William Grassie has a fuzzy-headed far view on surviving catastrophe: Imagine a major planetary catastrophe, … something in the order of the Mt. Toba supervolcano … some 73,000 years ago. … Humanity was reduced to some 1000-to-10,000 breeding pairs. … One of the thirty or so supervolcanos … is the Yellowstone Basin. … The United States disappears in the course of a few days. … The survivors would be reduced to subsistence farming, gathering, hunting, and fishing in areas around the earth’s equator. … Let’s say that humanity is again reduced to some 10,000 breeding pairs. …
Sure, one can always melt it down to make arrowheads.
We should write such book "Guide to re-building civilization" and print it on hard metal.Its expected utility would be high.
Maslow's "Hierarchy of Needs" requires survival needs be met first. This "one book" will be immensely useful to THEIR FUTURE generations. Will it be written in sanscript and preserved in pyramids?
Why save humanity?
How about something about the power of evolution, the trinity: Dennett, Dawkins, Darwin?
Knowing humanity, I would choose Sun Tzu.
OUR FOOD SYSTEM IS BROKEN we therefore must LOCALIZE .I only want to eat local SPRING MIX (arrugulllaaa) must gut pigg friend within 100 miles of place of birth .grain crop suckee time to look for long pig.amaranth and quinona will save us .no use evil petrol. we grow with gia. wimmen eating beans make babys.(in rome)must ; must get;CLUE
If you're going to criticize every Internet personality who makes up wise-sounding gibberish, you'll have to write an awful lot of blog posts.
Maps of Time is a good book. It isn't a guide to repopulate the planet though.
Humanity has passed the point of, I will call it, "possible retrogression" some 50 years ago. With all nuclear weapons, nuclear power plants and chemical factories such catastrophe would mean the end of every higher live on the earth.
Can you craft a religious text that meets the religious needs of ordinary pre-modern folk that does not contradict the tenets held sacred by overcomingbias readers?
A fascinating idea. I think that this is possible -- especially given the modern knowledge of dramatic/mythical structure, effective narrative, heuristics and biases and social engineering.
Actually, when constructed correctly, the book might become the ultimate religious text that consistently wins against independently-arising rival religions due to the fact that it is founded on real-world knowledge inaccessible to rival authors, and its "spread" and "stickiness" will be significantly boosted by the fact that the book will give real, tangible, real-world advantages to those who read and follow it.
This issue is explored in the classic--it's hard to use the term unironically, but it fits--science fiction novel, Earth Abides (George Stewart, 1949). It describes the slow decay of the old civilization--the gradual forgetting of existing technologies, and the gradual rediscovery of forgotten technologies--after a plague that had killed perhaps 99.9% of the population.
This was my first thought, too. I can't think of a more useful book if there were a disaster that brought survivors back to the subsistance level.
I've long been fascinated by the challenge of bootstrapping society — and the question of what tight cannon of books might help — and I agree that Grassie's answer is terribly disappointing. He transparently wants to replace "outdated" religious cosmologies with the New Cosmology, which has very little to do with economic growth.
I think we can agree, per point 1, that well-chosen stockpiles could make the difference between survival and extinction — so they are vital — but they don't directly address the issue of advancing beyond hunting and gathering.
I think points 2 and 3 are soundly refuted by the Bible, Koran, etc. Many, many people have learned to read specifically to read one religious text, and many, many households throughout history owned exactly one book, that religious text. (For a time, I believe, millions of American households owned two books: the Bible and Ben Hur.)
Would we want to craft our bootstrapping text as a religious text? That's an interesting question that raises an even more interesting question: Can you craft a religious text that meets the religious needs of ordinary pre-modern folk that does not contradict the tenets held sacred by overcomingbias readers?
As for point 4, would books full of successful folkways, like the Foxfire books, retain any value after a generation? Again, we certainly want to see humanity survive in the first place, but would such books help beyond that? Would they even be a force for retaining literacy, once everyone in that society had been raised using such practical skills on a daily basis?
I don't know if there is a book with this stuff in it now, but I think this kind of knowledge is most important:
Basic medical/physiological knowledge: esp. the germ theory of disease.
As Robin says, knowledge about food production etc.: farmer's almanac? (I don't know what that is but it sounds like the kind of thing I'm thinking about.) Can I stick packets of seeds in the book?
How to make paper, blow glass, basic chemistry/metallurgy, horse training, etc. The basic trades from 1000 AD. Less that 1/10,000 people know how to do these things, and it would take a damn long time to figure them out again.
A special section devoted to electricity: won't be useful for a while, but electricity is the single most important element in increasing the standard of living. (Most of the work accomplished in 1850 AD was accomplished in the same way it was accomplished in 50 AD and in 1000 BC: muscle.)
The existence of libraries should pretty much guarantee our knowledge wouldn’t be lost. As long as the books aren’t burned for heat.
As long as the roof stays on the building and the windows remain unbroken. And the critters stay out of the building and don't use the books for nesting material.
A building without someone maintaining it has a very short life. If civilization goes 'phht' I give an untended collection of books about five years before they're gone.
How else could he imagine that a few ragged survivors desperate to avoid extinction should spend a big chunk of their time reminding themselves of just how glorious were we, their ancestors?
I'd spend a few minutes a day - before I dropped into an exhausted sleep for a few hours - cussing my ancestors for not having the foresight to plant civilization in space before the Big Blow Up.