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Old 02-21-2018, 01:23 PM
Silver lining Silver lining is offline
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Suppose nuclear weapons were invented 1,000 years ago. Would we still be here?

Suppose nuclear weapons were invented 1,000 years ago. Would we still be here?
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Old 02-21-2018, 01:25 PM
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With the mindsets of people of the time? There'd be much less hesitation in letting the nukes fly. They were pretty bellicose.

But humanity would still live on, albeit after multiple nuclear winters. We are hardy.
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Old 02-21-2018, 01:29 PM
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We'd be "X-Men" due to the mutations caused by the radiation.
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Old 02-21-2018, 01:41 PM
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My answer is yes, but I do have a question / clarification: Do these medieval people just have nukes, or do they have all the modern delivery systems to accompany them (ICBMs, SSBNs, heavy bombers, etc.)
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Old 02-21-2018, 01:42 PM
Silver lining Silver lining is offline
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With the mindsets of people of the time? There'd be much less hesitation in letting the nukes fly. They were pretty bellicose.

But humanity would still live on, albeit after multiple nuclear winters. We are hardy.
Right. If we look back to the past or now, war is mostly for Kings, Queens and Dictator types. The Kings and Queens are out of power, the Dictators are not.


When was the last time Democracies that have honest elections went to war with each other?

A reason why that nut in North Korea needs to be taken very seriously. He's much in line with the thinking of past
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Old 02-21-2018, 01:46 PM
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Suppose nuclear weapons were invented 1,000 years ago. Would we still be here?
Do you mean the actual ones we have today or just nuclear weapons in general? I'd say for sure we will still use or have nuclear weapons of some kind. They might be anti-matter by that point, or just the fusion ones we have today, but I can't see them going away unless all war goes away.

ETA: Sorry, misread the OP. I guess we are positing that during the middle ages they invented nukes somehow and asking if they would have used them more? I'd say the same sort of rationale as to why we didn't use them (so far) en masse would occur to them as well, i.e. if we use them and our enemies use them then pretty much everyone dies.
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Old 02-21-2018, 01:47 PM
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My answer is yes, but I do have a question / clarification: Do these medieval people just have nukes, or do they have all the modern delivery systems to accompany them (ICBMs, SSBNs, heavy bombers, etc.)
Assume they have modern nuclear weapons, with the ability to transport them with World War 1 technologies as you need an explosive device to trigger fission or fusion.

Looking back, its a good thing mankind on the earth didn't develop these type of weapons earlier.
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Old 02-21-2018, 02:07 PM
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We'd probably still be here but nothing like we are today and with nowhere near the current population level.

As mentioned our ancestors were particularly warlike not to mention a greater penchant for "holy wars". There is no doubt nukes would have been used.

This is especially true when you consider how much bigger the world was back then. There was no radio or TV. No global trade networks and so on. It was a lot hard for distant people to learn of what was happening half way around the world from them and the tales would grow with time. As such there was no global opprobrium a would be nuke user would have to contend with.
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Old 02-21-2018, 07:05 PM
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Would they be aware of the long-term effect of the use of nukes or would they blame agricultural blight on witches or Jews, as usual?
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Old 02-21-2018, 07:10 PM
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Hell no, we're barely civilized now. Back them it would be doom.
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Old 02-21-2018, 07:46 PM
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Depends who invented them. Genghis Khan with nuclear weapons would have been a bad thing.
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Old 02-21-2018, 09:24 PM
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As mentioned our ancestors were particularly warlike not to mention a greater penchant for "holy wars". There is no doubt nukes would have been used.

This is especially true when you consider how much bigger the world was back then. There was no radio or TV. No global trade networks and so on. It was a lot hard for distant people to learn of what was happening half way around the world from them and the tales would grow with time. As such there was no global opprobrium a would be nuke user would have to contend with.
Eh. I think the reason we're less warlike today is almost entirely because our weapons are so much more destructive that the cost-benefit ratio around war has changed. It's an effect of technology more than morality.

If our ancestors had massively destructive weapons, they would probably have become less warlike in short order.

I'm not sure why a 'holy war' over religion is necessarily any dumber than one over political ideology- religion is just one form of ideology after all.
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Old 02-21-2018, 10:14 PM
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Eh. I think the reason we're less warlike today is almost entirely because our weapons are so much more destructive that the cost-benefit ratio around war has changed. It's an effect of technology more than morality.

If our ancestors had massively destructive weapons, they would probably have become less warlike in short order.
As I mentioned in a "bigger" world with no TV, no pictures and communication that moved at the speed of horse or sailing ship I think there is a lot less pressure from the populace on the rulers to avoid war. If a ruler can win a war with a bomb or two then I doubt they'd have any compunction using it because who will give them a hard time about it?

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I'm not sure why a 'holy war' over religion is necessarily any dumber than one over political ideology- religion is just one form of ideology after all.
God gives you the holy fire to smite your enemies? Of course you will use it. Your war is just and ordained by God so don't worry about things like they aren't much different than you. God wants them dead so erasing them from the map is all you need concern yourself with.

It's a bit different than we want that valley for ourselves because it is really nice.

Last edited by Whack-a-Mole; 02-21-2018 at 10:15 PM.
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Old 02-21-2018, 10:55 PM
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Just want to applaud the OP for username/original post interestingness.

But, as for Holy War, I think a lot of parties were more superstitious in outlook than we are today. This is pre-Renaissance, the ancients are forgotten and have not yet been remembered. If the Pope says God told him to nuke the heathens, who can truly argue with him? OTOH, religion is alive and well all over the world, if not always in the very seat of power itself.

Anyway, it is possible things would have worked out such that One faction were still here. I don't think espionage was what it is today, and so one group developing The Bomb would probably have been something they could keep to themselves.
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Old 02-22-2018, 12:23 AM
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The biggest problem is that nukes destroy the loot that medieval wars of conquest were really about. A modern industrial society could start throwing nukes around today, because they are less dependent on having to pillage their enemies, but medieval cultures are so less efficient that they absolutely needed to steal from their neighbors.

Last edited by Bryan Ekers; 02-22-2018 at 12:24 AM.
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Old 02-22-2018, 08:59 AM
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How could they have developed nukes without developing all the corresponding technologies - refining ores, machining centrifuges, etc.? Technology in general would be much more advanced. Not to mention an advanced knowledge of physics.

A knowledge of nuclear weapons almost necessarily implies nuclear power. Which is almost like bypassing the steam engine. We would have had an Industrial Revolution hundreds of years early, with all that implies.

So yes, we would be here, and hundreds of years more technologically advanced than we are now. One nation develops nukes, along with all the concomitant technology, and almost automatically dominates the world without the need to set off even one.

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Old 02-22-2018, 09:16 AM
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The biggest problem is that nukes destroy the loot that medieval wars of conquest were really about. A modern industrial society could start throwing nukes around today, because they are less dependent on having to pillage their enemies, but medieval cultures are so less efficient that they absolutely needed to steal from their neighbors.
This. I think. How does nuke radiation work, anyway? If I flame Constantinople, will the non-vaporized loot be radioactive? Can it be washed off? How long will the area be dangerous--can I at least send in slaves & POWs to do the looting, and then wash the nukefilth off the loot? What about farmland, if I blaze an army while they're marching across a barley field, how long until I can use it again?

If the above are not insurmountable, then I have to say King B-Rad at least would be an A-bomb dropping mofo. I'd scorch everyone who wasn't mine. Weird religions, funny-looking people, potential aggressors--all ashes. I'd be an Emperor in no time, and I'd have all the power. My people would fear me (cuz I'm nuts and murderous); and they'd love me because I'd share, giving everyone alive more than they would ever have gotten in a world filled with competition. And there would be peace. I gotta think a significant number of old-time rulers would think along those lines. Genocide of the enemy used to be a pipedream, not an unfortunate side effect.
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Old 02-22-2018, 09:51 AM
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Well, that'll let you take the enemy's stuff (or at least whatever stuff survives the fallout), but in the pre-industrial world of the 11th century, how much stuff could there be? Without living slaves to keep working the farms and mines, conquering enemy land doesn't gain you anything because you can't derive any wealth from that land. I suppose you could demand tribute by threatening to nuke somebody, but it'll become increasingly obvious that actually nuking them is a long-term loss. Maybe you could nuke one enemy as a sacrificial warning to all the others, but sooner or later, someone will just nuke you.

It's a weird hypothetical, pre-industrial nuclear powers. I'd'a thought a country that had the industrial base to build and maintain nukes would have little need to raid its neighbors (or rather, that going to war with them is viewed as more trouble than just trading with them), but I'm guessing Putin's motivations regarding the Crimea and Ukraine are more about looking strong than being strong.
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Old 02-22-2018, 09:54 AM
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I can't speak for the OP, but I am surmising that what he means with the hypothetical is that all the medieval attitudes will be retained, but with the nuke red button in their hands. He is asking how the world would fare with nukes in the hands of people with the culture and thinking of that era.

In which case, there might be a nuke going off every three weeks.
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Old 02-22-2018, 09:57 AM
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Maybe you could nuke one enemy as a sacrificial warning to all the others, but sooner or later, someone will just nuke you.
That's why I'm thinking genocide is the only solution here, and that the winner is the one who starts first. WWI tech (post #7) precludes a viable MAD détente. You have to use these firecrackers, all-out and quickly, before they get used on you.
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Old 02-22-2018, 12:15 PM
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The hypothetical only makes sense if we postulate an identical planet, except the laws of physics are such that nuclear weapons are about as easy to build as gunpowder weapons. That is, you dig up some radium and mercury, mix in a little jeweler's rouge, and set it off with the emanations of the eighth ray. And the whole thing goes up like Little Man and Fat Boy. You don't have any delivery systems other than horse-drawn wagons or fire ships. You could have some sort of fuse, but setting one of these things off is going to be pretty close to a suicide mission. No ICBMs or long range bombers, no industrial revolution, nothing changes except that some alchemical formulation releases tremendous amounts of energy on the scale of nuclear weapons. And we'll also say that this alchemical process should have the same sort of secondary effects as nuclear weapons, just to keep it simple--fallout, and contamination.

And we'll say that the spread of this secret will pretty much follow the time scale of the spread of gunpowder.

As was pointed out, the use of alchemical weapons means you're destroying the very thing you're trying to steal. Blow up a city and you can't conquer the city. What's the point of that? Populations are low, productivity is low. Wealth is produced by land, but land requires workers who only produce a tiny surplus to skim off. The reason you want to conquer a land is so that you can rule over it, and the more productive the land and the people the more rich and powerful you are.

In the medieval and ancient world cities existed because they were defensible against attack. The enemy army moves up, everyone runs into the fortified city, and the enemy has to besiege the city. Except now that doesn't happen anymore. The enemy just sets off an alchemical bomb and blasts the fortified city off the map. But now the city is gone, so what was the point?

So what results is a much more decentralized world. No fortified cities, just farms and villages. Nomads like the Mongols rule the world, since they can wander wherever they like and loot and pillage the countryside and destroy any fortifications and any concentrations of force. Everyone is much poorer since trade centers are smoking craters. Populations are much lower. Formerly productive lands are contaminated wastelands. The good news is that since most people were already subsistence farmers, they continue to be subsistence farmers, you don't have the mass die-offs you'd have in the modern industrial world as trade systems break down.

People would survive, but at much lower population densities and wealth, and any concentrations of wealth and population get eradicated with almost no possibility of defense. Warfare would consist of rapidly moving raiders looking for enemies trying to deliver alchemical weapons, and rapidly moving raiders trying to deliver alchemical weapons. Fire ships mean naval warfare is obsolete as are coastal cities. All you have left is viking-style longboat raids.
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Old 02-23-2018, 04:04 AM
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Eh. I think the reason we're less warlike today is almost entirely because our weapons are so much more destructive that the cost-benefit ratio around war has changed. It's an effect of technology more than morality.

If our ancestors had massively destructive weapons, they would probably have become less warlike in short order.

I'm not sure why a 'holy war' over religion is necessarily any dumber than one over political ideology- religion is just one form of ideology after all.
Agreed, take a look at the one war where nuclear weapons were used in the end; particularly take a look at what the war was like before the bombs were dropped. Entire cities being firebombed, civilians being murdered by the millions in Europe and China by the Nazis and the Japanese, the deliberate targeting of an enemies civilian population being considered the accepted norm regardless of treaties to the contrary. In 1945 it most certainly was not less warlike than the world was in 1018, if anything it was more warlike.

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Suppose nuclear weapons were invented 1,000 years ago. Would we still be here?
Do you think we'll be here in 3018? There's your answer, be it yes or no.
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Old 03-04-2018, 11:44 AM
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Ekers is right.

The goal was rape, pillage and burn.

Nukes do it in the wrong order.

The Mongols had a more powerful and practical strategy.

Crane
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Old 03-04-2018, 01:45 PM
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Quoth Silver Lining:

When was the last time Democracies that have honest elections went to war with each other?
1982.
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Old 03-04-2018, 03:20 PM
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That's why I'm thinking genocide is the only solution here, and that the winner is the one who starts first. WWI tech (post #7) precludes a viable MAD détente. You have to use these firecrackers, all-out and quickly, before they get used on you.
You're suggesting we strive for nuclear winter?


On the other side, when India and Pakistan achieved nuclear deterrence the conflict between those nations was reduced significantly.

There is a serious argument that the problem comes with imbalance.

For example, if Iran and Israel had nuclear parity, it's highly unlikely that they would blow themselves up in nuclear suicide.

The thing is, the leaders of Israel and Iran, like those who have invested so much in becoming the leaders of other countries, aren't interested in suicide.
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Old 03-15-2018, 02:41 PM
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Took me awhile to find it, but this thread brought back a memory of Gahan Wilson's take on this topic. So, just for a grin - https://imgur.com/a/SXBEY
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