I have a couple of questions for you all. I’m toying with an idea for a novel …
Suppose a small group of 21st-century Americans are (somehow) transported 14,000 years into the past onto the North American continent. At that point, the N.A. continent was (apparently) devoid of human life. In order to survive and (hopefully) thrive, how many people would be needed? What professions would best contribute to their survival?
Same question, except they are transported 9,000 years into the past, when the N.A. continent had been settled from Siberia.
P.S. For the sake of argument, let’s ignore what Jared Diamond had to say about settling North America in Guns, Germs, and Steel.
P.P.S. Just so you know, 10% of the proceeds from this project will go to pay my creditors.
Enough people to not screw up the gene pool who are above average in basic/intermediate construction skills, medicine, hunting/trapping skills, organization and self-reliance, outdoorsmanship and a few other qualities which escape at the moment.
Knowledge of botany would be extremely valuable. Understanding of primitive metallurgy - that is, the ability to recognize accessible ores and to produce such things as bronze and iron from them. Without the metallurgy, you’re stuck with stone tools, which would be bad. With the metallurgy, you could produce good enough tools to begin mining for coal so that you could get yourself steam power, machine shops, decent steel. With the right knowledge base, you should be able to get to the industrial revolution extremely quickly, limited mostly by how much manual labour you can spare from food production to sink into developing foundries, mines, machine shops, and the like.
Another thing that would be extremely valuable is animal husbandry and other agricultural skills. If North American horses could be domesticated instead of hunted to existence, bison could be domesticated, and corn could be grown, the stability of your food supply would be vastly improved, and your ability to have non-agricultural specialized labour would skyrocket. Hunting/gathering is overrated. Agriculture is where it’s at.
Modern(ish) inventions you’d want to be able to tap as early as possible would include, in no particular order:
penecillin (I spelled that wrong, didn’t I?)
This is all assuming you want to get to a point with hot showers and telephones. If you think we should be aiming for some mythical pre-industrial idyllic utopia, your answer will be different.
I don’t think that anyone can come up with a reasonable answer to this without knowing what, if anything, that group of people would be allowed to take with them. A naked group of poeple dumped on the ground would be a completely different story then people that were allowed to prepare and outfit themselves. And if they were allowed to bring items, how much would be allowed?
Yes, but having those tools to begin with would make an enormous difference. If you’re going to dig up ores to smelt your own metal, would you rather have picks and shovels, or do you want to use sticks and rocks? If you’re going to survive in a wilderness with wild beasts, would you rather fight them with bare hands, or do you want a rifle and a hunting knife? It get’s awfully cold at night during the winter in any part of this country. I don’t know about you, but I’d much rather be snuggled up in a warm sleeping bag than burrowing under some leaves. You have to survive before you can start making anything. Why do you think that the human race has made so many more advances in the last 200 years (or even the last 50-100 years) than in the thousands of years beforehand? Basic survival has been much more certain, giving people the time and energy to innovate.
Heck, for knowledge alone, the ability to bring items would make a huge difference. Some technical books, books on chemistry, botony, physics, diagrams and schematics for building machines, etc.
Couldn’t one also say not to bring any democrats, because they would be againest cutting down any trees to make shelter/fire or would only want to eat plants instead of making weapons to kill some animals for fur/meat?
And aren’t we forgetting that both terms are extremely broad because there are liberal republicans and conserative democrats out there and that saying to exclude one would be operating on a stereotype that all republicans are facists and all democrats are hippies?
Yes, that thread was part of what got me thinking about this. However, the question is not so much “how long” but rather “who”? And since I’m thinking about a novel, or at least a short story, it should be somewhat plausible …
On their way to work? Very few people carry any significant tools with them on their way to work. A typical foundry worker carries roughly the same tools in his/her vehicle on the way to work as a librarian, which is to say, a smallish collection of automotive tools which will be absolutely useless to our venture.
And the tools Linus and I are most interested in aren’t even used by most people at work. At least, the ones I want aren’t, and I think we’re on close to the same page. I want a lot of quality hand tools - the sort of thing you’d have seen in the 17th and 18th centuries. Sledge hammers, adzes, picks, chisels, two-man crosscut saws, double-bit axes, bit braces, knives, that sort of thing. Some sort of weaponry - probably compound bows, since making arrows is probably more feasible than producing smokeless powder and brass casings, but possibly black powder longarms instead. I’m a bit skeptical of this, though - I think a good compound bow might be a better weapon than a black powder flintlock rifle.
If we can’t have these, we’ll be right back to the stone age to start. Stone tools suck, though it’s very easy to make crude ones. Good stone tools take a lot of expertise which no one has anymore, but we probably won’t need stone tools very long before we can make bronze or iron ones - a few years, depending on how long it takes to locate accessible metal ores.
A few more skills I’d like to add to the list - knowledge of early farm implements - horse-drawn mowers, binders, and the like. These require steel production, but once steel production is started, these devices will dramatically decrease the number of people required to perform agricultural work. Blacksmiths - there aren’t many of these guys left, but there are some, and their skills will be invaluable. Knowledge of paper-making and printing - absolutely essential to get the knowledge of the first generation folk into permanent storage. That way we can bring experts on a vast number of topics, record huge amounts of information about how stuff works, and shoot back up the technology tree very quickly. Geologists would be helpful in locating reasonably accessible sources of metals. Hmm. If there are any coopers left (barrel-makers), that’d be a good skill.
If you just drop a group of people out of the sky and expect them to thrive then they need some basic skills.
#1 on the list is that they cant be squmeash. If they thing killing for food and removeing the blood and guts is “GROSS!!” then they will probably starve and freeze and die.
#2 They should know how to build snares for fish and both large and small game. THey will also need to know how to make ropes from plant fibers untill they can get some stronger animal fibers like sinew and leather.
#3 They should know how to make tools like spears and knives.
#4 They should know how to purify water without boiling it.
#5 They will need to know how to build a shelter out of leaves and things untill they have the tools and time to make one out of logs or skins.
#6 They will need to know how to make a fire and keep it going, even in a rainstorm.
Things like metal working and mineing would be helpfull , but it isnt the end of the world if they cant do it. Native Americans got allong just fine without it. The same can be said for modern medicines,elecricity and high speed internet access.