Questions tagged [civilization]

For questions about groups of societies and their defining characteristics and achievements.

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111
votes
21answers
19k views

How does a species who cannot distinguish left from right build their cities?

Fran is on holidays to planet Earth. She is having difficulty coping with the local geometry. At this second Fran is thirsty. She can see a lemonade stand nearby. She knows a human would have no ...
68
votes
18answers
14k views

How could a language that uses a single word extremely often sustain itself?

The most commonly used word in english is "the" accounting for about 6% of all the words being used. The second most common word is "be" account for less than 1% of all the words used (see ngram ...
64
votes
14answers
11k views

What would be left of a civilization founded in dinosaur times?

65 million years ago, a mass extinction event (likely caused by the Chicxulub Meteor) wiped out the dinosaurs, and their remains were hidden from us for millions of years. Humanity was not around ...
62
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13answers
8k views

What sort of problem would drive a near omnipotent civilization to seek an “outside the box” solution?

The Setup A while back, I read an article in which the author compared the rise and fall of civilizations in the universe to a forest. In the forest, small plants come into being, grow, and die over ...
58
votes
26answers
7k views

Why would a civilization outfit buildings with separate portals for entering and leaving them? [closed]

Human buildings usually have one or more doors which combine the function of an entrance and an exit, emergency exits being the only notable example I can think of, albeit designed for contingency use....
53
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20answers
14k views

Would a fighter pilot with an invincible space ship be able to conquer the galaxy?

Setting Not so long ago, in a galaxy not too far away, there were two civilizations at war. Both were at war because the leaders of both wanted more and more power. Both were advanced and mined the ...
49
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14answers
6k views

How would they learn astronomy, those who don't see the stars?

I imagine a planet similar to ours, except for two details: The presence of everlasting clouds No yearly seasons Explanation: In this world clouds are very high and thick, so that sunlight (or ...
48
votes
7answers
7k views

Is Honesty always the best policy? What could go wrong if a society valued honesty over every other virtue?

Let's say you have a culture which is pretty much like ours, except honesty is the highest virtue. In particular, being honest about something is always better than being dishonest, no matter the ...
45
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15answers
5k views

What are the primary triggers for the decline and fall of great empires?

Let's focus specifically on the devolution of empires. How is it that something so powerful falls? The collapse of Rome, Byzantium, the Han, the Mayans and so on. What similarities can be seen in ...
42
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16answers
9k views

How do you tell time on a world with 9-year days?

On my world, the day lasts 9 years: 4.5 years of light, followed by 4.5 years of dark. The inhabitants of this world survive by migrating along the ring of dusk and dawn. How do these people tell ...
40
votes
20answers
8k views

Can I Have A Destroyed Civilization with No Ruins?

I'm working on the timeline for my world, but I keep getting stuck at the origins. I want to have had an advanced civilization (modern levels, maybe a bit beyond) that was destroyed in a vaguely ...
40
votes
5answers
8k views

Only Three Books: Restarting Physics after civilization collapses [closed]

Global famines have dropped the population to 1 billion people and global civilization has collapsed. In an effort to save future civilization some time, you want to provide some information to kick ...
40
votes
14answers
10k views

How many people are necessary to maintain modern civilisation?

Modern Earth; a series of connected events (natural disasters, mass migration, drug-resistant pandemic, collapse in biodiversity, armed conflict) have led to a significant reduction in human ...
39
votes
26answers
7k views

What could make a remote village also have reasonably high traffic?

I've got a European medieval-themed world and my focus is everyday life in a small village (population of 300~500 people) in the mountains. I'm trying to stay away from action, adventure, violence, ...
39
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29answers
10k views

Why would a crash landed generation fall back to the stone age?

Background In the mid 22nd century, a super plague has killed 99% of human life, many survivors are killed in the ensuing riots and fighting. The few billionaires that are hiding in their bunkers ...
36
votes
15answers
11k views

What methods might an ancient civilization use to desalinate sea water?

Following on from my previous question here concerning the ancient civilization I have called the Androy and their struggle to survive terrible drought conditions on their planet. After years of ...
36
votes
2answers
6k views

Only Three Books: Restarting Chemistry after civilization collapses

Global famines have dropped the population to 1 billion people and global civilization has collapsed. In an effort to save future civilization some time, you want to provide some information to kick ...
32
votes
21answers
7k views

Warrior caste in an utopian society: what would keep them peaceful for centuries?

There is an Earth-like planet with human-like inhabitants. After almost destroying the ecosystem with weapons of mass destruction, toxic waste and such, the civilization changed to survive and an ...
31
votes
13answers
9k views

How “advanced” can a stone age society get?

I'm working on a world where, with very few exceptions, metalwork is not possible/unwanted, and I'm trying to figure out what major differences one might see in daily life, and what would be necessary ...
30
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15answers
7k views

How old do surviving children need to be to keep human civilization from failing?

This question is inspired by several similar questions on this site. The scenario: at one moment, all people above the age X disappear without a trace. How low this X can be that human civilization ...
30
votes
14answers
4k views

Can two civilizations on nearby stars develop independently but be at a similar technological level?

One thing that a few science fiction films seem to get wrong: it is extremely unlikely for two civilizations to evolve completely independently and yet be within a few hundred years of each other ...
29
votes
16answers
11k views

In what era or tech level in earth's history did people have the ability to cross a super-earth's ocean 50,000 km wide?

I have a huge planet with two continents separated by a wide ocean. Inhabitants think that their continent is the whole world because the other side is too far and they never visited it. What if ...
29
votes
14answers
6k views

Is it possible to rule a galaxy without mastering teleportation?

I would like to know if a very advanced civilisation could rule an entire galaxy without mastering teleportation or any other method that allows traveling faster than light (unless you give ...
29
votes
11answers
14k views

How long would it take to remove all trace of a civilisation, with malice and intent?

If you look at the history of the earth today, we've got quite a long timeline - about 4.5 billion years. We've got a few hundred years of 'good' historical record, and it gets progressively more ...
28
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15answers
5k views

Could a civilisation exist as 'space-nomads'?

In a civilisation similar to humans (although not necessarily humanoid) living on a planet the size of Earth, could the whole civilisation (no limits on size, although I was thinking a few thousand at ...
27
votes
14answers
4k views

How does a migratory species farm?

On a world I am building, the day and night cycle lasts 9 years, resulting in the majority of animals migrate across the planet. One of the problems that my sapient races (one on the out going night ...
27
votes
5answers
6k views

If a civilization could plant only three crops, which ones would cover all nutritional needs?

For example, beans and rice cooperate to make a "complete" protein, providing all of the amino acids the body can't synthesize on its own -- in fact, most traditional dishes that combine legumes and ...
27
votes
8answers
3k views

How would industrial civilizations contacting each other for the first time protect themselves from diseases?

In a world big enough for human civilizations as knowledgeable about medicine as ours to develop without contacting each other, how could they initiate that contact without exposing each other to ...
26
votes
33answers
10k views

Why would a scientifically advanced future community believe in multiple gods?

Polytheism was a common form of religion in ancient times. People believed that different gods lived and controlled various parts of nature (ie the sun, the moon, thunderstorms), and praying to these ...
26
votes
10answers
6k views

How do I make an ancient culture without borrowing from known ancient cultures?

Everywhere I've looked, the way we traditionally make a civilization or society feel ancient is by applying ages or architectures from our own history, hence my term "bronzification." A similar ...
26
votes
5answers
5k views

Humans born without legs: how would they thrive?

or, Anatomically Correct Weebles A group of behaviorally modern humans was cut off from the rest of the earth-like planet millennia ago. (Myths hold that the separation occurred four to five ka BP, ...
25
votes
17answers
7k views

Need a specific event that wrecks the surface, allows the race to survive in bunkers, and affords an aftermath suitable for them to rebuild

One rule: it cannot be caused by aliens or AI invading the planet. But it is okay if an alien race causes the destruction in any other way. It's an Earth-like planet. I need the effects of the ...
25
votes
21answers
6k views

How can I have a permanent post-apocalyptic world?

I've recently been looking into post-apocalyptic settings for a possible novel. I like the feel of people trying to survive off of the land with nothing but the clothes on their back, or banding ...
25
votes
7answers
6k views

What is the minimum size of a self-sufficient industrial country?

Imagine there is a country in which there are all important natural resources (oil, gas, metal ores, wood, etc.) in their natural form and which lies in a temperate climate region. There may be some ...
24
votes
16answers
5k views

On a world where everyone is nomadic, how does civilization start?

As previously stated, I am constructing a world that has a day lasting nine years. The inhabitants must always be on the move in order to avoid the freezing wastelands of the night, but not so fast as ...
24
votes
7answers
2k views

On a planet without seasons, how would people track years?

On a planet without axial tilt and with a roughly circular orbit, there would be no seasons. The climate on the planet would be, as far as I can tell, exactly the same at any time of year, and the ...
24
votes
8answers
6k views

How could a human civilization have happened to live underground, in Antarctica?

Let's assume a human civilization have been living for centuries, nay millennia, in a very large cave, not too deep under Antarctica - deep enough not to freeze, but shallow enough not to die because ...
22
votes
14answers
7k views

How to sustain/create a 4 foot tall city?

For my story, I intend to include a city/civilization that is entirely 4 foot tall- with plants, greenery, walkways etc. on top of the connected 'houses'. This city is located in the middle of a ...
22
votes
30answers
6k views

Could a civilization achieve spaceflight without inventing advanced weaponry along the way?

The question is fairly simple. Could a civilization progress so far as to have spaceships while still using swords, spears, and bows as their most advanced weaponry? (what those weapons are made of ...
22
votes
3answers
6k views

How advanced can a civilization get without zero?

More or less exactly what it says on the tin. Start with a group of cavemen on prehistoric earth, discovering fire, language, wheels, etc, and walk them along the path to civilization, but with one ...
21
votes
16answers
7k views

Could hunter-gatherers develop complex civilization?

Let's say the world itself provides food in such amounts, the agriculture is not needed. In our world agriculture was one of the main driving force of civilization, so without it no labor division, ...
21
votes
10answers
5k views

Numeral system for a species with 8 fingers

In a nutshell, I've an 8-fingered bat-like humanoid (let's call them AX) and a 10-fingered 'standard humanoid' species (let's call them BX) sharing a planet. AX was the first to develop things such ...
20
votes
10answers
4k views

How long would a single metropolis last if all other signs of human civilization vanish?

One morning, suddenly, all humans and any human-crafted things (roads, buildings, technologies ...) vanish, with the only exception of one single city and its inhabitants. How long can the metropolis ...
20
votes
10answers
4k views

Does a world with domestic flying creatures (eg: dragons) needs cars, planes and ships?

Suppose a civilization which had domestic flying dragons at ancient time, just like other common stories here. My question is: would that civilization have cars, planes and ships? Initially, I think ...
20
votes
14answers
5k views

Aliens and Us: Would they have any reason to interact with us?

If an alien race visited us, is there any possible reason they would care to interact with us? They would already have a percentage of light speed, access to many worlds, technology unimaginable by us....
20
votes
8answers
2k views

At what minimal technological level would the inhabitants of a binary planet system need to be to communicate with each other effectively?

In the event that both planets of a binary planet system were life supporting, and both ended up developing a sapient, tool using species, at what technological level would they be able to start ...
19
votes
14answers
4k views

How can I save a high-tech/no-spaceflight civilization against the wrath of non-technological gods?

The Problem: Atlantis has angered the gods. Having developed fantastical technologies far beyond the rest of the planet, they have managed to challenge the gods themselves. The gods' reaction is to ...
18
votes
6answers
2k views

How to enforce belief in technology as divine without an enforcing class

I have a civilization in my story structured around the idea of worshiping the sun(s) as gods. The Church is the ruling body of this interstellar civilization and ensures that the "Blessings of the ...
18
votes
9answers
2k views

If 1 million people were plucked from the Earth today and put on a new planet, how long would it take for a civilization to arise?

The day on Earth begins as normal. People go to school, go to work, eat ice cream; nothing is amiss. Then, without warning, the sky seems to break open in a cacophony and flashing lights, and one-...
18
votes
14answers
4k views

Can existential crisis wipe out a civilization?

Is it plausible that an advanced civilization commits suicide due to philosophical despair? (if not committing suicide directly, then doing something like collectively party to death) If yes, what ...