Foundation Selections for the Manual of Civilization
For me, the Manual of Civilization could be one of the most important projects of our time. The idea is to collect the most important 3000 books required to rebuild civilization from the ground up. It is an idea that resonates with me in particular; as it aligns with the Foundation’s library project, as well as, with my own personal priorities which include the preservation of knowledge, primarily technical knowledge. To use a metaphor, if Adam and Eve started off on a new planet and only had 3000 books to rebuild civilization, what would those 3000 books be? These are the books that should be codified, and persevered for all time and eternity, or as close to as possible.
In terms of achieving the highest priority goals for us as a species, making sure those top 3000 books are protected and available should be our highest priority; more so then any other priority, any social program or any other project we as a civilization can do. Without getting too much into the ethics or philosophy of why this is, suffice it to say sustainability off world, to prevent long term extinction of intelligence, is the goal; and since we really only have us, that we know of, then “us” off world is the single most important goal. To do that, we need to prevent us from reverting to nothing some day; when the sun stops or we do something enormously un-intelligent and destroy ourselves. The fix starts with a library; which the Long Now is working hard to build and I hope to build a better version. So enough philosophy, here are some of the books I think should be on the list and why.
To start with, I have basically three kinds of books I place on my list: first is the category of books the Long Now is grouping together called the ‘Mechanics of Civilization’, next is the related ‘Philosophy’ and, finally, ‘Possibility’; to which I am applying my own value judgments as to what is important.
First off, I’m looking at books as if I’m building civilization from scratch; to that end, we need to start with the basics. The Rosseta Disk, from the Long Now, is by far the most important; to understand all other books should someone not understand the language of them. This ‘disk’ is a forgone conclusion; but, next, is the most important science of all and the foundation of all our Science knowledge and power: that is, Mathematics… to preserver Mathematics I select the following:
The Princeton Companion to Mathematics
A History of Mathematics (amazon, archive)
as well as, supporting initial material, based on mathematics, that allows the immediate application across most sciences, even in a primitive setting, and those are:
Mathematical Handbook of Formulas and Tables (amazon, archive )
The Slide Rule Simplified, Explained and Illustrated for Mechanical trades (amazon)