Using Human History as a guide Could Our Present Civilization Fall Into a New Dark Age?

  1. BAYLOR

    BAYLOR There Are Always new Things to Learn.

    Joined:
    Jun 29, 2014
    Messages:
    12,766
    In the case Plague vs Nuclear War, I think the first possibility it the more likely . Over use of antibiotics has caused diseases to become resistance and more deadly also, as we clear rainforest and expand into new places, new diseases will emerge which our already stressed medical establishment may not be able to cope with. And environmental degradation will make this situation even worse.
     
    Oct 9, 2017
    #21
  2. sknox

    sknox Member and remember

    Joined:
    Mar 25, 2013
    Messages:
    527
    Location:
    Idaho
    Baylor appears set on destroying us all. :)

    Demographic catastrophes have happened. I know a bit about the plague of 14thc Europe. The first thing to note is that it wasn't just one plague. That was bad enough, but the dang thing kept coming back. It was the recurrence of plague over multiple generations that had the most serious long-term effects. Europe did not recover pre-plague population until the 16thc.

    In places. While in the countryside we get abandoned villages by the hundreds, the cities recovered fairly quickly. There was almost zero political impact, despite losing a third of the population or more within the span of five years. Economic dislocation was the most significant result, but even there we had winners as well as losers.

    In other words, I'm not sure even a pandemic would cause a collapse of civilization. A retrenchment, certainly. International trade would suffer, as that system is highly fragile. It also has not really been stress tested, so who knows. Regional economies ought to do better. Much would depend on the nature of the pandemic, of course. But now we're well beyond where we can use history as any sort of guide.

    As a historian, I don't believe the past is much of a guide anyway, so that probably colors my responses.
     
    Oct 10, 2017
    #22
  3. Justin Swanton

    Justin Swanton Loving the view from up here.

    Joined:
    Aug 18, 2015
    Messages:
    248
    Location:
    Durban, South Africa
    I agree that plague won't do it, but ongoing war would. The Germans virtually starved in the second half of the 40's as their infrastructure had been almost entirely destroyed and millions of their menfolk were either dead or in the Gulag.

    My take: a breakdown of the principle of legitimacy will create a Dark Age. This IMHO is what ruined Roman Britain after the Romans withdrew. The withdrawal was too sudden and too complete. None of the prominent British leaders who subsequently rose up had the legitimacy necessary to take control of the Island and maintain order. Britain divided along tribal lines and then completely disintegrated after that as the tribal unit also wasn't legitimate enough to maintain order. The breakdown was quite spectacular - by the 6th century there was no pottery of any kind being produced in Britain.

    In Gaul it was a different matter. The Magister Militum per Gallias, i.e. the Supreme Commander of the Gallic Field Army, kept northern Gaul under Roman control until nearly the end of the 5th century. Clovis did not succeed in conquering the 4 surviving provinces of Roman Gaul (despite winning a battle near Soissons). He had to be baptised a Catholic first then negotiate a peaceful merger between his Frankish lands and Roman Gaul. The baptism and merger left the principle of legitimacy intact. The infrastructure survived and in the sixth century refined pottery goods were still being manufactured in quantity and shipped hundred of miles (I can back all this up with evidence if anyone is interested).

    What you need for a real Dark Age is for war to break nations down and for the governments to collapse and nothing and nobody left in a position to claim: "I am the true authority, obey me" with any hope of success. Then everything goes sideways.
     
    Oct 10, 2017
    #23
    Montero likes this.
  4. Mirannan

    Mirannan Well-Known Member

    Joined:
    Jan 20, 2013
    Messages:
    1,739
    I can think of a few scenarios leading to a worldwide Dark Age, some worse than others.

    A really big CME could set us back decades to hundreds of years - because of major power transformers being in short supply as far as spares are concerned, and really long lead time. For two more even worse events, how about a Dinosaur Killer, or Yellowstone (or Valles, or Long Valley, or Toba, or Taupo, or Aira, or Campi Flegri) letting go?
     
    Oct 16, 2017
    #24
  5. sknox

    sknox Member and remember

    Joined:
    Mar 25, 2013
    Messages:
    527
    Location:
    Idaho
    Here's the problem I have with all these scenarios. They treat history as if it were a ruler or a timeline. You move forward along it. The catastrophe comes and then we all move backward.

    That's not how this works. The constant is change. have a catastrophe and the world will change, true enough, but we're not going to do a sort of rewind to 1150AD or something. The question is not, will Catastrophe X cast us into the Dark Ages. The question is, what will be the effects of Catastrophe X? Which puts is firmly out of the realm where history is much help and firmly into the realm of predicting the future. Cue the chicken bones.
     
    Oct 16, 2017
    #25
    Montero likes this.
  6. Edward M. Grant

    Edward M. Grant Well-Known Member

    Joined:
    Nov 6, 2015
    Messages:
    262
    Location:
    The Frozen North
    The only reason antibiotic resistance is such a big deal is because regulation has crippled medical innovation in the West. Bacteriophages, for example, have been used for some time in Eastern Europe to kill bacterial infections that don't respond to antibiotics, but they're years away from being available for use in America.
     
    Oct 16, 2017
    #26
    Montero likes this.
  7. Danny Creasy

    Danny Creasy Well-Known Member

    Joined:
    Dec 23, 2016
    Messages:
    125
    Location:
    NW Alabama
    All it will take is a disgruntled major/minor player getting mad or frustrated enough to use a nuke or possibly a biological weapon. Civilization could rip itself to pieces quickly. Without infrastructure, there is limited or no electricity, and without electricity, there is much less technology. It could get very "dark" very fast. Many of the post-apocalyptic tales are not too far fetched.
     
    Dec 27, 2017
    #27
  8. Vladd67

    Vladd67 Stake Holder

    Joined:
    Jun 10, 2007
    Messages:
    2,864
    The thing now is we are all too specialised. If civilisation was to collapse you would have towns, cities, and even villages full of people with skills that were no longer relevant.
     
    Dec 27, 2017
    #28
  9. Harpo

    Harpo Laird Of Lewis

    Joined:
    Sep 23, 2006
    Messages:
    1,433
    Location:
    The edge of the world
    Such as telephone sanitisers? :D
    Golgafrincham
     
    Dec 27, 2017
    #29
  10. BigBadBob141

    BigBadBob141 Well-Known Member

    Joined:
    Dec 23, 2013
    Messages:
    484
    I always worried about overpopulation such as in Harry Harrisons "Make Room!, Make Room!".
    However I read an interesting article that suggested that the wealthier a nation becomes then the more it's birth rate starts to fall off.
    Large birth rates are related to poverty and poor health care, high infant mortality and shorter life spans.
    Children are an insurance towards the future so it's best to have plenty in the hope some will survive to care for you in your old age.
    However as things progress improved health care means that more people live longer.
    But people are still fairly poor and as old habits die hard they still keep having large families.
    Hence the large population.
    But as the general level of wealth goes past a certain point people are less likely to keep having big families.
    For one thing raising a child is more expensive so it's better to spend money on other things, and there's less need to worry about future care.
    So it seems that as general conditions improve in the future population levels will hit a limit and maybe decrease a bit.
    This seems to be working for the western nations, lets hope it works for everyone else.
     
    Dec 27, 2017
    #30
    Montero likes this.
  11. Dave

    Dave Wherever I Am, I'm There Staff Member

    Joined:
    Jan 5, 2001
    Messages:
    17,576
    Location:
    Way on Down South, London Town
    I completely agree with @sknox on what he has said regarding using history as a guide or forward moving scale.

    Specifically, on the isolated cases of abandoned cities and regions being provided here - are we sure we really know why those happened? Disease might make people move away for a while; a very prolonged period of foreign raiding over generations; or climate change would restrict agriculture and they might move on somewhere else; or volcanic eruptions, earthquakes and severe flooding might render places uninhabitable, but in most cases they would return unless the land was toxic or infertile (a @BAYLOR style nuclear apocalypse would certainly do that.) People would return to the same location or buildings again because they were probably built in the best geographical position militarily and for commerce and transport. There would need to be some other reason why not to return - the mines or other economic resources had run out, river transport route had run dry - or if there was some superstition or religious reasons that have no physical basis. Mayans and Romans did not die out - they are us.

    As for people believing in superstition and rumour, I cannot understand the hate shown towards science and expert knowledge today. It is beyond my belief but to say anymore takes us into a political discussion.
     
    Dec 27, 2017
    #31
    Montero likes this.
  12. Justin Swanton

    Justin Swanton Loving the view from up here.

    Joined:
    Aug 18, 2015
    Messages:
    248
    Location:
    Durban, South Africa
    If you want a quick collapse of civilisation you need ongoing war, ideally civil war.

    For a slower collapse, a loss of faith in the worldview of society might be enough if that lost faith isn't replaced by anything. By 'worldview of society' I mean the illusion society perpetuates that life is getting better and better and will end in a paradise on Earth. At its heart is the idea that science, in its pragmatic form of technology, will solve all our problems. Technology of course has spectacularly failed to deliver the goods. It has given some incidental benefits but has not met major needs like immortality or freedom from the bondage of work. And in the bargain it has created huge problems it cannot solve. Just maintaining the gigantic techno-industrial machine we have built has created a stressed lifestyle unknown to any pre-industrial society.

    It is the disillusionment with technology that is partly responsible for the growing mistrust of science, and the loss of faith in technology risks destroying the the social order that technology created. When everybody definitively stops being idealistic about the future - macrotechnology has hit a dead end, space travel has hit a dead end, microtechnology is about to hit a dead end, and so on - then a generous commitment to maintaining society for future generations will be replaced by every man for himself. This is in fact what destroyed the Western Roman Empire: the generals and emperors could no longer work together, creating a paralysis that the barbarians were free to exploit. The Eastern Empire would have gone the same way if the Bosphorus didn't exist or the barbarian tribes had a decent navy.
     
    Last edited: Jan 3, 2018
    Jan 3, 2018
    #32
    Elventine likes this.
  13. Parson

    Parson This world is not my home

    Joined:
    Oct 11, 2006
    Messages:
    7,048
    Location:
    Iowa
    I'm not sure I'd agree with the idea of major needs being "immortality" or "freedom from the bondage of work." Immortality would likely be the death knell for planet earth, and work is one of the major drivers of progress. ---- I think anything short of an apocalypse would not move us into the realm of a "dark age" and an apocalypse might well spell the end of humanity, or at least the end of technology for a long, long, time. Almost all of the easily accessible minerals have long since been tapped out. It would be very hard to move an industrial revival without these easily available.
     
    Jan 3, 2018
    #33
    Montero likes this.
  14. Cathbad

    Cathbad Level 30 Geek Master

    Joined:
    Dec 9, 2015
    Messages:
    7,875
    Location:
    Everywhere.
    We're not already in a new Dark Age??

    shudders
     
    Jan 4, 2018
    #34
    BigBadBob141 likes this.
  15. Harpo

    Harpo Laird Of Lewis

    Joined:
    Sep 23, 2006
    Messages:
    1,433
    Location:
    The edge of the world
    Yes, yes we are.

     
    Jan 4, 2018
    #35
    Cathbad likes this.
  16. Mirannan

    Mirannan Well-Known Member

    Joined:
    Jan 20, 2013
    Messages:
    1,739
    Hmmm... I have a couple of comments about that. First of all, physical immortality is impossible. Even if one postulates a super-advanced nanotech society with everyone who wants them having personality backups scattered all over a large part of the Galaxy, a combination of unlikely accidents that destroys them all is still possible. Of course, that doesn't preclude very long life.

    As for freedom from the bondage of work; well, that doesn't imply "freedom" from work altogether. Many people work at jobs they would rather not be doing but continue to do them because they need the earnings to live. But that doesn't necessarily have to stay the way of the world forever; fictional examples of post-scarcity societies abound, and some non-fiction futurist writers have joined that game as well.

    And many people, even if relieved from the need to work to stay alive forever, would still work. Uber-rich pop singers and the like carry on working when there is no need, because they love what they are doing. (The youngest member of the Rolling Stones is in his 70s now, and they are still touring!) The same applies to many creative people, many of them in small scale businesses making things like bespoke lamps. Would they really put down their tools if they no longer needed the money? I doubt it.
     
    Jan 4, 2018
    #36
    Montero likes this.
  17. Justin Swanton

    Justin Swanton Loving the view from up here.

    Joined:
    Aug 18, 2015
    Messages:
    248
    Location:
    Durban, South Africa
    We all have a natural desire to live forever, and not just live forever but be young forever. With that goes the desire to be free from pain and any kind of debilitating illness. By 'bondage of work' I don't mean work per se, but the kind of work that is not as fun or fulfilling as we would want it to to be - check out the link in my previous post. These are all deep-seated desires. Former societies had religion at the centre of their worldview in which all this would happen in the afterlife. Contemporary society replaced that with the belief that technology will achieve it, at least to an indefinitely growing extent. The realisation dawned some time ago that technology can't deliver and so the motivation to maintain a technology-driven society is steadily eroding. When the religious outlook is completely gone and all faith is lost in technology then, yeah, we'll have a dark age - and an especially nasty one.
     
    Last edited: Jan 4, 2018
    Jan 4, 2018
    #37
  18. Montero

    Montero Senior Member

    Joined:
    Jan 2, 2008
    Messages:
    2,000
    I am not sure that everyone does have a desire to live forever - keeping going can be an effort. Now if you were perpetually young and didn't have to work in a boring job there would be a lot less effort, but even so, not convinced that everyone would want to live forever. Also - memory storage - the brain can only store so much so with a "forever" you'd probably only remember the last hundred years (judged by current human lifespan).
    A different thought on immortality - even today, with the relative fragility of people, a lot of them like to push the boundaries - playing sports where they might get injured or even killed. I don't think that folks go out there to get injured or killed - they think it won't be them, not today. So if we do reach a future with something approximating eternal life with eternal youth, I think there would be a massive increase in really dangerous sports, because so many people just know they can't be killed.

    Anti-technology - well, it is complicated, a lot of people can't understand it, some of them resent that and when they are told they can't have something - either forbidding them or denying them - they don't understand why and feel picked on. Then it turns into "sciences" fault.
     
    Jan 4, 2018
    #38
  19. Elventine

    Elventine Trouble

    Joined:
    Aug 28, 2016
    Messages:
    162
    I am not sure that we could ever have a Dark Age like we did in the past - however I do think that we may be heading towards an age of relative morality and that this is going to have a long-lasting detrimental effect on the world.

    I think that we may also suffer through another industrial revolution or something similar in the workplace and in our farming and industrial sectors. Wheather good or bad, the chances are 50/50 at this point in time.

    I think that we may also have a shift in political regimes as sadly the democracy experiment hasn't worked and we do need something better to replace it with before it is replaced with a system that is worse.

    As for science - I can see the bad side of it - but at the same time, they have made the bed that they are now needing to lie in. The whole scientific community needs to gain a little bit of a wake-up call and start adding some accountability and action to their lives.
     
    Jan 4, 2018
    #39
  20. Montero

    Montero Senior Member

    Joined:
    Jan 2, 2008
    Messages:
    2,000
    Speaking as a scientist not quite sure what you are getting at Elventine. Could you perhaps give some specific examples of this?
     
    Jan 4, 2018
    #40
Loading...

Share This Page