone tools, otherwise the species would be know by a different name to the top predators of the era: "Lunch". Without the cognition to harness fire and make tools out of things like wood, bone, stone and possibly salvaged artifacts, the newly lobotomized humans will starve to death, die of exposure or be eaten by wild animals, if they are not killed by disease. We don't have memories or inherited skill sets to cope with suddenly being thrust into a neolithic environment unless we have had some rigorous conditioning and heavy duty training first. Tribal societies which still live in the jungles or deserts will have a much better chance of survival, but being knocked back in terms of intelligence will also adversely affect their ability to survive; the rich social, cultural and linguistic abilities of humans seems to have been evolved roughly 20,000 years ago, anatomically modern humans evolved as far back as 100,000 years ago but did not seem to have anything like the abilities which emerged 20,000 years ago.

Our pre sapiens ancestors lived a far more primitive lifestyle than the Ancestors, although the ancestors of the Neanderthal and Denisovans have been dated to this era. Their tool kits, cultural remains and so on are far more primitive than the Neanderthals or Homo Sapiens which followed.

So how do we get there?

  1. A very sophisticated EMP weapon which scrambles the neural circuits of the brain. This is theoretically possible, considering the brain operates on an electrochemical system. An unsophisticated version would essentially be a giant microwave which fried people's brains, which would also kill most people outright, but people partially sheltered inside buildings and vehicles would escape with their facilities wholly or partially intact. The number of survivors will be arbitrarily low, and isolated individuals will not be able to miraculously "save" civilization. Why such a weapon was developed could be explained as a way to neutralize populations harbouring large numbers of radicals, but the concept, once discovered, turned out to be relatively cheap and simple to build, so everyone could be targeted.

  2. An evolved parasite or biological threat. We have seen the Cordyceps fungus being used as a model (The Last of us; The girl with all the gifts), versions of Toxoplasma gondii are already known to disable some cognitive functions in mice, and other potential vectors should exist.

  3. A deliberate release of a mutated biological vector. This allows a more tailored approach and a reason for the strain to be widely spread to the population. If you want the effect to be even more permanent, the deliberately engineered vector would bind to human DNA and prevent future generations from having current levels of intelligence.

As for the destruction of the physical infrastructure of our civilization, time and her patient handmaiden entropy would work its magic. In the series "Life after People", modern infrastructure would last for as few as 24 hr (power plants and refineries) to perhaps 500 years (concrete structures with little or no rebar). Most metal structures wold last about 200 years without maintenance, and roads and wooden buildings could be overrun by vegetarian and swallowed up in a few decades. Abhumans with the sort of brainpower our prehuman ancestors had would not be able to take advantage of any of this. Isolated survivors would nave neither the numbers or tools to make more than an isolated stand (and their work would die with them). After a thousand years, most of our civilizations would be reduced to features in the landscape.

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Step 1: Energy Crisis

As it turns out, major corporations have been lying to us. The oil and gas reserves turn out to be completely depleted by 2017, and all sales only came from already mined deposits too keep up appearances. There is a massive push for alternative Energy, but it will still take years to actually build the required infrastructure. Huge swaths of the population are suddenly cut off from electricity.

Step 2: Economic Collapse

The lack of electricity and fossil fuels leads to a collapse of 90% of all Industry. The divide between poor and wealthy worsens massively, with the wealthy/powerful maintaining highly protected conclaves that subsist on their own powergrids. Starvation sets in as international trade collapses. The first world is hit especially hard.

Step 3: Riots

Order in the streets has long since collapsed. The poor lead continuous rebellions against the rich. The rich employ more and more drastic methods to control the poor. In addition the poor turn on each other in their bid for survival. Ideologies and Religions are forged as coping mechanisms against the daily struggle; These come in two flavors:

  1. Repentists, who think we are being punished for our transgression, and aim to destroy all that remains of the old world in their quest for absolution.

  2. Punishers, who think that we are all paying for the mistakes of the "Leading Elite", and aim to destroy all signs of the old "oppressive" world order.

Books and heretics are burning in the streets, everyone enjoys the bonding experience. If you enjoy science or critical thought you help everyone stay warm, by feeding the bonfires.

Step 4: Apocalypse

Now that we ourselves have destroyed most anything that could helps us recover, an actual apocalypse sets in. Let's for example say, that the automatic reaction systems in our mutually assured destruction protocols don't take kindly to neglect and laymans fiddling with them.

An atomic winter starts.

Step 5: Decay

What remains of society is made up off those few wealthy who persisted through the riots and their guards (read: private armies), everybody else lacked the resources, protection, or organisation. As the survivors are only made up of those that were already willing to take any necessary step to isolate themselves from the world, morality of the survivors is questionable even for these extreme conditions.

The remaining societies decay into military dictatorships. Education is kept low in order to make control of the population easy.

Isolation due to the post-apocalyptics effects keeps the genepool small, and along with the radiation, genetic and mental defects become common place.

After the isolation ends, the only thing that remains of mankind are inbred pseudo-humans. The only thing remaining of the past is the somewhat militaristic seeming clan structure of those that survived.

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  • $\begingroup$ I would call this scenario very improbable. $\endgroup$ – MatthewRock Aug 16 '16 at 11:00
  • $\begingroup$ @MatthewRock I'd be glad to edit, expand or delete my answer if you would further elaborate, which part of the scenario is improbable and why. $\endgroup$ – TheSexyMenhir Aug 16 '16 at 11:07
  • $\begingroup$ I didn't want to, because this would lead to extended discussion; I didn't -1 though. Anyway, I think that you a) portrait us more dependant of oil and gas than we really are, b) ignore alternative energy sources, c) ignore governments role(rich enclaves). Of course this could make some relatively nice action movie, but mind you that critical resources like gas are also needed for war(any war machine really), meaning governments would probably know about deplation beforehand and aim to lower the impact. $\endgroup$ – MatthewRock Aug 16 '16 at 11:31
  • $\begingroup$ for example, in country I live in - Poland - coal energy sources produce about 2/3 of total energy. Gas is lower than any of wind or water electric plants. I guess that more probable scenario is "we get informed that gas is depleting, we see massive shift in pro-economy politics, and governments either cut off some parts of country from electricity or force limited energy usage. We adapt to the situation.". If there were any wars, I would see them on the totally different ground. $\endgroup$ – MatthewRock Aug 16 '16 at 11:40
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    $\begingroup$ @TheSexyMenhir see my edit: note that there is a header format code available in tge edit toolbar. You can have multiple levels of headers too. So don’t try faking it with an all-old paragraph. $\endgroup$ – JDługosz Aug 16 '16 at 22:01
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Here is a method that worked pretty well on the Atlantians (according to one of my stories)...

Seed the Earth's atmosphere with a colony of nanite disassemblers which target only metals, plastics, concrete and non-living wood (including paper). Then give the planet a hundred years or so, to erase not only the physical signs of civilization but also all detailed knowledge from the minds of the survivors.

Stripped of our tools and toys, our books and our buildings, most of us will starve to death pretty quickly; and those who survive will be so busy staying alive that they won't bother to teach their children anything but survival skills. In a generation or two, you will have exactly the scenario you are looking for.

There is a good chance that this technique might actually work too well. Leaving so many starved and murdered human bodies around will inevitably lead to a variety of plagues and take out even the best trained survivalists. So if you want to be generous to your victims, make the nanites also disassemble dead human bodies.

Clean up after yourself after you clean off the planet.

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    $\begingroup$ You might add glass, (glazed) ceramics, and plaster (like most walls) to your list, for best coverage. I think non-living wood might be overkill, the unintended consequences could be severe - losing deadfall, fallen leaves, etc in ecosystems might mess up the decomposition cycle a lot. Actual processed paper will probably not outlast the loss of concrete/metal/plastic by much anyway, since it will be difficult to keep the original papers dry without adequate shelter - especially since most already existing will be lost while humanity is still trying to figure out survival. $\endgroup$ – Megha Sep 8 '16 at 17:58
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Assuming it doesn't have to be on earth, one way would be to have a sleeper-colonizing ship go slightly off kilter. The previous ships (which were sent ahead to terraform the planet) worked fine, but the last ship which contains the large number of frozen pre-fertilized embyros and synthetic wombs, since this is substantially more amenable to transport at speeds near C and without having to have large amounts of supplies to keep things going during the trip also brings a computer virus that wipes out the AI modules that were intended to teach all the embryos after landing. Enough of the technology works on landing to kick off waking up the embryos and keeping them alive past the two year old stage but then the technology shuts down completely. The husks of the machines form the basis for an initial religion built around the concept of humans thinking they had committed some great sin that broke their paradise and forced them to venture outside to toil and hunt. (Once humanity relearns enough more basic technologies to relearn how to study the husks, they may be able to make great jumps back, but that's a different story). This also assumes there was some sort of event happening back on Earth to prevent later colonists from coming, at least for the duration of the story.

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My first thought was a group of luddites that land on a planet similar to Earth, leaving any technology (books, computers, buildings, etc) behind. They accidentally bring along a Zika carrying mosquito (or similar) that gives the entire first generation stunted brains. After the luddite travelers die off, you have your desired setting.

If this event has to happen on Earth, consider the option that this change is gradual.

  1. Human population takes a sudden plunge from pollution/environmental toxin/genetically modified mono-culture worldwide crop failure/a pandemic/whatever - mainly have population centers be the petri dish. This toxin affects human fertility and genetics for generations.
  2. Governments/scientists burn cities to the ground in a panic to contain/destroy the toxin, force healthy survivors into disjoint quarantine zones (and kill the sick, of course). Wars over "clean" resources (food, water, land) further depopulate the planet
  3. Society crumbles as the population tanks and finding food and water is the only, daily activity - finding and preparing food takes a lot more time
  4. Books, computers, other non-essential items do not help survival - the first generation never use them, the next generation forgets about them (and can't even read), the third generation knows nothing about them
  5. Useful items will stay around a while: weapons (guns, knives, bows, etc) and tools (needles, shovels, spoons, etc) will be used until they break (or run out of ammo)
  6. Eventually everything rusts and crumbles to dust, nature will return to the land when people stop building and you will have your setting - there will still be structures and technology, but nobody around knows how to build/fix or use them so they might as well be scenery.
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I believe that an EMP attack would do what you want. 8-10 bombs launched on scuds from container ships and set off in low earth orbit, evenly spread around the north and south hemispheres, would take out all the infrastructure that we depend on.
You could expect 75-90% of the earth's population to be dead within a year, the survivors spread out and isolated, living at a hunter gatherer level, and not much chance of rebuilding for a long long time.

This also avoids any radiation so no worries about leaving the land unlivable for years. Only the electronics would be destroyed.

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    $\begingroup$ Paper continues to be around, as are the methods of toolmaking. The electronic advances would be voided but not the knowledge level in your scenario $\endgroup$ – Joeblade Aug 16 '16 at 8:44
  • $\begingroup$ Also, EMPs don't really do what you seem to think they do. $\endgroup$ – Mad Physicist Aug 16 '16 at 18:21
  • $\begingroup$ @MadPhysicist How's that? If you detonate a nuke up above the atmosphere it will create a powerful EMP that cascades down and fries all electronics that are in line of sight. Every microprocessor. It's like hitting all of them with a bolt of lightning. The Critical National Infrastructures Report (pdf) from this page has a lot of information on them. I also recommend the book One Second After by William R. Forstchen as an example of how devastating this kind of attack would be. $\endgroup$ – AndyD273 Aug 16 '16 at 21:27
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    $\begingroup$ @AndyD273 you should work that into the body of the answer. $\endgroup$ – JDługosz Aug 16 '16 at 21:57
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Zombies

I assume you do want to keep some remnant of humanity left (i.e., very basic intelligence, just no memories etc.).

Create a virus that turns humans into zombies and that has no cure achievable by current human technology.

Make it airborn so no physical contact is necessary, but make sure every zombie also spreads it wherever it goes. Make it so that it is not obvious if someone is a zombie or not (aside from shambling around without intelligence), i.e., no walking corpses. Zombies do not need to attack humans, and should not, really. They should function simply as animals, scrounging for plants or small animals, like apes.

Make a lot of technological ways to add additional virus spread. I.e., little robots which fly around, tunneling into any tunnel (air ducts etc.) they see, releasing virii inside all buildings, etc.

All of this should make sure that little enclaves will eventually fall, either by airborn virii, or by eventually having contact with a zombie.

If you want to wipe out humanity completely, you're basically done. If you want to keep humanity around, just at a pre-intelligent level, then make it so that zombies can have children and have enough animal instincts left to raise them. Make it so children are automatically immune against the virus, but start out with little enough intelligence that it will take a few dozen generations for them to be intelligent enough to maybe develop high languages/writing again.

Buildings

To remove buildings, paper, technology etc., send down a bunch of small robots or even nanobots ("grey goo") which fly around and simply physically destroy/pulverize everything manmade. Send them only after the zombie virus has zombieifed a large percentage of humanity so it is much too late for the survivors to somehome create hidden stashes of knowledge.

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The only known force great and subtle enough to destroy all of human culture and technology, while leaving anything living, is humanity itself.

This could be done using a memetic virus, a thought, likely a joke, that makes anyone who thinks it literally unable to do anything but share and spread the thought. This would be so dangerous, that every book would be burned for fear of what could be scrawled in the margins, every telegraph and phone line cut for fear of the words from the unknown other side. In order to survive, humanity would even avoid teaching its children language, as they would be immune to the now constant threat of an infected survivor's shouts. In one generation the only tech that would be left would be made of stone, the makings simple, taught without words. Buildings would crumble to dust, scavenged for spearheads, before mankind gets over it's new taboo of speech.

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  • $\begingroup$ See also: Roko's basilisk, the Langford Death Parrot, and Neal Stephenson's Snow Crash. $\endgroup$ – Benubird Aug 17 '16 at 10:55
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Simple: Destroy the Metal

Introduce a bacteria that eats metal - ideally all metals, but at the least it needs to eat iron (i.e. steel) and copper, as they are the ones our society depends on. The bacteria spreads, eats all the metal, then dies out.

We have long since mined all of the surface-level, accessible deposits of metal. Without the tools (which are all constructed with metal), we will not be able to mine more, and will be reduced to a very simple civilization, with no hope of ever advancing.

You can combine this with a human-killing disaster - if you're willing to stretch it a bit, you could say that the bacteria even invades humans, eating the trace elements that we depend on for life, killing off the majority of humanity.

Then you just need to wait - eventually, the buildings will all erode down to nothing, paper will dissolve, and everything we known now will be gone. The only tricky part will be preventing humans from re-inventing things like wooden plows, the bow, or even laborious carpentry using fire and flint, but really the only way to stop that is to reduce their intelligence until they are basically just monkeys.

So, that's an alternative:

Kill all the humans

Just kill of everyone, have some disaster destroy the buildings, and write your story from the perspective of the monkeys. After all, if you want to dumb your humans down so that they behave like monkeys, why not just make it easy on yourself and use monkeys directly?

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The survivors of whatever find themselves in an area where they can't even read a street sign (different alphabet). Internet dead, telephones dead, unintelligible library books used to make fire. Hunger dictates to learn hunting fast, winter dictates to find warmth (fire / clothes / insulation, and don't forget shoes). Illnesses have to be dealt with (measles, influenza, malaria). Pests (rats, cockroaches, lice) also have to be dealt with. What people know perishes within one generation at the most. Imagine teaching everything a modern person knows to children growing up in such circumstances. Take into account that life expectation is drastically reduced, so there is even less time to share knowledge with the next generation. Memories of a past civilization would be like fairy tales, no more.

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    $\begingroup$ "Imagine teaching everything a modern person knows" -- but the requirement isn't to prevent a child being taught everything, it's to prevent a child being taught anything. Not one single thing discovered after 400k years ago is allowed to be kept. So, you say "don't forget shoes": actually the questioner's asking for the remaining humans to have forgotten shoes. $\endgroup$ – Steve Jessop Aug 16 '16 at 10:40
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Is there a reason you need a post-apocalypse world that looks just like a pre-humanity world, instead of just setting everything a couple hundred thousand years in the past? If there is to be no sign human civilization ever existed, no sign humanity ever developed past how it was in the first days of Homo Sapiens, perhaps the easiest way is just to start from when that was already the case.

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  • $\begingroup$ the past can't be changed, yesterday is history and will remain so until the end of times . in My story humans are just wild beasts that strive so survive like other animals $\endgroup$ – Charon Aug 16 '16 at 15:25
  • $\begingroup$ Something like Fallout? $\endgroup$ – Crowley Aug 16 '16 at 17:17
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For a single event the most likely candidate would be a comet or asteroid strike consisting of many asteroids or comet fragments. Think Shoemaker-Levy-9 on steroids.

Forgetting tech would need to take place over probably at least 100 years - make humanity focus solely on survival for so long that eventually everything is forgotten. If you have a choice between burning a dictionary or freezing to death you're going to burn that dictionary.

Alternatively you could say the comet contains microbes which affect our brains in such a way as to make us forgetful for a few centuries.

Or perhaps instead of comets/asteroids have a series of solar flares which affect our brains as well as frying technology.

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What you need is an extremely virulent strain of encephalitis.

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    $\begingroup$ Wouldn't that just kill everyone? And the people left would still have existing civilisation, just without the people. $\endgroup$ – wizzwizz4 Aug 16 '16 at 13:30

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