The Knowledge

The Knowledge

How to Rebuild Our World From Scratch

Book - 2014
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How would you go about rebuilding a technological society from scratch?

If our technological society collapsed tomorrow what would be the one book you would want to press into the hands of the postapocalyptic survivors? What crucial knowledge would they need to survive in the immediate aftermath and to rebuild civilization as quickly as possible?

Human knowledge is collective, distributed across the population. It has built on itself for centuries, becoming vast and increasingly specialized. Most of us are ignorant about the fundamental principles of the civilization that supports us, happily utilizing the latest--or even the most basic--technology without having the slightest idea of why it works or how it came to be. If you had to go back to absolute basics, like some sort of postcataclysmic Robinson Crusoe, would you know how to re-create an internal combustion engine, put together a microscope, get metals out of rock, or even how to produce food for yourself?

Lewis Dartnell proposes that the key to preserving civilization in an apocalyptic scenario is to provide a quickstart guide, adapted to cataclysmic circumstances. The Knowledge describes many of the modern technologies we employ, but first it explains the fundamentals upon which they are built. Every piece of technology rests on an enormous support network of other technologies, all interlinked and mutually dependent. You can't hope to build a radio, for example, without understanding how to acquire the raw materials it requires, as well as generate the electricity needed to run it. But Dartnell doesn't just provide specific information for starting over; he also reveals the greatest invention of them all--the phenomenal knowledge-generating machine that is the scientific method itself.

The Knowledge is a brilliantly original guide to the fundamentals of science and how it built our modern world.

Publisher: New York :, The Penguin Press,, 2014.
ISBN: 9780143127048
Branch Call Number: 500 Dartnell 04/2014
Characteristics: 340 pages :,illustrations ;,25 cm


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Sep 09, 2020

I have often thought about this very subject and the author makes a good point about focusing on the building blocks of knowledge that will lead to further discoveries and/or leapfrog the recovery of civilization after a cataclysm. However, it takes him 34 pages to get beyond that point to discuss basic fire and the book is woefully lacking in usable illustrations. If you take notes of things you didn't know or, more importantly, think you could reproduce as you read this, you may be surprised how little practical substance there is. It serves as a good overview with pointers about what to research further though.

Dec 03, 2019

At least there is no chapter on guns and other weapons, unlike other prepper type works. Like them, however it too is missing from the work that is most shocking: nothing on therapy (a catastrophic event would be shocking to all psychologically normal people, including those in one's own in-group), in-group conflict resolution, negotiation (he does many times suggest that some things be oversupplied to be used for trade or barter), diplomacy (how is one to have relations with out-groups (apart from preparing to shoot them)?), and economics (if you have all these tools and some labour resources in the in-group, how are you going to decide to use them efficiently?). The bibliography and the book's website are thorough and helpful.

Jan 29, 2019

This is an overview of the technologies and processes that would need to be re-mastered in order to rebuild from the crash of civilization. It's very much a survey as if it went into detail on every one of the requirements it would likely be too heavy for one person to lift. Though as I recall there's a large bibliography. It also handily sets out how the remaining tech (if there is any) can be used to keep things rolling along while technological civilization is being rebooted. I think this one should be printed on acid-free, archival-grade paper, possibly in some kind of container.

Jun 15, 2015

This is a fascinating survey of technological development over the centuries, making clear how discoveries and inventions have built on themselves in layers, leading to ever-expanding uses of materials. It also purports to be a "how-to" guide to re-starting technological development after the crash of civilization. It certainly wouldn't hurt to have this book around...maybe it should be produced with a catastrophe-proof cover.

srmechs May 02, 2014

A primer of how survivors of destruction of our contemporary world could work toward a possible future. I'd recommend it as a handbook for practically everyone. In the meantime, I found it extremely interesting as well a well written.


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