You are the last person left on earth. What do you do?

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Samik
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Re: You are the last person left on earth. What do you do?

Postby Samik » Sat Dec 03, 2011 12:08 am UTC

I can't see sitting back and allowing sapience to possibly vanish from the universe as less reckless than WILLINGLY putting yourself through pain to try to preserve it.


Will there be pain for you? Oooh yeah. Does there exist a pretty good shot some of your kids will have brief and unpleasant lives? Yup.

Do the two above realities outweigh the survival of the species? I don't think so. Apparently you do. If we're operating from such drastically different perspectives, I don't know if we'll ever be able to come to common ground.

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Re: You are the last person left on earth. What do you do?

Postby Samik » Sat Dec 03, 2011 12:14 am UTC

Besides, even talking in this direction is getting off track.

We've been asking "would it be possible?", not "would it be reckless / unethical?"


EDIT: Well, "I've" been asking that, anyway. Not assuming anyone else gives a damn.

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Re: You are the last person left on earth. What do you do?

Postby Menacing Spike » Sat Dec 03, 2011 12:55 am UTC

Samik wrote:Not assuming anyone else gives a damn.


*throws some peanuts*

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Re: You are the last person left on earth. What do you do?

Postby EdgarJPublius » Sat Dec 03, 2011 6:13 am UTC

I'd agree with your plan to restart the human race Samik, since I do think that is an important goal. But I honestly think my 'freeze myself and wait for friendly aliens to show up' plan is more plausible, if only in a Dirk Gently-esque 'never discount the merely impossible' sort of way.
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Re: You are the last person left on earth. What do you do?

Postby Huojin » Sat Dec 03, 2011 10:16 am UTC

1. Find some chimpanzees.
2. Gene therapy to make them smarter.
3. Educate them.
4. PLANET OF THE APES.

Also, very definitely write about myself in some permanent way so that future generations and aliens and such know that I was the last human.

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Re: You are the last person left on earth. What do you do?

Postby Samik » Sat Dec 03, 2011 1:05 pm UTC

Huojin wrote:1. Find some chimpanzees.
2. Gene therapy to make them smarter.
3. Educate them.
4. PLANET OF THE APES.

Ah, screw it. I'm on board with this plan now.

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Re: You are the last person left on earth. What do you do?

Postby Jplus » Sat Dec 03, 2011 1:16 pm UTC

Samik wrote:(...) allowing sapience to possibly vanish from the universe (...)

Honestly, I don't think you need to worry about that. We're just one of the many.
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Re: You are the last person left on earth. What do you do?

Postby Samik » Sat Dec 03, 2011 1:31 pm UTC

Jplus wrote:Honestly, I don't think you need to worry about that. We're just one of the many.

I expect that you are almost certainly right.

But you don't know. You have no clue, whatsoever. No information to go on. No evidence. Complete and utter inability to even begin to make any progress towards answering that question.

So in the absence of any information of any kind, whatsoever, you've got to assume WYSIWYG.


Besides, even if you are almost positive that we're "one of many", it's a bit of a risk to take to just assume that, no? Awful big price to pay if you're wrong.


EdgarJPublius wrote:I'd agree with your plan to restart the human race Samik, since I do think that is an important goal. But I honestly think my 'freeze myself and wait for friendly aliens to show up' plan is more plausible, if only in a Dirk Gently-esque 'never discount the merely impossible' sort of way.


Also, for the reasons above, this doesn't really work for me, Edgar.

If I knew, as a fact, that there were other sapient life forms in the universe, I'd be a lot less stressed about letting humanity die out. It's the sapience itself I'm interested in preserving, more than our particular spin on it.

So freezing yourself accomplishes nothing, from my perspective; if there are aliens out there to ever find you, then it's unnecessary (unless you just want to see the future and meet aliens, which is fine), and if there aren't, then it won't do any good.

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Re: You are the last person left on earth. What do you do?

Postby Jplus » Sat Dec 03, 2011 1:54 pm UTC

Well... even on earth, I think we're just one of the many. Wait twenty million years after our extinction and there will be sapient octopuses. Or elephants. Or mantis shrimps. It's simply inevitable.

(Well, not all scenarios are equally likely of course. But still.)

I think that's also a reason why you don't need to feel responsible for sapience.
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Re: You are the last person left on earth. What do you do?

Postby Samik » Sat Dec 03, 2011 2:04 pm UTC

Jplus wrote:Well... even on earth, I think we're just one of the many. Wait twenty million years after our extinction and there will be sapient octopuses. Or elephants. Or mantis shrimps. It's simply inevitable.


Er. Ok, I have a few problems with this.


1.) It's not clear to me at all that sapience is something that is going to develop, naturally and inevitably, every few million years. It took us 4 billion years to get it the first time, and, even acknowledging that the planet wouldn't be starting from scratch this time around, you still have to consider that it took us several hundred millions years of high complexity life-forms, and a few fortuitous mass extinction events, before a system that worked was stumbled upon. It seems to me just as possible that another ecosystem would develop that was prohibitive to our replacement's development (i.e. Mesozoic).

2.) Going back to the whole debate I was having with Second Talon - why wait 20 million years when you can get things back up and running in 20,000 (at the absolute outside)?


EDIT: Corollary to both 1 and 2: If you're patient, and totally willing to wait out a few eras/eons to get things back up and running, and confident that major extinction events will periodically push the reset button and give gracile little prehensily-disposed critters another go, then... well, then you're counting on major-extinction-event-triggering catastrophes, which is, as a rule, a bad plan. It's only a matter of time until one of those hits us harder than we can readily weather. As it stands now, we have a reasonable expectations of spreading out a bit before the next one hits. Start setting us back 10, 20, 100 million years, and you're rolling the dice a few more times.

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Re: You are the last person left on earth. What do you do?

Postby PeteP » Sat Dec 03, 2011 3:07 pm UTC

Well see it this way, if everyone sapient dies, nobody cares because there is nobody left to care. So whatever I will just try to keep myself entertained till I die.
Though If I wanted to ensure that there are sapient beings left I would try to develop hard ai. Sure it's unlikely that I could do that alone(espescially since I have to provide my machines with electricity and myself with food), but it's not like the "turn yourself into a incubator" plan has very high success chances. And if I manage it and create sapient robots, well maybe they will one day honor my last request to them and clone a few humans.

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Re: You are the last person left on earth. What do you do?

Postby EdgarJPublius » Sat Dec 03, 2011 8:09 pm UTC

Samik wrote:
But you don't know. You have no clue, whatsoever. No information to go on. No evidence. Complete and utter inability to even begin to make any progress towards answering that question.

So in the absence of any information of any kind, whatsoever, you've got to assume WYSIWYG.
If I knew, as a fact, that there were other sapient life forms in the universe, I'd be a lot less stressed about letting humanity die out. It's the sapience itself I'm interested in preserving, more than our particular spin on it.


That's where Dirk Gently comes in. Relying on the existence of aliens is merely banking one something we don't know something about the universe, and we already know there's tons of stuff we don't know.
Whereas relying on one person, however ideal, to repopulate humanity doesn't leave much room around the edges, we have a pretty good idea about the levels of technology and expertise required, gestational periods etc. Even if you're fine with restarting from a more-or-less stone age level, you still have care and provide for all the kids until they're old enough to survive on their own. Oh yeah, and 50 individuals is an absurdly optimistic estimate for MVP, the median MVP for vertebrates is over 4,000 individuals. It just doesn't add up.

Personally, I think that if sapience is a unique and precious thing, then particular forms and flavors of sapience are also unique and precious and worth preserving.
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Re: You are the last person left on earth. What do you do?

Postby SecondTalon » Sun Dec 04, 2011 7:54 am UTC

Samik wrote:So in the absence of any information of any kind, whatsoever, you've got to assume WYSIWYG.
Based on evidence, we live in a universe that produces at least one intelligent species smart enough to question it's existence and create the Cheeto 100% of the time. Because we're here, and we made the Cheeto.

Ergo, given the size of the universe and that it has occurred with a 100% success rate, I can only conclude that there exists multiple alien species with puffed grain bits covered in a orange powder that vaguely tastes not entirely unlike something that's best described as Cheez.
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Re: You are the last person left on earth. What do you do?

Postby Samik » Sun Dec 04, 2011 12:45 pm UTC

EdgarJPublius wrote:Oh yeah, and 50 individuals is an absurdly optimistic estimate for MVP, the median MVP for vertebrates is over 4,000 individuals. It just doesn't add up.

The 50 number was not mine - it was from the Wikipedia article SecondTalon linked to.
SecondTalon wrote:Using this and being generous, we'll go with the 50 individuals needed.

It may or may not be 'absurdly optimistic', but I think 4,000 is completely off base for the kind of scenario I'm describing.

Again, in the you-wake-up-one-morning-and-everyone-is-just-gone scenario, it will be trivially easy to get a hold of as many supplies - clothes, fuel/generators, non-perishable goods, weapons/ammunition - that you care to ransack from any Walmart/Home Depot/etc. So most of the issues normally considered when calculating a minimum viable population do not apply.

Assuming a best case scenario (which, again, I completely admit I'm relying on here), the only concern is getting enough genetic diversity in the population before your supply of frozen gametes spoils. How many humans do you need to accomplish this?


Honestly, I don't have the slightest clue.

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Re: You are the last person left on earth. What do you do?

Postby Samik » Sun Dec 04, 2011 1:01 pm UTC

SecondTalon wrote:
Samik wrote:So in the absence of any information of any kind, whatsoever, you've got to assume WYSIWYG.
Based on evidence, we live in a universe that produces at least one intelligent species smart enough to question it's existence and create the Cheeto 100% of the time. Because we're here, and we made the Cheeto.

Ergo, given the size of the universe and that it has occurred with a 100% success rate, I can only conclude that there exists multiple alien species with puffed grain bits covered in a orange powder that vaguely tastes not entirely unlike something that's best described as Cheez.

It's been so long since I've read them that I can't quite tell if you're directly quoting Adams, or just responding in his style. Thus, I'm not sure if this is intended to be jokey, or accurately reflect your actual opinion. In any case, this argument boils down to:

a.) One "intelligent species smart enough to question it's existence and create the Cheeto" exists.
-----
∴ Others do too.


Ok, perhaps with implicit arguments, it looks more like this:

a.) One "intelligent species smart enough to question it's existence and create the cheeto" exists.
b.) "Space, is big. Really big. You just won't believe how vastly, hugely, mindbogglingly big it is. I mean, you may think it's a long way down the road to the chemist's, but that's just peanuts to space, listen..."
c.) Given 'b', anything that occurs once is certain to occur more than one.
-------
∴ More than one "intelligent species smart enough to question it's existence and create the cheeto" exists.


I'm.... not entirely convinced of the soundness of this argument :/




EDIT: Again, for the record, I expect you are absolutely right. Regardless of whether or not we ever get in touch with them, I expect that high complexity life is not a unique phenomenon in the universe. But my expectations are irrelevant. If you're not sure, it's an awful risky assumption to bank on, given what's at stake.

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Re: You are the last person left on earth. What do you do?

Postby EdgarJPublius » Sun Dec 04, 2011 8:32 pm UTC

Samik wrote:
EdgarJPublius wrote:Oh yeah, and 50 individuals is an absurdly optimistic estimate for MVP, the median MVP for vertebrates is over 4,000 individuals. It just doesn't add up.

The 50 number was not mine - it was from the Wikipedia article SexyTalon linked to.
SexyTalon wrote:Using this and being generous, we'll go with the 50 individuals needed.



The 50 number was actually an example, not a realistic MVP as far as I can tell.
4,000 is the estimated median MVP for all terrestrial vertebrates referenced later in the article. the main contributor seems to be genetic diversity, as the article indicates that estimated MVPs when ignoring inbreeding effects are typically in the 500-1000 range. To make use of this lower estimate in practice is definitely possible, but would require additional education regarding proper breeding practices to maximize genetic diversity for multiple generations.
The abstract of this paper specifically studying MVP for primates indicates a wide range of 'several score' individuals for small bodied primates to thousands or 'scores' of thousands for large bodied primate species. which would indicate that Human MVP is likely to be a lot closer to 4,000 than fifty.

But that's a big picture problem and I'm not convinced the plan is viable in the small scale either. Assuming that a child becomes capable of caring for itself at age 12, the survivor would have to care for and educate up to 16 children at a time, and oh yes, actively maintaining the frozen sperm to make sure they stay that way (remember, the ability of frozen gametes to survive additional freeze-thaw cycles is questionable, one power outage and whups, there goes the entire future of the human race) all while constantly pregnant.

Also consider that nutrient deficiency is going to be a significant concern during the pregnancies, surviving on preserved stores is not going to cut it when eating for two.

Reading the 'sperm shortage' section of the Wiki article on sperm donation, I'm also wondering how many donors may be represented at any given sperm bank. There's definitely wide variation in supply, and although there is trade between banks, I doubt maintaining a sufficiently diverse stock of donor samples in one convenient location is a driving concern. This is purely speculation, but a given bank may only have a few tens of unique samples on hand at any given time depending on local population and demand. If there isn't enough sperm locally to ensure a genetically viable population, the plan may be DOA. By the time you could reach another bank with additional unique samples, they'll be thawed and spoiled.

Edit:
Quick back of the envelope calculations with the help of google:
The article says that in 1980, before stricter laws were passed that greatly restricted the number of active donors, Sweden had ~200 donors
Swedens population in 1980 was 8,310,000. This works out to one donor per 42,000 people.

Here we see that New York state had 6 sperm banks, with a population of ~19 million, each bank serves a population of ~ 3,200,000. That works out to about 76 donors per bank. So, not as bad as I had thought.
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Re: You are the last person left on earth. What do you do?

Postby Samik » Sun Dec 04, 2011 9:43 pm UTC

All right, Edgar. I'm not presently in the mood to give your response the time it deserves.

I do have to point out, though, that there are instances of species recovering from an in-the-wild population of less than 4,000, less than 1,000, and even less than 500. Far less.

See here:
- Whooping Crane: "from 54 to 436 birds between 1967 and 2003."
- Red Wolf: "from 17 in 1980 to 257 in 2003."*
- Black Footed Ferret - "from 18 in 1986 to 600 in 2006."

I don't quite see at all any reason to believe that 4,000, 1,000, 500, or even 50 is an absolute, unarguable, logically unassailable lower bound a population needs in order to have enough genetic diversity to survive. Now one can argue that none of the species mentioned in that article have survived the requisite "100 to 1,000 years into the future" to qualify for "survival", but it does seem at least possible that one of them might, no? If they made it from 18 to 600, why is it not possible to go from 600 to 1,000, and so on?

*From the Red Wolf Article:

"Of the original 43 animals, only 17 were considered pure red wolves and since three were unable to breed, 14 became the breeding stock for the captive breeding program. These 14 were so closely related that they had the genetic effect of being only eight individuals."


(Emphasis mine.)





------------

EDIT:

Regarding some of the rest, I'm frankly beginning to wonder how many times I need to say that I admit the odds of my plan being pulled off are absurdly small. My only argument, at any point, has been that they are non-zero.

I'm arguing purely in principle here. As such, I'm totally justified in assuming best-case scenario for just about anything.

For example:

- The in/ability of the sole survivor to rig up a system that provides power to her lab/facility is fair game...
- but the chances of there being an unexpectable and unavoidable power outage (due to flood, tornado, whatever disaster) is irrelevant. Since I'm arguing in principle, I'm totally justified in ignoring such possibilities.

Or:

- Questions about our heroine's practical ability to perform implantations on herself are fair game.
- Worries about childbirth complications are utterly irrelevant - I'm totally justified in assuming that each birth will go smoothly.



At no point have I ever claimed that the plan would succeed even once in 10,000 tries. My position was merely that if you found yourself as the last person left alive on earth, and didn't simply want to go on a few joyrides and accept the end (and, of course, you satisfied the conditions outlined in this post) that you might as well give it a go. Everyone else so far has seemed to agree that I am wrong, and that it is logically, fundamentally impossible, and any attempt would be so reckless as to be less justifiable than just giving up.

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Re: You are the last person left on earth. What do you do?

Postby Soralin » Mon Dec 05, 2011 1:03 am UTC

I've always thought the minimum viable population was a little odd. Although keep in mind it's meant to be statistical, not some sort of absolute law. Species have recovered from less.

As for genetic diversity, there are some species of fish and lizards that are asexual, meaning they essentially have a genetic diversity equivalent to 1 animal, and yet they're surviving.

And in addition to that, it doesn't seem like there should be a single universal MVP for all species, some species might be able to more readily recover from smaller numbers. Not to mention their environment. I would expect rabbits in present-day North America to have a higher MVP than those same rabbits placed into present-day Australia would have, for example.

MVP for humans in a city filled with workable technology and warehouses of non-perishable foodstuffs may be quite low indeed.

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Re: You are the last person left on earth. What do you do?

Postby Samik » Mon Dec 05, 2011 1:21 am UTC

Soralin - I absolutely agree. It took me a little while to put my finger on exactly where I think the discrepancy is, but after thinking about it, this is what I figure:


MVP, near as I can discern, imagines a population in the wild, where each member is free to roam as much territory as it pleases, and mate with whomsoever it pleases. Thus, ideal pairings may not always occur, pairings may not occur at anything like maximum frequency, and there will even, more than likely, be considerable violent competition between members of the same species for mates/resources. As such, the number of individuals required to ensure sufficient genetic diversity in such an unregulated system would be far higher than the number necessary in a strictly regulated breeding program.

Multiply the above by factors such as natural disaster, illness, etc., and you end up with your estimates running into the thousands to get a population that has a reasonable chance of weathering every hardship it will face.


As demonstrated by the efforts undertaken by the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service with respect to the Red Wolf, where significant progress has been made from a beginning stock of 14 animals (not pairs - animals), I think there is reason to believe that, while genetic diversity is important, we are greatly misapplying the concept of Minimum Viable Population within this thread.


EDIT:

(Warning: really shoddy middle school bio being dredged up to the surface here. Please, by all means, correct me mercilessly here if I'm way off.)

Further, IIRC, inbreeding isn't, in and of itself, some horrible destructive force. It doesn't automatically introduce instabilities into the genome that aren't already present - it (as I understand it) primarily increases the odds of pre-existing deleterious recessives being passed on.

I.E. if the prevalence of deleterious recessive 'a' is 1% in the population, and you know as a fact that one of your breeders has the recessive, and you pluck the other breeder at random from the population, then the odds of their first child being a carrier are 1 x 0.01 x 0.5= 0.005, and the odds of the child manifesting are 1 x 0.01 x 0.25 = 0.0025.

But if you know as a fact that one of your breeders has the trait, and you select your other breeder from a population with a lot of genetic crossover with your first breeder, while the punnett square odds don't change, the odds of your second breeder also being a carrier are probably higher than 1%. Maybe much higher, depending on how closely related they are.

I'd guess there's probably more to it than this - off the top of my head, I would guess having a very low amount of genetic diversity increases the odds of some single disease coming in and wreaking righteous vengeance on your population.

And that's no small concern for the hypothetical heroine in my scenario, I admit (and not one that I can readily hand-wave away with the "best case scenario" argument either, as illness is probably pretty close to a 100% certainty at some point or another). I have no idea how long anti-biotics, vaccines, etc. could be readily preserved; I wouldn't think pills in a vacuum sealed bottle would have an expiration date, but vaccines would probably have the same preservation problems as the gametes.

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Re: You are the last person left on earth. What do you do?

Postby Daric » Wed Dec 07, 2011 7:06 pm UTC

My immediate reaction would probably be panic, fear, climbing a tall building. Not sure if I'd get as far as suicide. But to be honest I'm not terribly capable of looking after myself as it is, let alone with the whole world in tatters. If the Internet perpetually worked, that would probably be a different story, since it helps with ignorance up to a point.

For the sake of argument, if I were to a) grow a pair and b) stomach the bodies, I imagine I'd probably scour the country for other survivors. There won't be any, but I won't know that. The motorways will be littered with cars, so instead of filling up on petrol (not passed my test yet, so don't know how), I'd skip from car to car. I wouldn't go near firearms, because first of all, being English, they'd be relatively difficult to find, and also I don't know the first thing about them, so am more likely to hurt myself. I like to think I'd find a major city, like London or Manchester, and find an apartment - somewhere high up. If I could train and keep a dog, do that. Stay indoors at night - wander around during the day.

I'd have hopefully learnt rudimentary ways to generate some power during the, what, week/ten day timelimit. If I managed to do that I imagine I'd go slowly, comfortably insane, together with my dog and the series of DVDs I'd watch during the night, and the music I'd listen to during the day as I wander, looking for others. I hoard stuff, so the apartment will be pretty much full, and I'd burn paper during the winter. When I get bored/tired/suicidal, or know I'm on the way out, I'll unblock the door for the sake of the dog, open a window, and jump. I visited Manchester recently, and I've got my building picked out, should this ever happen.

More likely, I'll immediately panic and die. But the other scenario is more attractive.

The next day there will undoubtedly be a news story about the whole thing having been cooked up by Oscar Wilde's relatives, or Stephen Volk.

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Re: You are the last person left on earth. What do you do?

Postby Paradoxine » Wed Dec 07, 2011 8:08 pm UTC

I've thought about this long and hard, for a very long time. One thing that we're going to assume is that the bodies don't decay.

First of all, If I just woke up one day and everyone was dead, I'd most probably do the same thing's I usually would, I'm not a very emotional person at the best of times, so, upon calling 999 to get help and receiving no answer, I'd probably venture outside and scope thing's out a bit. Most likely, there would be at least some people lying outside, depending on the time I got up. I imagine thing's would seem much clearer at that point. I'd go to my friends houses, breaking in if need be, on the journey the picture probably would have looked steadily worse and doing such a thing wouldn't be so remarkable given the circumstances. I'd probably sit with each of my friends, or hell, even the people I used to just know, but didn't talk to, for a while, sort of just reminiscing. I think I'd spent the most time with the people who I really wanted to know, but couldn't, due to either me or them. I really do mean just sitting with them. It'd help calm my nerves I'd think.

After that, the whole mourning business was over, I'd probably think about supplies, ergo either raiding a local supermarket, or what have you. After one nights sleep, I'd probably travel around a bit, and I don't mean locally, I mean dozens, maybe hundreds of miles, It's something I've always wanted to do. I'd take some spare battery packs, a charger and my mp3 player, to listen to the songs of now dead artists.

There would be no worries, I'd scavenge what I needed or wanted on the way, If I wanted to stay in a £1M house I would. If I just wanted to camp it out overnight I would. I wouldn't worry about supplies. Eventually, I'd have to make a decision. I'd have to locate or build a farm, or else find some other way of self-sufficiency. Luckily for me, I've been pondering suicide for a very, very long time now. I imagine I wouldn't have any problems with the decision, whichever one it was. After-all, I would have, figuratively speaking, all the time in the world.

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Re: You are the last person left on earth. What do you do?

Postby EdgarJPublius » Wed Dec 07, 2011 10:47 pm UTC

Samik wrote:
MVP, near as I can discern, imagines a population in the wild<... etc>


Basically, yes. MVP estimates typically include environmental and genetic factors, but do not consider outside intervention such as structured breeding programs etc. As such, MVP estimates are not a cut-off below which a population cannot be saved, but give conservationists and breeders a target for a population level they need to work up to for the species to have a strong chance at survival in the wild.



Further, IIRC, inbreeding isn't, in and of itself, some horrible destructive force. It doesn't automatically introduce instabilities into the genome that aren't already present - it (as I understand it) primarily increases the odds of pre-existing deleterious recessives being passed on.


In the short term, say a few generations, yes. Even closely related pairings such as siblings or parent-child have only a relatively minor increased chance of problems (well, still a significant increase over normal, but really only a few percentage points). However, over the long term the 'effective' population (with regards to genetic diversity) doesn't grow in proportion to the real population, and can even shrink or remain stable in some cases where the real population continues to grow.
An extreme example, Charles II of Spain was the child of an uncle-niece pairing which would normally not be much riskier than a pairing from the general population. However, his lineage traced back four generations to only five individuals who themselves were already highly inbred, having had only three 'outsiders' marry into the family since the pairing of Philip of Castille and Joanne (not that there wasn't inbreeding before the pairing, or that the three outsiders weren't also the product of inbred royal families to various degrees) This is known as Pedigree collapse, and while manageable and even expected in large populations, becomes an increasing problem in smaller populations. Charles II's parents were more similar genetically than two average siblings would be.

Royal families make good references for this kind of thing in Humans as they documented everything much better than other cases where inbreeding may occur (such as small, isolated communities). Many royal families died out not because of war or revolution, but because of genetic complications and infertility caused by severe pedigree collapse. Charles II was an edge case (not only infertile, but suffering at least two distinct and rare genetic defects), but pedigree collapse of that or lesser degree can still cause serious problems for the long term survival of the population, such as infertility, genetic defects, or susceptibility to outside diseases.

For the Human re-population problem, we can think of this in two steps. The environmental MVP, disregarding genetic effects, is generally much smaller than MVP estimates that include genetic effects, typically on the order of a few hundreds rather than in the thousands for genetic MVP.

Under ideal conditions, the environmental MVP for humans may well be in the range of fifty to the low hundreds to ensure that a single disease or other disaster doesn't wipe out the entire population and that there are enough breeding pairs that the population can sustain itself.

This already seems pretty edgy though, carrying fifty children to term is just about doable in a reproductive lifetime, however, putting a 21 year limit on gamete viability only gets you to about 25-28 children and failures (which will happen, IIRC between 20-40 percent of the time) will eat into that. You have to consider the problem of caring for that number of children while constantly pregnant (even under the most ideal circumstances, you can't just squirt the kids out and let them fend for themselves) especially early in the process when there aren't any older children to help out.

Once you have a population that can survive the environment, you still need one that can survive the genetics. That means education, even if only in good breeding practices to ensure that the effective genetic population grows fast enough to reach a sustainable level. I'm not really sure how you would establish a breeding program that will need to last many generations without supervision. I'm not sure a few hard and fast rules will cut it with such a small starting population, and anything more complicated is likely to be corrupted and/or ignored over time. You've got the beginnings of a pretty good religion going (a pretty obvious mother/goddess figure) which may provide a good working model, but again,t he devil is in the details. My understanding is that most breeding programs have to be pretty tightly controlled and well planned, which isn't practical/possible here.
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Re: You are the last person left on earth. What do you do?

Postby edgey » Sun Dec 11, 2011 4:11 pm UTC

What strikes me about this thread is the huge number of people that want to "learn to fly an airplane from a book".

The future of humanity relies on a guy that's probably going to kill himself 10 minutes after finding the nearest airfield. :)

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Re: You are the last person left on earth. What do you do?

Postby Chen » Mon Dec 12, 2011 1:22 pm UTC

edgey wrote:What strikes me about this thread is the huge number of people that want to "learn to fly an airplane from a book".

The future of humanity relies on a guy that's probably going to kill himself 10 minutes after finding the nearest airfield. :)


Humanity is already almost certainly doomed if there's 1 person left. Might as well have fun while you survive.

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Re: You are the last person left on earth. What do you do?

Postby Menacing Spike » Mon Dec 12, 2011 1:37 pm UTC

edgey wrote:guy that's probably going to kill himself 10 minutes


Because drawing it out is a totally good idea.

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Re: You are the last person left on earth. What do you do?

Postby astrekmaster » Tue Dec 25, 2012 4:53 am UTC

I second the airplane: at least you'd have fun crashing it.
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Re: You are the last person left on earth. What do you do?

Postby thalia » Tue Dec 25, 2012 5:45 pm UTC

I'd artificially inseminate myself.

No joke. I'd try to bloody well repopulate. There are eggs stored, there are sperm banks available. It doesn't have to be inbreeding.

Also, I'd dress really nice.
And keep a log. I'd log it "I am Legend"-style.
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Re: You are the last person left on earth. What do you do?

Postby SecondTalon » Wed Dec 26, 2012 3:56 am UTC

From what I understand, a viable breeding population is in the hundreds. By my count, if on your 20th birthday you knocked yourself up, and you remained fertile to 50, that's 40 pregnancies at 9 month intervals.

So, to just start hitting the "hundreds" number, you'd need to carry 5 babies per pregnancy. Even a more conservative and flat 100 would require 2-3 per.

I.. uh.. just don't see one person doing that successfully alone for several (10+) years, then with moderately trained assistance for the remainder.
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Re: You are the last person left on earth. What do you do?

Postby Magnanimous » Wed Dec 26, 2012 4:27 am UTC

I think you'd have a better chance with making sure apes (notably chimpanzees) are going to survive whatever apocalypse happened, since they're already somewhat close to the levels of homo erectus and it'd be only a matter of time before they rebuild civilization.

And it would be cool to have a Foundation-type thing for the new caretakers of Earth, but that'd be way too hard for one person... At the very least, I'd hope to make sure a backup of Wikipedia survives. Just saving a hard drive wouldn't work for a lot of reasons, but it's not infeasible to print out everything if you have a city's worth of resources to yourself. Then you'd need to make some sort of Rosetta Stone so homo sapiens 2 sapiens harder can learn English, which would be a lot harder.

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Re: You are the last person left on earth. What do you do?

Postby astrekmaster » Wed Dec 26, 2012 5:08 am UTC

Magnanimous wrote:Then you'd need to make some sort of Rosetta Stone so homo sapiens 2 sapiens harder can learn English, which would be a lot harder.

A Rosetta Stone idea might work, but then there's the challenge of devising a way to teach the Chimpanzees some form of language first*. If you taught them sign language and all goes well, the Chimp might teach it to other Chimps, who might then spread it to every other other Chimpanzee. A quick search reveals that this has happened at least once before.

*I have no idea how to go about doing this.
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Re: You are the last person left on earth. What do you do?

Postby You, sir, name? » Wed Dec 26, 2012 2:29 pm UTC

Huojin wrote:1. Find some chimpanzees.
2. Gene therapy to make them smarter.
3. Educate them.
4. PLANET OF THE APES.

Also, very definitely write about myself in some permanent way so that future generations and aliens and such know that I was the last human.


Dude. Not chimpanzees. Whatever you do, don't use chimpanzees. They're serious douche bags.

Use bonobos instead.
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Re: You are the last person left on earth. What do you do?

Postby Noc » Wed Dec 26, 2012 3:56 pm UTC

SecondTalon wrote:From what I understand, a viable breeding population is in the hundreds. By my count, if on your 20th birthday you knocked yourself up, and you remained fertile to 50, that's 40 pregnancies at 9 month intervals.

So, to just start hitting the "hundreds" number, you'd need to carry 5 babies per pregnancy. Even a more conservative and flat 100 would require 2-3 per.

I.. uh.. just don't see one person doing that successfully alone for several (10+) years, then with moderately trained assistance for the remainder.

The way I understand it, the issue is one of genetic diversity -- and if her descendants artificially inseminated themselves as well (instead of breeding with each other) then the diversity would increase with each generation. It'd still be something of a bottleneck, but if all goes well I don't see why the people of Thaliatopia couldn't eventually become a viable and diverse population a few generations down the line.
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Re: You are the last person left on earth. What do you do?

Postby SecondTalon » Wed Dec 26, 2012 4:03 pm UTC

But that will depend on human eggs and sperm remaining viable for decades. Near as I can tell, even with animals there's simply not been enough time to know if it'll last more than 60 years or so.

I mean, you are correct in that I did not consider the offspring continuing the artificial insemination program which will greatly increase the numbers, but that depends on several factors.

1. Power remains uninterrupted to the freezing facilities.
2. The facilities are in geographic proximity to one another so that one person can monitor them.
3. The person in question has the knowledge to properly run all aspects of both egg and sperm storage facilities, and of the implantation process and is able to do them to herself.
4. The implantation process works predictably.
5. There are no complications in the pregnancy and birthing process
6. The skills needed can be taught without the rest of the educational infrastructure


The first one is going to be the hardest one. The most likely is that it's run via nuclear power, and the person knows how to run a nuclear power plant.

How many fertility specialist doctors who run sperm/egg storage clinics are there who also work in nuclear power on the side?
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Re: You are the last person left on earth. What do you do?

Postby thorgold » Wed Dec 26, 2012 5:47 pm UTC

So, last one left, eh?

Turns off the lights.
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Re: You are the last person left on earth. What do you do?

Postby thalia » Wed Dec 26, 2012 10:06 pm UTC

SecondTalon wrote:From what I understand, a viable breeding population is in the hundreds. By my count, if on your 20th birthday you knocked yourself up, and you remained fertile to 50, that's 40 pregnancies at 9 month intervals.

So, to just start hitting the "hundreds" number, you'd need to carry 5 babies per pregnancy. Even a more conservative and flat 100 would require 2-3 per.

I.. uh.. just don't see one person doing that successfully alone for several (10+) years, then with moderately trained assistance for the remainder.



Well sure, what you're saying is valid.

But you could ensure you only got females. They could carry babies at 15 onwards, or 14 being a bit... you know... GoT-esque..

Just because something might fail, doesn't mean I wouldn't try.
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Re: You are the last person left on earth. What do you do?

Postby Ivora » Thu Dec 27, 2012 1:51 am UTC

first i would panic.... where did everyone go?

then as the hours progressed i would try and determine if this was some government conspiracy or prank. eventually i come to realize that i am alone and everyone i know is gone.... which would lead to nude extravagant chaos on my part.

i would probably die not long after that. 8-)

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Re: You are the last person left on earth. What do you do?

Postby Jave D » Thu Dec 27, 2012 3:18 am UTC

I drive around all the neighborhoods and open all the doors so the pet cats and dogs can get outside.

After a while I get depressed, relapse, overdose and die.

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Re: You are the last person left on earth. What do you do?

Postby Bloopy » Wed Jan 09, 2013 3:00 am UTC

I'd find something like a snow plough or grader and try to clear some roads (assuming there are crashed vehicles of the people who happened to be driving when they dropped dead). I'd try to find some houses that run on solar + wind power, and hope that I could keep enough freezers running to store food for a lifetime. I would reluctantly start to learn gardening. I'd raid supermarkets, clothing stores and pharmacies.

Once I've got the necessities sorted out, the world is my playground.

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Re: You are the last person left on earth. What do you do?

Postby teelo » Wed Jan 09, 2013 10:22 am UTC

Cry.

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Re: You are the last person left on earth. What do you do?

Postby jobriath » Wed Jan 09, 2013 11:09 am UTC

Refit my go-bag. Raid supermarket for food and batteries. Raid hardware store for tools and gardening gear. Feed cats, explain to them what has happened. Cuddle cats.

Wonder if local police station has guns. Find out if local police station has guns. Practice. No sense not being dangerous.

Steal the neighbours' photovoltaic panels by kludge electricianing, at night. If internet's still running, download wikipedia and search for guides suggesting what to do in just this situation.

Someone else's idea of adopting dogs sounds good. The place is going to be lousy with feral dogs, and I want allies who can speak Dog, with a heavy Badass accent.

Plan for a relocation to the countryside. Probably the Lake District, since come on, it's the motherfucking Lake District, weather be damned. In the meantime, scout out potential farms, and make sure the animals aren't in any distress so I can adopt them.

Lament lack of womb. Should have got one when I had the chance.

Consider this question at much greater length!

Fun topic.


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