Long Term Survival vs. Rebuilding Civilisation

At the Al Fin Dangerous Child Institute, children are taught survival over all time scales — immediate, intermediate, and long term. But Dangerous Children are also taught how to build networked communities of like-minded and competent people, with the aim of preserving the nuts and bolts of civilisation construction and maintenance.

On the surface, there is nothing to distinguish an R&D (resilient & dangerous) community from an ordinary, well-functioning community. In other words, there are no external cues for the curious, to reveal the depth of skills, knowledge, and technical sophistication hidden within the community. This ability to “hide in plain sight” serves as one level of protection for the community and its members.

For those readers wishing to try their own hand at preserving the skills and knowledge of technological society, Lewis Dartnell’s The Knowledge provides an interesting look at some of the skills that would be needed.

In an earlier Al Fin Next Level article, we took a look at Dartnell’s book.

Another approach to the rebuilding of a technological society can be found at The Global Village Construction Set. It involves an open source project for constructing 50 of the most important machines necessary to maintain a modern technological society. More information can be found at this earlier Al Fin Next Level article, “Rebuilding Civilisation In The Aftermath”.

Another interesting long-term survival book that is more of an “intermediate survival book” is “Long Term Survival in the Coming Dark Age by James Ballou.”

We did a short write-up on this book at the original Al Fin blog.

Unfortunately, many survival books which are termed “long term survival” books are actually short-to-intermediate term guides. It is important to be able to survive on those time scales, but at this blog we are more concerned with long term survival, and with re-starting a better civilisation on the other side of the programmed slide and crash.

To that end, the next two links look at how modern machine shops and maintenance shops might be built to fit inside a shipping container.



These kits are built for the military, and are suitably expensive. For those without Pentagon-sized budgets, similarly effective kits could be assembled much more affordably from both used machines and from homemade machines and tools.

Some of this ground has been traveled by other bloggers. John Robb of the Global Guerrillas blog has spent a good deal of time looking at the “Resilient Communities” concept.

Robb points to the “STAR-TIDES” multipurpose community reconstruction effort as an approach that might hold a lot of seminal ideas for resilient communitarians.

STAR-TIDES focuses on eight infrastructures: shelter, water, power, integrated combustion and solar cooking, cooling/heating, lighting, sanitation and information & communications technologies (ICT). Solutions need to be sustainable by local populations with the resources they’re likely to have available, and all information will be made available in the public domain via this website.

They are looking at the quick and cheap re-building of 8 important modern infrastructures after a disaster. But a similar blueprint could be used for extending semi-modern infrastructure outward from more prepared and resilient central communities, in the assisted re-building of a more civilised and prosperous trading network of surviving communities.

The Al Fin concept of Resilient & Dangerous Communities is a bit more comprehensive than what one is likely to find in most descriptions of “resilient community,” “long-term survival,” or “community reconstruction” after disasters. In the light of the long-term dysgenic decline that underlies all other serious declines of modern societies and infrastructure, there is much more that needs to be preserved than is commonly accounted for in most other accounts and approaches.

The most important asset for the triumph of the human project — at least in reaching “the next level” — is skilled and competent humans who are both resilient against setbacks, and dangerous to violent and coercive opposition groups. The intelligent, skilled, creative, optimistic human mind is the ultimate resource.

It is impossible to preserve every tool, every machine, every component of modern technological civilisation inside each R&D community. But it is quite possible to stock tools for building tools, and tools for building machines and machine parts. It is possible to stock plans, blueprints, and detailed descriptions for how to concoct a wide array of materials, chemicals, medicinal substances, and much more. This is a very detailed topic, and if you have not spent years looking into it your off the cuff impressions are likely to be far off the mark.

We do not have molecular assemblers but we do have 3-D printers, which are becoming more reliable, more versatile, and less expensive by the year. Large scale data storage is becoming more portable, and more affordable.

Many of the most lucrative occupations and professions of today are likely to become instantly obsolete, after the long series of shocks have run their course. Other professions which seem unlikely today will become very much in demand in the future.

For those with an interest in all aspects of “prepping” and “survival,” check out this set of links from Survivalblog. Surviving over the short and intermediate terms for most people will have a lot more to do with luck than with any preparations they have made. But your luck will tend to be better if you have taken the trouble to prepare, and develop necessary skill sets.

More — Some interesting websites:


Zombie Forum’s “Rebuilding Society”

Self-reliance with a focus on water

Simple “Appropriate Technologies”

5 Basic Survival Skills Everyone Should Know

It is one thing to try to rebuild a technological society when you still remember how most of it worked. It is quite another to try to build a technological society with only generations-old descriptions and detritus from a bygone era.

1961 Hugo Award winning novel, “A Canticle for Liebowitz” by Walter M. Miller, is a classic tale of the post-apocalyptic rebuilding of civilisation. It is a cautionary tale, since the rebuilt civilisation made the same mistakes as the original civilisation which had destroyed itself.

That is only one of the many important cautions to keep in mind when rebuilding technological societies. In further installments we will look at this problem of recapitulating past mistakes due to the inflexibility of human nature.

We will be looking at some very interesting shockers on that front.

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3 Responses to Long Term Survival vs. Rebuilding Civilisation

  1. GoneWithTheWind says:

    It has been my experience in life, I am 71 and worked in a technical field all my life, that a very small minority of people are the doers and inventers, a majority are the workers needing leadership and another very small minority are leaders. Intelligence enters into this equation only peripherally; that is many of the leaders are not necessarily intelligent but by virtue of their looks, size or personality they are “leaders”. Many, maybe even a majority of the workers, are intelligent but for various reasons never “excel” or rise above a worker status. While the doers and inventors are often and typically intelligent it is not 100% true as other factors, like commitment, vision, upbringing, personal goals, belief system and just hard work are more common and seem to be more essential to their role. I would wager that any group surviving and thriving after a disaster will have at least one strong leader and at least one doer/inventor. One last point; a strong leader is “good” but a “good” leader is better. One last, last point; two or more strong leaders is a recipe for disaster.

    • alfin2101 says:

      Some interesting things to chew on, thanks.

      Leadership is indeed pivotal in survival. Some leaders have vision, and some know how to get things done — or as you suggest: one strong leader and one doer/inventor/expediter.

      The nature of leadership tends to change as societies grow and move away from subsistence and bare survival. Under severe pressure, groups with unwise leaders tend to be crushed, no matter how good looking or charismatic.

      Only a byzantine, decadent and affluent society, for example, could survive the leadership of someone such as Barack Obama. If survival were dependent upon sound decisions by the leader, Obama’s society would be toast.

  2. Matt Musson says:

    “We simply cannot allow a mineshaft gap!”

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