The question — After a major thermonuclear war is there a possibility that a life-haven of 10,000 people could reestablish a livable and desirable worldwide community? If you believe that there is no possibility of anyone surviving a war which uses the currently existing weapons then there is no need to read further. I do hope that there is the possibility of reconstituting humanity. It can be done in two separate ways. One is dumb luck in which some people are just lucky enough to be somewhere where there is food supplies for many years already stored, and where there is a livable space. The second one, much like the first, is where some people have prepared food supplies for many years located where there is a livable space. This second option requires some expensive preparations, but most of all it requires something which humans are bereft of—forethought.
For example: What were Szilard, Einstein, Oppenheimer, and a long string of Nobel Laureates thinking about when they created these humanity exterminating weapons??? Was it that the world — at least their fellow countrymen for a short time in the future — would love them for being so very clever— or what? Surely these very smart people, if they had a tiny bit of foresight would have realized that they would be condemned forevermore after these things were actually used. Thus, if the smartest of people on earth lack enough forethought to foresee what their monstrous creations would bring about, then it is obvious that as a species humans are bereft of forethought.
What I am going to suggest is that we humans spend one thousandth, perhaps a millionth, as much on trying to save the human species as we have spent this last century in trying to destroy it. Is that too much? All of that vast expenditure of money was only to enforce “our” various local groups’ political will on some other groups, and generally not to destroy all other humans absolutely. But, this proposal for a life-haven is not to save any particular group but to save humanity itself. If it isn’t done before the nuclear war explodes, then only the first option above comes into play—dumb luck.
This idea of a life-haven seems like a good idea, but it probably can’t be financed by a government because that would require its being supported by the public. In order for the public to finance it they must be convinced that it is necessary, but before they can be convinced they must know the facts, and be aware of the ramifications. But, and here is the problem, if the smartest people in the world, to whom all of this information was presented, could not foresee the results of their actions, how can we expect the taxpayers to see them and to pay for it? Remember, half of all humans are below average in intelligence and most are not as well educated or informed as these super intelligent prize-winning heroes.
Rather than wail on from the point of view of the billions of people who will never live or who will live lives contaminated by these heroes’ work it seems more productive to try, and to propose some remedies. These ideas will no doubt be ridiculed because they are intended to help save not just some political ideal, but humanity itself.
What is needed is about ten life-havens, of about one thousand persons each, which are located in places remote from one another for redundancy. In the event of a world catastrophe each would be capable of reconstituting humanity without any contact with the others. Each one would be totally underground, and capable of being absolutely self sustaining for ten years without any contact with the surface.
What is needed to accomplish this modest proposal?
1. Ten thousand healthy volunteers per year to people the havens. These would be elected from ten thousand randomly selected population groups, each group being about ten million people. They should be married couples, with a child, to create as stable an environment in the life-haven as possible. These people would be rotated out at the end of their year, and replaced by another family which would be in for one year. Since there are about three hundred families there would be one new rotation approximately every day, so there would be as little disruption of activities as possible. When there is a good reason for a family to return to their homeland, such as severe sickness or other personal problem, then the whole family would be rotated out as a unit, and a new one brought in.
2. Because this is intended to be a haven for humanity there needs to be a trusted mix of people from all polities with access to the functioning of the cave. There must be proof positive that there is no military advantage to anyone who has any influence on the haven. This is for humanity’s survival, and not for any particular group’s advantage. Therefore, all people within the cave must have ready access to every detail of its operation, even the children. They may not manipulate whatever they find, since some of it may be technical, but they must be capable of exposing whatever they do find to the group at large for inspection, and public explanation.
3. The haven must be large and comfortable for all of its occupants, and because food must be created there needs to be large rooms with well illuminated areas for the crops to be grown, and for some animals to be kept. Much of this farm work could be done by hand or possibly electrically powered farm machinery could be specially developed. The occupants for the first several years might be made up of the construction specialists who transitioned over from the purely surface people working on the original surface driven construction work.
4. There must be a source of power to make this function totally independently underground, and that would probably have to be a nuclear reactor. Fortunately a lot of work has already been done on exactly the kind of reactor that would be needed. Ones that are self contained, and are very reliable are in constant use in submarines. There now exists fifty years of experience with these reactors so their functioning shouldn’t be a problem. Whatever secrecy that surrounds these reactors could probably be maintained because the access to them would be so very limited. This would certainly be the most peaceful thing that nuclear energy was ever used for so there shouldn’t be too much trouble in obtaining the necessary reactors. Perhaps they are already available in the form of retired submarine models.
5. Who would fund these life-havens, and how much would one cost, and how much to maintain? After they are in operation for ten years the out of pocket cost to the general public would be very small indeed—only the cost of the reactors’ power replacement. Also, after a year or so it might prove possible for them to be economically productive by offering safe storage of various things, computer records, and backups for example, and of course a gene, and seed bank. These are things for which it would be better suited than a surface structure. It is hard for me to estimate how much these things would cost as there are many variables, but a million dollars per person should be enough so it would cost about a billion dollars to build and populate one of these life-havens for the first year. The costs would drop rapidly after a few years, and might even turn to a profit. The second and third constructions would cost half as much, and the tenth one might only cost a hundred thousand dollars or less per person. Who would pay? Probably the first option would be to find people who are presently floating money on projects such as hotels in space because this is rather like that, only different in that it is in inner space rather than outer space.