Many, many people believe the world as we know it will come to an end soon. Some of those people happen to be in positions to make such a dire prediction come true. So let’s talk about the apocalypse for a moment, why don’t we?
The cause doesn’t really matter for our purposes. Suffice to say, some catastrophe causes a severe drop in the world’s population. How far? Well, we’re close to 8 billion now, so there’s a long way to fall. Obviously, an I Am Legend scenario of the last remaining man is pretty pointless to consider: humanity ends when he does. For similar reasons, a very small remaining population (up to a few hundred) is essentially extinction-level.
The last time humans numbered only a thousand was about 74,000 years ago, at the genetic bottleneck caused by the eruption of the Toba supervolcano in Indonesia. (By the way, climate catastrophists have been unsuccessfully trying to debunk this theory for years, because the idea that a volcano can cause a drop in global temperatures up to 15°C is awfully hard to reconcile with the idea that people are the sole cause for all the climate’s ills.)
Since that fateful day, we have progressed in an almost monotonic fashion. The only major setbacks in recorded history were the Black Death of the 14th century and the lesser-known plague, volcanic winter, and famine years of the 6th century. But our growth as a species really started getting exponential within the last 200 years: the Industrial Revolution. Around the start of that glorious era, humanity numbered less than a billion.
Let’s assume, then, that our apocalypse knocks us under that threshold and, from there, halfway to our doom. In other words, a population of around 500 million, which is just what the “population control” (i.e., genocide) believers want. This mass slaughter can come from a bioweapon or its supposed “cure”, a nuclear exchange, an asteroid impact, or some combination of factors, but we can assume it happens with no last-minute heroics to stop it.
One day, we wake up to find 7.5 billion human lives have been extinguished. Now what?
The first stage
The survivors will need to, well, survive. We’ve all seen that in television (The Walking Dead); literature (The Decameron, not to mention Genesis!); movies (way too many to name); video games (Fallout, The Last of Us, 7 Days to Die); and novels (my own The Linear Cycle, for the shameless plug). Those who survive the calamity band together, scavenge what they can, and fend off the hordes of aliens or zombies or mutants while trying to rebuild society.
While that makes for great drama, cinema or otherwise, it’s been done to death. No pun intended.
As a fan of worldbuilding, I’m more interested in what comes next. What happens after the post-apocalypse? That is, in a sense, literal worldbuilding, don’t you think?
So I’ve been thinking about that a lot lately. I don’t have time to start yet another story (I already have three that are basically stalled because of my new job!), but it’s still a fun topic to contemplate. What would the next iteration of civilization look like, especially if it retained some continuity?
At present, we’re seeing the beginning of a slide into a kind of neo-feudalism. Take away 93% of the population in one fell swoop, and two things could happen. Either the powers that be consolidate that power, or the hollowing-out of society causes a complete collapse that leads to revolution. The latter has precedent: it’s basically how the first feudal period in Europe came to an end after the Black Death. So many people died (one out of every three, in some places) that labor became scarce, and peasants could essentially name their price. They gained leverage over the nobility, pushing them into irrelevance in a gradual process that took about four centuries.
The modern-day nobles, the men and women who claim the right to rule our lives, don’t call themselves lords or bishops or anything of the sort. And they probably won’t even after the vast majority of humans have fallen victim to whatever disaster awaits. No, they’ll keep calling themselves businessmen, politicians, and celebrities even after capitalism, democracy, and mass media are destroyed.
But feudalism requires a certain population density to be worthwhile. So does industry, as a matter of fact, and our figure of 500 million is actually below that, by all accounts. Our apocalypse will have the side effect (or possibly intended effect) of reversing the Industrial Revolution. Maybe even the Enlightenment before it. The medieval era before that? It’s possible. And we should hope so.
Where to go from here
As I said, I’ve been thinking about this one, so…let’s make a new post series. I haven’t done that in a while. This one won’t be anything like “Let’s Make a Language” or “Magic & Tech” in size. Well, it shouldn’t be, but you know me.
The goal for the posts will be to sketch out one plausible post-post-apocalyptic scenario. I’m not saying that’s what will happen once the Omega Variant kills 90% of the world, and The Climate Crisis (capitals to emphasize how stupid the notion is) does for half the rest. No, this is just a possibility.
Again, my focus isn’t on the immediate aftermath of the disaster. It’s the part that comes after, the true rebuilding of civilization. So you won’t hear me talk about killing zombies or building sunshades or whatever. Let’s say that the disaster itself is in the past. What then? That’s the question I want to ask and answer.
This one’s going to be a little different, though. Or that’s how the idea looks in my head. On top of the posts, which I anticipate to come out once a month or so, I want to do something I’ve never done before: make videos.
Yeah, I know. We’ve all seen Bear Grylls and Les Stroud with their camera crews and helicopters. That’s not what I’m about. No, my goal is to build, not survive. To do that, we need technology. We need to create. And that is what I want to do in these videos. I want to talk about technology, its history, its re-creation. Using the materials you might have in the rebuilding era, what can you make? What will have to change?
Assuming I get that far, I’ll post these on a few platforms. Not Youtube, because I don’t believe a series of informational, scientific videos belongs on a platform as hostile to knowledge and free speech as Google’s video silo. Instead, you’ll (hopefully!) find them on places like Odysee, LBRY.to, and Rumble.
But that’s for the future. Until then, dream with me, and let’s hope that we never have to use the wisdom I’ll be giving.