David Brin on the rise and fall of civilization (and selling out our children)
By David Brin
Heck, if our ancestors could stand up and save the Enlightenment during their crises… so can we.
Then take a look at Niall Ferguson’s new book Civilization: The West and the Rest. Ferguson appraises some of the reasons that civilizations fail, a topic that Jared Diamond surveyed (with a bit too obsessive a focus only on environmental causes) in Collapse: How Societies Choose to Fail or Succeed… and that I take a Big Perspective on, in my next novel, Existence.
In his article, Western Civilization:Decline or Fall?, Ferguson describes how he sees our way out of a “decline of the west:”
“What we need to do is to delete the viruses that have crept into our system: the anti-competitive quasi monopolies that blight everything from banking to public education; the politically correct pseudosciences and soft subjects that deflect good students away from hard science; the lobbyists who subvert the rule of law for the sake of the special interests they represent—to say nothing of our crazily dysfunctional system of health care, our overleveraged personal finances, and our newfound unemployment ethic.”
The founder, Marchin Jabukowski (TED Senior Fellow) is a Physics Ph.D., who dropped out to work on this project. His orientation is post-scarcity society rather than disaster, but if one were wanting to create a generalized resiliency rather than prepare for specific movie scenario plots, it would be a good place to start. See his TED talk: Open Sourced Blueprints for Civilization.
And now, Open Source Ecology is teaming with WikiSpeed to build an open source, modular, configurable car with high fuel efficiency that meets U.S. safety standards.
Seems related to a TV series I was pitching for some years, to start with contestants wearing loin cloths in the desert, challenge them to make stone tools, then leather, and eventually smelt metal, etc. The show? REBUILD EVERYTHING! Picture “Survivor” meets “The 1900 House” meets “Junkyard Wars”… then throw in lots of fascinating Discovery Channel riffs… along with a dash of “The Flintstones”. Include some tasty inter-tribal rivalry, and add a sensation that viewers are actually learning something of value, becoming a little more capable and knowing about their own culture.
In the ultimate challenge, competitive teams race each other, starting from scratch to rebuild civilization! Instead of just surviving, they must chip flint, make spears and arrows and traps, stitch clothing from hides (no animals will be killed directly by the show). Once the Stone Age has been conquered, contestants move on to re-invent pottery, weaving and agriculture – then mining and smithing copper ore, then bronze, iron and so on.
In EXISTENCE I portray the rich buying up small island nations that are doomed by rising tides, then building stilt cities on those nations, who already have legal international sovereignty. Now see the beginnings: leaders of the Pacific archipelago Kiribati are considering moving the entire population to Fiji, as their islands are threatened by rising ocean levels. When you see stilts rising over there, know that I told you first.
(David Brin is a scientist and best-selling author. His future-oriented novels include Earth and Hugo Award winners Startide Rising and The Uplift War. The Postman inspired a film by Kevin Costner. Brin is also a leading commentator on technological trends. His non-fiction book, The Transparent Society, explores issues of privacy and accountability. This column originally appeared at Contrary Brin.)