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How would the modern world cope with 90% population loss?

Discussion in 'History & Military Discussion' started by Fair Letters, Jan 10, 2017.

  1. Avernus

    Avernus Abomination

    The last time I recall reading an estimate about it, without humans running everything the national electrical grid will be mostly offline within 24 hours. It's not made to run without human intervention.

    And a lot of industrial facilities will catch fire, explode or otherwise fail catastrophically; they aren't meant to be left running without supervision, either. If anything nuclear plants are a lesser concern because they have a lot more automated safety systems.
     
    Last edited: Jan 11, 2017
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  2. Apocal

    Apocal Alpha Technoblack Moderator

    Location:
    California
    When a reactor goes tits up, if it is a safe design, the net effect is the whole thing going Madagascar and shutting down before anything awful happens. Meanwhile a coal power plant probably catches fire or some shit.
     
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  3. Avernus

    Avernus Abomination

    From what I've read in the past some do exactly that; others just shut down. Most stop running within hours, at any rate.
     
  4. farmers are less then 10% or even less than 5% of the population of a developed country. 90% of them now is dead.

    Modern farming also requires a lot of complex products and their own supply lines, which are now massively disrupted. These are:

    1. heavy machinery of various designs, from the ubiquitous tractors to specialised stuff like harvesters. All needs some special training to operate, more special training to maintain and a steady supply of parts. And the most modern designs are actually went to the no user serviceable components inside way, so your farmer can't even maintain them without trained people provided by the manufacturer. Older more easily maintainable equipment is more than likely scrapped long ago, at least outside of Amish communities and related religious sects.
    2. fuel: yup, the machinery runs on diesel, which are produced in vast and complex refineries needing constant attention, and then distributed by another vast supply network of storage facilities, pipelines, rail networks and tanker trucks. All of them needs crews and various support networks of other services like road maintenance workers, mechanics and whatever. 90% of those are now dead, the rest are dealing with the shock. The refineries are also need a lot of electricity to run too.
    3. various chemicals, from fertilizer, which needs some training to avoid overuse, but otherwise something farmers need by the trainload, to various 'cides (pesticide, herbicide, seed treatment to prevent pests eating the planted seed), which need more training* to be used properly. All of them manufactured by vast and complex chemical plants requiring lot of trained people, electricity and sometime "interesting" base materials.
    4. more esoteric stuff like weather forecasting, cause a lot of chemicals distributed by spraying need 3-6 hours to be absorbed, and if they have been washed down by a "sudden" rain, you just wasted resources. Or to predict when will some pest or other start to active, cause they don't have a calendar, but will come out of hibernation if the daily temperature is say above 10C for a week. Or you'd need to deal with a sudden frost when your stuff is blooming, and preparation takes hours.
    EDIT: also, farming was never something that you could learn easily. It always took a lot of time to became good in it, the fact that have been hidden by the large majority of the population being farmers, so they learned the ropes growing up and working along their parents for years.

    * over here in the EU they are divided into three classes:
    1. no license needed. These are of course limited in effects
    2. need 80 hour of training and certification. most of the time they are good enough
    3. need 300 hour of training and certification. hardcore stuff, that can be very destructive if not used properly. You are pretty much a university trained agronomist at this point.
     
    Last edited: Jan 11, 2017
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  5. Avernus

    Avernus Abomination

    Low technology farms also require lots of manpower to do the labor that's done by machinery on more modern farms; 90% of which is now dead. So even relatively non-technology dependent groups like the Amish won't produce much either.
     
  6. Subsistence farming also required quite a bit of time to boot up from zero, assuming you're not a subsistence farmer already.

    And since 90 percent of farmers are dead, who tends the crops of the fields belonging to dead farmers?
     
    Last edited: Jan 11, 2017
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  7. manpower and draft animals. A lot of them. Which nowadays are quite rare, and most modern farmers, esp. at agricorps have no knowledge about. They need a lot of caring about and knowledge about their limitations, so you don't accidentally injure or kill them, by working them too hard.
     
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  8. Tasrill

    Tasrill SB's Tasselhoff

    It is worse then that. Draft animals need training to be actual draft animals and someone who knows how to do the training. Training that takes time. Few horses are trained to pull buggies much less pull a plow and almost no mules are. Trying to find a trained cow will also be wonderfully hard.
     
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  9. Yah outside of the Amish, historical societies and historical reenacting sites like Plymouth rock, Williamsburg, Yorktown and numerous other sites along with the networks of craftsmen and animal trainers that work with said people your not exactly going to see many people with the sort of skills needed for even early modern or medieval civilization and with most of the population dropping dead most of those people like the farmers are quite likely dead.

    The survivors with exceptions would be starting all over again dooming the world to the beginnings of a true dark age as opposed to the supposed one after the fall of the western roman empire.
     
  10. Tasrill

    Tasrill SB's Tasselhoff

    There is another fun thing that can happen to. The number of people is so high you can easily completely lose entire skill sets because everyone who practiced them died. Even with completely random deaths you can have say every pilot alive dieing thanks to a not very hard roll of the dice. I know it might seem unreal but it has happened in history before. After the bronze age collapse Greece lost it's entire writing system without such a radical culling of the population.
     
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  11. Cloak&Dagger

    Cloak&Dagger Definitely Insane

    You drive 500 miles.

    Like, it would be retarded to stay at 1/10th population density. What's left of the government needs to centralize the people.
     
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  12. Fair Letters

    Fair Letters

    Location:
    Home
    Sadly the volume of replies is too great for me to effectively respond to, so I'm just going to list the things people said that I thought were insightful and either didn't know already or that I hadn't properly thought about (I am assuming these are all true and people could produce citations for the factual ones):


    @Avernus and @folti : I'd be quite interesting in citations/elaborations for the quoted bits if possible. :)

    There's also one thing that I can't go without replying to:

    I recommend you recheck your maths*, it might reveal something about how small a knowledge base must be before it's plausible for them all to die.

    * Because that's the most absurd "not very hard roll of the dice" I've heard in my life. And I am not exaggerating.
     
  13. Ironanvil1

    Ironanvil1 Riding a metaphorical pony Magistrate

    Location:
    Luton Airport
    There are less than 150,000 commercial pilots, globally.
     
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  14. Fair Letters

    Fair Letters

    Location:
    Home
    Then do the maths. ;)
    How likely is it for all of them to die if they're independantly* 90% likely to die?

    * "completely random deaths"
     
  15. Ironanvil1

    Ironanvil1 Riding a metaphorical pony Magistrate

    Location:
    Luton Airport
    "We need this last working plane flown from New York to LA! Luckily, we've found the one surviving pilot in the world able to fly it. Unluckily, he's in Hong Kong."
     
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  16. To add on what Ironanvil1 said, Ninety percent of 7 billion is 6.3 billion. 150,000 is 2.38095238e-3 percent of that number. It's basically a rounding error in terms of how many are going to die.

    This would seem to contradict the part where you say that it's a disease or something: there can be risk factors. In any case, if you think the case is so slam dunk, why don't you do the math, rather than requesting others prove your point for you?
     
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  17. Well, that's not going to kill you :p
     
  18. Um...yes it will? Untreated that can be very dangerous.
     
  19. 500 miles away?
    Doubtful, at least in the case of former "global cities".
    Manhattan alone (not the New York as a whole, Manhattan) would retain around 80 000 inhabitants.

    There would be even a few cities with population higher than one million, Tokyo, Shanghai...
     
  20. Most of those cities aren't going to be surviving at that population too long, and more importantly you're ignoring that surgery is a pretty restricted field. Sure, new york would have a lot of people, but when 9 out of every 10 people dies you're going to lose specialized knowledge. Maybe not globally, but locally it's a lot more chancy.
     
  21. It was sarcastic joke, peritonitis is the punchline :p
     
  22. Fair Letters

    Fair Letters

    Location:
    Home
    Very well.
    Out of a sample of 150000 events the chance of each one being X where X has a 90% chance of happening is 0.9^150000. Which is approximately 1 in 10^6864.
    Odds so ridiculously unlikely that they're like winning the lottery every day for years.

    In practice, once your sample size gets over 100, you can pretty much guaruntee someone in that sample survived.

    Now, this might not invalidate what I believe your underlying point was (I simply like educating people about probability and statistics) as there are professions with less than 100 members available at a local level, the question is if they're essential in the short term.
     
  23. Okay, let us imagine a scenario. Yesterday, you were Secretary of Agriculture and today you are the POTUS! And now you need four hotshot pilots for Mission X, or any pilots really.

    How could you get them? The "value of sur iving pilots" is in itself not the biggest issue.
     
  24. Q99

    Q99

    An important thing to consider on 'training people to fill in the gaps'- of course people will *try*, but for a significant amount of time, there won't even be knowledge of where all the crucial holes are.

    Consider power plants. Some of them will have their crews entirely gone, and people not know it. Some'll break or burn before anyone can shut them down properly.

    And even less obviously immediate things- who checks the flood overflows at the local dam? Who fixes sewer breaks and electric power lines- and with power down, you lose cellphone towers, you lose communication. You don't know how wide spread the problem is.

    Farmers? Make sure you have people going to prepare enough fields for the next harvest *before* the food problems get horrible- while you're also scrambling to get enough transporters to distribute even the food you have, to where it's needed- which could be very different than where it is now.

    There's a thousand problems you need to anticipate. Some obvious, some I'm forgetting.

    Humanity will survive and rebuild, but only a small number of nations will even remotely resemble their original form (and most of those, small ones).
     
    Last edited: Jan 11, 2017
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  25. This assumes that the deaths are independent; perhaps you need to brush up before attempting to teach others. That is a huge assumption, not really warranted in a case like this. Nor does it include the incidental deaths that are likely to happen due to the die off.

    And putting as the local area is kinda misleading. Transportation and communication are going to take a big hit soon, which means even communicating outside of the local information is really difficult.
     
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