What would happen if an asteroid struck our planet and left a handful of people to restart civilisation? Or if you and few people washed up on an uninhabited island with nothing but the shirt on your back? Many would picture building huts, scavenging for food, starting some basic crops if possible. But that would be it, the limit. You wouldn’t comprehend completely rebuilding civilisation and luxuries available as they are today. But I do, I’m curious, what would it take? If all you could take with you was a book, what would be written in that book, what does the Civilisation Manual say?
Whenever there is talk of civilisation it seems that all you hear is philosophy, but seldom the practicality of achieving it. I assert that the creation of such a Civilisation Manual would be a useful undertaking, not so much for its hypothetical uses, but rather for the ability to teach how modern economies work. I believe that such a book should be able to contain all, if not more, information taught to children in a school. Such a book might be very large.
There would also be additional questions to be said of the hypothetical end of the world scenario. How long would it take
to rebuild a civilisation to current day technology? What tools would most quickly speed up the process? Is there a minimum amount of people required for this to work? What level of intelligence is required to execute? Just one genius? How long until the female primeval desire for shopping is satisfied? And the perfect shoe manufactured?
I would love to see a community website started to collect such information. We already have Wikipedia, but you are not told the intimate detail of how to find iron ore, how to cast iron, how to produce flour from wheat or how to build a crude resistor or capacitor to help you make more refined components. It is this knowledge which is hard to find, perhaps we are forgetting how we build a digital civilisation.
Also, given the opportunity to build a civilisation from scratch, there may be some interesting ideas which could be included, never encountered in history before. For example, the book could focus on automation, relieving the humans from hard and repetitive tasks. This could go even further than what is achieved today. In 10 years, perhaps robots will be washing and ironing clothes, cooking meals, etc..
What a Civilisation Manual should NOT contain:
- References to Gilligan’s Island
- Everything – put in the most useful and if you have time add more.
What a Civilisation Manual should contain:
- Very brief justifications of suggestions – it’s not a history book, it’s a survival book. It’s good to reassure the reader of the thought which goes into each of the suggestions in the book. Such as, if X happens to a person, cut their leg off. Briefly describing blood poisoning might be more reassuring.
- Tried and tested procedures and instructions – can a 10-year-old kid work it out, or does it require an academic professor? and do you replace the palm frond roof monthly or yearly?
- Many appendices:
- A roadmap to digital civilisation – showing a tree of pre-requisite steps and sections on achieving each of the steps.
- Recipes – Particularly useful when all you’ve got is coconuts and fish. How do you clean a fish?
- Inter-language Dictionary – who knows who you’ll be with.
- Plant Encyclopaedia – Identification of and uses for plants.
- Animal Encyclopaedia – Do I cuddle the bear?
- Health Encyclopaedia – How do I deliver the baby?
And an example of chapters:
Something like “Don’t panic, breathe… you took the right book, in 5 years you’ll have a coffee machine again”
- Chapter 1: Basic Needs – You’ll find out about these first, food, water, shelter.
- Chapter 2: Politics and Planning – Several solutions for governing the group should be provided to choose from, a bit like a glossy political catalogue. It won’t contain things like Dictatorship, Monarchy. More like Set Leader, Rotating Leader or The Civilisation Manual is our leader. Planning will mostly be pre-worked in the appendix, where technology succession is described with expected timelines for each item.
- Chapter 3: Power – No not electricity, power. This section explains its importance and how to harness power, from wind/water for milling to animals for plowing. Of course the progression of civilisation would eventually lead to electricity.
- Ancient Worlds: The Search for the Origins of Western Civilization by Richard Miles review (guardian.co.uk)
- Traces of ancient civilisation found in Chinese desert (news.bioscholar.com)
- When Your Hut’s On Fire – A New E-Mail Via My Eldest Daughter (terri0729.wordpress.com)