Blog Archive for the ‘Manual for Civilization’ Category

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The Knowledge and The Manual for Civilization

Posted on Saturday, April 19th, 02014 by Alexander Rose - Twitter: @zander
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One of the early inspirations for creating the Manual for Civilization was an email I received from Lewis Dartnell in London asking me for information on a book he was writing inspired by James Lovelock’s “Book for all Seasons”.  The idea was a kind of reboot manual for humanity, and it coincided well with some other conversations we had been having at Long Now about making a collection of books that could do something similar.

Fast forward to 02014 and Lewis has finished his book “The Knowledge: How to Rebuild Our World From Scratch” which comes out today, and he was kind enough to send us a copy for our Manual for Civilization library collection. Since this is a single volume you might be wondering how much practical knowledge a book like this could actually impart. This book gives the reader a basic strategy for rebooting civilization – not every detail. For instance if you wanted to get a certain technology up and running again, which method should you employ given what we now know about modern and historical methods? Dartnell goes over the basic principle for each fundamental technology, and then discusses best options for how to rebuild it with scavenged materials (always easier), or how you might do it from scratch. He starts with the most critical and fundamental, and then builds on each of these as the book progresses. So in a way the book kind of boot straps itself from chapter to chapter. The overall goal, it seems, is to make the “hole” referred to in the graph below smaller and recover faster than the one left after the fall of Rome. (yes I know there are lots of issues with that graph but it illustrates the point of a loss of technology in civilizations)

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The Knowledge is not another survival guide for gun toting doomsday “preppers”, or those excited for the zombie apocalypse, but both crowds might get something out of it. It is also not a standalone book, Lewis has published his chapter by chapter further reading list and bibliography alongside it that contains the nitty gritty details for each of the technologies discussed. You should consider The Knowledge a primer and table of contents for that larger reading list. We are happy to have The Knowledge in our collection for this reason.

Dartnell has also been following The Manual for Civilization project and has submitted his own list of books for our collection, which we include below. He considers these to be the most useful from his bibliography. You can follow updates and new information around the book via @KnowledgeCiv on Twitter. Dartnell speaks at The Interval in March 02015

Neal Stephenson’s Selected Books for the Manual for Civilization

Posted on Thursday, April 17th, 02014 by Alexander Rose - Twitter: @zander
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Best-selling author Neal Stephenson has added a couple dozen books to the Manual for Civilization. Long Now is assembling a corpus of 3,500 volumes that would help sustain or rebuild civilization. This collection will be featured at The Interval, our new public space, as a floor-to-ceiling library available to our visitors. The collection will comprise books suggested by Long Now members and charter donors to the Interval project. We’ve also invited a select group of eminent friends of Long Now, including archivists, artists, authors, educators, scientists and more, to submit lists of the books they believe are essential to Civilization.

Neal Stephenson is an author of speculative fiction whose ground-breaking novels include Snow Crash, Cryptonomicon, and Anathem, a book based in a world of 10,000 Year Clocks inspired by our own Clock of the Long Now. In fact, Neal is both a Long Now member and a charter donor to The Interval. You can join him by making a tax-deductible gift before we open in May. Every donation helps now when we need it most, and we have some wonderful ways to thank you at every level. 

For thirty years Neal Stephenson’s writing has been distinguished by how he weaves minutely detailed historical and technical information into his complex stories, usually with a wicked sense of humor. Whether it’s fashion in Victorian England or World War II era cryptography, his dedication to detailed research is readily apparent. The Baroque Cycle novels perhaps most exemplify this, as they focus on key people and events in the development of science across many cultures in the 17th and 18th centuries. We knew his recommendations would be invaluable for this project.

Many of the research sources for his novels can be found in his home library. And it was an honor and privilege that Neal walked me through his library and thoughtfully selected the list of books below for the Manual for Civilization. You can see from his selections that he believes understanding history is essential to creating the best possible future.

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Many thanks to Neal Stephenson for taking the time and care to recommend these books for our collection. His list adds to suggestions from Kevin Kelly, Maria Popova, Violet Blue, Stewart Brand, Brian Eno and dozens of other Long Now members and supporters.

Starting in late May you can visit the Manual yourself at The Interval, Long Now’s new public venue in San Francisco’s Fort Mason Center. The Interval will also feature Long Now artifacts and prototypes, sound and light art installations by Brian Eno, a cocktail menu designed on the theme of time, fine coffee and tea, and small scale events on long-term thinking and related topics.

Check back for lists from Danny Hillis and Neil Gaiman, amongst others. And for details on The Interval’s May 02014 public opening, as well as pre-opening events for charter donors. Your gifts help us pay for construction, acquire the books for the Manual for Civilization, build the A/V system to present Brian Eno’s art, and everything else that will make The Interval a one-of-a-kind venue worthy of Long Now’s mission to inspire and extol long-term thinking. Thanks for considering a gift.

Manual for Civilization Shelf level

33 Books on How to Live and a Russian Nesting Doll

Posted on Wednesday, April 9th, 02014 by Catherine Borgeson
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Photo by Elizabeth Lippman for The New York Times

Long Now Member Maria Popova is the mastermind behind the popular cultural blog of ideas known as Brain Pickings.  The blog was founded in 02006, where she has been reviewing books, writing multiple blog entries and tweeting 50 times a day, all while balancing on a wobble board. The lifelong bibliophile has also written for Wired UK, The New York Times, and is an MIT Futures of Entertainment Fellow. And now, she has compiled her own reading list of 33 books to add to the collection of the 3,500 volumes most essential to sustain and rebuild civilization.

When we launched the Manual for Civilization project, it was a natural fit with Popova’s interests and expertise. She reviewed Brian Eno’s selections for the Manual for Civilization and contemplated Stewart Brand’s 76-book list, noting that only 1.5 of the books Brand suggested were authored by women. Here is an excerpt of her thoughtful reflections when creating her own list:

In grappling with the challenge, I faced a disquieting and inevitable realization: The predicament of diversity is like a Russian nesting doll — once we crack one layer, there’s always another, a fractal-like subdivision that begins at the infinite and approaches the infinitesimal, getting exponentially granular with each layer, but can never be fully finished. If we take, for instance, the “women problem” — to paraphrase Margaret Atwood — then what about Black women? Black queer women? Non-Western Black queer women? Non-English-speaking non-Western Black queer women? Non-English-speaking non-Western Black queer women of Jewish descent? And on and on. Due to that infinite fractal progression, no attempt to “solve” diversity — especially no thirty-item list — could ever hope to be complete. The same goes for other variables like genre or subject: For every aficionado of fiction, there’s one of drama, then 17th-century drama, then 17th-century Italian drama, and so on.

Popova presents us with a set of books that have helped her learn “how to make sense of ourselves, our world, and our place in it.” Many of her selected books have additional links to detailed reviews she previously wrote, providing a great deal of insight and context. So rather than listing the books here, you can find Popova’s reading list where it is best written: “33 Books on How to Live: My Reading List for the Long Now Foundation’s Manual for Civilization.”

The Brooklyn-based editor will be speaking with author Caroline Paul at Hattery in San Francisco tomorrow, April 11, 02014. At the event titled “Brain Pickings: An Evening with Maria Popova,” (currently sold out) they will talk about “hunting and gathering on the internet, lessons on creativity, and musings such as the curious minds (and sleep habits) of famous writers past and present.”

Megan and Rick Prelinger’s Selected Books for the Manual for Civilization

Posted on Tuesday, March 25th, 02014 by Alexander Rose - Twitter: @zander
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Today we continue the series of posts featuring the books suggested for the Manual for Civilization with a list from a couple of guerrilla archivists here in San Francisco, Megan and Rick Prelinger. In all, we hope to develop an ever-changing collection of 3,500 volumes to form a corpus which could sustain or rebuild civilization. To broaden our selection process we’ve asked Long Now members and Interval at Long Now donors to suggest books for the list.  Please join us and make your suggestions; we are just weeks away from opening.

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Rick Prelinger has the distinction of giving more presentations in our Seminars About Long-term Thinking series than anyone. The last six Decembers he’s presented a vintage film collection in his “Lost Landscapes” series, usually centered on family home movies and other non-professional sources. Megan is a cultural historian and archivist in her own right and is the author of Another Science Fiction: Advertising the Space Race 1957–1962. Megan’s knowledge of the US space program is encyclopedic and nuanced. Together they began the Prelinger Library in 02004 which is open to the public and focuses on their mutual interest in “ephemeral literature.” Megan came up with a unique organizational structure for their collection which is sorted by geography. As you will see, the collection has particularly great resources on the built landscape and the space program.

The Prelingers personally walked us through their library to select some singular additions to our Manual for Civilization collection. Like the others we have posted, their list is intended as a component of a larger corpus. Each subset of books represents a perspective, sometimes a highly specialized one, that will help to document and sustain this complex system we call Civilization. Enjoy.

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Many thanks to the Prelingers for taking the time and care to recommend these books for our collection.

Their list adds to suggestions from Kevin Kelly, Maria Popova, Violet Blue, Stewart Brand, Brian Eno and dozens of Long Now members and supporters.

You can visit the Manual in person and drink coffee, tea, or a cocktail while reading up on rabbit raising and bamboo cultivation at The Interval at Long Now. Or follow Neal Stephenson’s suggestion…


 

You’ll see Neal’s list of books here soon, as well as lists from Danny Hillis, Neil Gaiman, Mark Pauline, and others. And not long after that you’ll have the chance to visit The Interval in person. Construction is nearly complete, and the Interval will open later this Spring in San Francisco.

Thanks to many of you we have raised over 3/4 of our “brickstarter” goal. So we are asking for your generous support to help us finish construction and complete this project, including acquiring books for the Manual for Civilization.

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Kevin Kelly’s Selected Books for the Manual for Civilization

Posted on Tuesday, March 18th, 02014 by Alexander Rose - Twitter: @zander
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Kevin Kelly selecting books for the Manual For Civilization (photo by Catherine Borgeson)

Kevin Kelly selecting books for the Manual For Civilization (photo by Catherine Borgeson)

Today we continue the series of posts featuring the books suggested for the Manual for Civilization with a large list from Long Now Founding Board Member Kevin Kelly. In all we hope to have as many as 3,500 volumes to form a corpus which could sustain or rebuild civilization. To broaden our selection process we’ve asked Long Now members and Interval at Long Now donors to suggest books for the list.

Last week one of our members, Maria Popova, who writes the great blog Brain Pickings, gave us her list of 33 books. We are big fans of her work, and we are honored to include her excellent selections. They join about 1,800 other books suggested so far by Long Now’s members, donors and friends. There is still room for a few thousand more suggestions…

To add your own recommendations of books to include in the Manual for Civilization and vote on which suggested titles should find a place on The Interval’s shelves, just make a donation to support the project. All donors, at any level, can suggest and vote on books. We have raised over $35,000 in the last month, but still need your help to complete this “brickstarter” funding campaign.

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For this week’s update Kevin Kelly gave us a tour of his personal library as he made his choices for the Manual for Civilization.  Among his many accomplishments, Kevin has ridden a bike or walked across several continents, has written for the Whole Earth Catalog, was founding editor of Wired, and has himself written several books–most recently the New York Times acclaimed Cool Tools.

Kevin has a knack for finding the most useful books in the world. In fact, he gave us the largest list of suggestions yet: nearly 200 in all. Pulled directly from the shelves of his own library, he gave us books that document practical skills, how to make useful things, and that teach and improve those who read them. Many of these books also appear as tools on his Cool Tools blog (now co-edited by Mark Frauenfelder).

A few choice selections at the top include his own comments on some of the books (you may need to hit the more below to see the full 200).

Practical Bamboos:The 50 Best Plants for Screens, Containers and More:
“I own a lot of bamboo books, but Practical Bamboos is by far the most useful of all. Other bamboo books are more encyclopedic; this one focuses on “only” the 50 most useful bamboo species, spelling out what types are good for fence rows, which are drought resistant, which work well in containers, and how to identify those variants from lookalikes. There’s very specific growing tips for each variety and solid advice about the principles of growing bamboo plants in general.”

Caveman Chemistry: 28 Projects, from the Creation of Fire to the Production of Plastics by Kevin M. Dunn

The Soundscape:
“The sound of modern life has a 60 hertz hum in the background because that’s the frequency of electricity (in North America). Add to that all the other vibrations of technological artifacts and all the sounds made by nature and you get the soundscape of the world. I learned to hear this sonic environment from this master observer. He gave me ears.”

The Backyard Blacksmith by Lorelei Sims

A Museum of Early American Tools:
“A story is told by each tool archived in this paper museum. The tool reveals the amazing things that can be done with your own body’s power, regulated by your eye and mind. Listening to the tool, you can understand how things are made. Not only do these tools run without electricity, they can be made with other hand tools. There’s enough information in these packed drawings by Eric Sloane to enable you to make them yourself, to use to make other things. It’s kind of magical.”

Civilizations: Ten Thousand Years of Ancient History by Jane McIntosh and Clint Twist

Storey’s Guide to Raising Rabbits:
“For nearly 40 years this guide has introduced boy scouts, 4H-ers, homesteaders, survivalists, and pet keepers to the practicalities of raising rabbits. Now in a new 4th edition, it’s still the best manual for getting started with rabbits for food or show.”

Tending the Wild: Native American Knowledge and the Management of California’s Natural Resources by M. Kat Anderson

(more…)

Violet Blue’s Selected Books for the Manual for Civilization

Posted on Tuesday, March 11th, 02014 by Catherine Borgeson
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Violet Blue in front of her library. Photo courtesy of Violet Blue

Violet Blue in front of her library. Photo courtesy of Violet Blue

Continuing our series of posts highlighting books suggested for our Manual for Civilization library at The Interval, today we have a specialized list selected by Violet Blue.  As a library designed to help sustain or rebuild civilization, one of the first categories that came to mind were sexuality and reproduction.  A civilization cannot have a future without either.

We asked Violet Blue to curate a set of books on sexuality as she is an award-winning sex author & blogger.  It also turns out that in her past she was a book reviewer for Good Vibrations selecting books related to sexuality for their library, much of which is now contained at San Francisco’s Center for Sex and Culture.

The 16 books on sexuality that Violet Blue recommended are below with her comments on each selection. They will become part of the 3,500-volume collection.  We will also soon be publishing a list of books on birth and reproduction suggested by midwife and nurse practitioner Ami Burnham.

The Manual will serve as the library for The Interval at Long Now, our new public space opening this Spring. Recently we’ve shared Brian Eno and Stewart Brand’s Manual suggestions, and we have more lists to come including those from Neil Gaiman, Kevin Kelly, Neal Stephenson, and Megan and Rick Prelinger. Our Interval donors and Long Now members can also recommend books and vote on those already suggested.  Please help us raise the remaining funds required to fill our shelves with these thoughtfully chosen books.

Violet suggested reference books, science books and erotica; volumes on gender, how to talk to kids about sex, and even robots. Titles below marked with ** were suggested for inclusion by fellow sexuality expert Susie Bright.  Here’s the list:

  • The Guide to Getting it On (7th edition) by Paul Joannides
    This book is so accurate and complete about everything surrounding sexual contact, there’s no need for individual books on specific acts, health concerns or even sexual mishaps. Warm, welcoming, fun, smart, explicit and illustrated, it leaves no question about adult sexuality unanswered and expertly weaves together sex information from our greatest sex researchers and contemporary sex educators alike.
  • What Makes A Baby by Cory Silverberg, Fiona Smyth
    If there’s one book for helping kids understand sexuality and gender, this book (appropriate for all ages) is wonderfully accessible, complete and makes the “big talk” into a lovely narrative about family.
  • My (New) Gender Workbook by Kate Bornstein
    This smart, humorous workbook is essential for understanding gender as it relates to our sexual identities, our sexual roles, and the way we identify and our understand sexual orientation – as well as the experiences of others (including our loved ones).
  • Erotic Fantasies, A Study of the Sexual Imagination by Phyllis and Eberhard Kronhausen**
    At the heart of human sexuality, we find the richness, complexity and necessity of human sexual fantasies. Standing on the shoulders of the Kinsey Report, this book is both at once an explicit compendium of fantasies, an informative exploration of what fantasies are, and a guide to why they’re inextricably woven into the fabric of our sexual selves.
  • Erotica Universalis by Gilles Neret
    Beautiful, striking, lurid, romantic, informative, and above all – unbridled insight into the erotic imagination, obsessions, traditions and sexual desires of a human civilization are between the covers of this erotic art bestiary. A tasteful collection of erotic art and imagery through the ages.
  • The Collected Erotica: An Illustrated Celebration of Human Sexuality Through the Ages by Charlotte Hill and William Wallace
    This astonishingly comprehensive book presents over 2000 years of Eastern and Western sexual art and literature. Images from private collections, libraries and galleries are combined with a huge array of erotic short stores by writers that include Boccaccio, Oscar Wilde, Jean Cocteau, Erica Jong, Henry Miller, Anais Nin, Pauline Reage and more.
  • X: The Erotic Treasury by Susie Bright
    Erotica of the 21st century is unlike anything that precedes; not only in narrative and style, but in a whole new range of sexual expression, sex acts, female sexual agency, male sexual expression, and intellectually complex, emotionally sophisticated scenarios. And inspiration is important when you’re re-keying civilization.
  • Everything You Know About Sex is Wrong by Russ Kick
    This nonfiction anthology brings together some of the greatest minds that have lived sexual lives loudly (and sometimes proudly) outside contemporary mainstream culture in essays that explore society’s sexual misconceptions.
  • Art of Sexual Ecstasy by Margot Anand
    The most full, deep, and practical book on spirituality and sexuality of our era details the passion and implementation of Tantric sexuality.
  • Love and Sex With Robots by David Levy
    Human sexuality and technology have been intertwined much longer than the Internet era has been around, and so a book so thoroughly encompassing people’s sexual and emotional attraction and attachment to robots, artificial intelligence and tech-related objects is mind-opening.
  • Fetish Sex: A Complete Guide by Violet Blue
    The edges of human sexuality are the least understood. I hesitated about suggesting my own book, but so far no other book explores the actual practices of those who sexualize and have sexual relationships with the bizarre, in a nonjudgmental, all-gender and all-orientation approach. A definitive guide to the sexual practices, styles, and fantasies that live far outside the norm.
  • Healing Sex by Staci Hanes
    A complete, essential and sex-positive guide for people of all genders and orientations that have experienced and survived sexual trauma, violence or assault – and their partners.
  • Bonk: The Curious Coupling of Science and Sex by Mary Roach
    A nonfiction exploration of sexuality and science – not only human sexuality and all its strange foibles and unbelievable variables, but also sex in science and commerce.
  • The Transgender Child: A Handbook for Families and Professionals by Stephanie A. Brill and Rachel Pepper
    While aimed at parents with gender-variant kids, and providing a much-needed guide for coping with positive, negative and awkward scenarios, this book is essential reading for everyone in our gender-variant, compassion-challenged world.
  • The Erotic Mind by Jack Morin**
    A psychological exploration of peak sexual experience, and why they happen to us in complicated ways such as during grief or when faced with conflict.
  • Sensuous Magic (2nd edition) by Patrick Califia
    No other book comes close to this incredible guide to BDSM practices and relationships. This tome is a complete reference and advice guide, demystifying – and providing erotic illumination to – power exchange, pleasure and sensation, erotic punishment, bondage, sex in S/M scenes, communication, negotiation, and consent.

Long Now would like to thank Violet Blue for these considered selections.

To add your own recommendations of books to include in the Manual for Civilization and vote on which suggested titles should find a place on The Interval’s shelves, just make a donation to support the project. All donors, at any level, can suggest and vote on books. You can be a part of giving long-term thinkers a beautiful place to gather, full of amazing books.

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Stewart Brand’s Selected Books for the Manual for Civilization

Posted on Tuesday, March 4th, 02014 by Alexander Rose - Twitter: @zander
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Stewart Brand LibraryStewart Brand selects books from his library, photo by Alexander Rose

Long Now’s Founding Board Member Stewart Brand suggested more than 70 volumes for our Manual for Civilization collection. The Manual will be housed within The Interval at Long Now, our new public space which opens to the public this Spring.

The 3500 books that comprise the Manual for Civilization will serve as the library component of The Interval. A dominant feature, seen immediately upon entering and even visible from outside, on shelves stretching floor to ceiling and set amongst the large scale mechanical prototypes of our 10,000-Year Clock, the Manual will present a compelling image for visitors to our space.

Support The Interval at Long Now

As construction of The Interval at Long Now nears completion, our fundraising continues. We are in the final stretch of the capital campaign to fund renovations to our San Francisco space that not only houses The Interval but also Long Now’s offices.

If this venue, its unique library, and all its other features capture your imagination, please consider a donation at any level. You can be a part of giving long-term thinkers a beautiful place to gather, full of amazing books. Also please spread the word to others you think would appreciate this project.

Writer, futurist, environmentalist and Long Now co-founder, Stewart Brand keeps three personal libraries. In the last month he walked us through all of them and carefully selected books for the list below. It is a remarkable list of titles old and new.

From the Epic of Gilgamesh to contemporary science fiction. Homer’s epics and Beowulf, Lao Tzu and Machiavelli. But also Brian Fagan’s The Long Summer: How Climate Changed Civilization and Thinking, Fast and Slow by Daniel Kahneman from 02011. There are many past Long Now Seminar speakers: Ian Morris, Jared Diamond, Steven Pinker and Verner Vinge to name only a few. And no less than 6 novels by the British Science Fiction author Iain M. Banks, who passed away last year.

Keep in mind that like Brian Eno’s list and others we’ll be posting soon, this is not intended as a standalone set of books, but as part of the larger corpus of thousands of texts that we are assembling. That collection will include submissions from Long Now members and the donors to our ‘brickstarter’ campaign to help build the Long Now’s Interval (formerly referred to as Long Now Salon).

Together these books assemble knowledge essential for us to maintain, extend and (if needed) recreate what humans have achieved thus far. Here are Stewart Brand’s recommendations:

Many thanks to Stewart for taking the time and care to recommend these books for our collection.

As we approach The Interval opening this Spring, we will continue this series of lists suggested by friends and associates of Long Now for the Manual. You’ll see books recommended by Neal StephensonViolet BlueKevin KellyMegan & Rick Prelinger, and Danny Hillis.

Manual for Civilization Shelf level

To add your own recommendations of books to include in the Manual for Civilization and vote on which suggested titles should find a place on The Interval’s shelves, just make a donation to support the project. All donors, at any level, can suggest and vote on books.

We look forward to your contributions!

Brian Eno’s Selected Books for the Manual for Civilization

Posted on Friday, February 28th, 02014 by Alexander Rose - Twitter: @zander
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Brian Eno - Manual For Civilization
Brian Eno visited San Francisco to see the site where the Manual for Civilization shelves will be
Photo by Alexander Rose

 
Twenty books suggested by Long Now’s Founding Board Member Brian Eno form the first in a series of reports on additions to our Manual for Civilization collection. This library will eventually include 3,500 books you would most want to sustain or rebuild civilization. The Manual needs your help to get built!  Please make a donation so we can purchase these books and the shelves they go on.  The Manual will be a central feature of our new space that opens later this year. Here are Brian Eno’s recommendations:

We need your help to finish this library. There are only weeks left to finish our fund raising and we need to raise at least another $100,000. Please make a donation to support this project and get direct access to the book recommendation and voting engine for the Manual for Civilization.

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Some of the other contributor lists we will be sharing soon include selections from Stewart Brand, Neal Stephenson, Violet Blue, Kevin Kelly, Danny Hillis, Megan and Rick Prelinger and many more.

Once the Salon is open we hope to have events where people can argue a new book in OR out of the collection.  It will be a living collection that evolves over time.  The Internet Archive has generously agreed to serve as the digital backup repository of the collection so that anyone with internet access can “check out” the books, or use the list to help create their version of the archive.

You can see more about this project on the original Manual for Civilization blog post.  Soon we will need to begin collecting the actual books for our shelves, and will be asking for book donations from our edited list.  We hope that we can get many of these books from our community so that we don’t have to purchase too many new books.

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The Manual for Civilization Begins

Posted on Thursday, February 6th, 02014 by Alexander Rose - Twitter: @zander
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As we near completion of The Interval at Long Now, our new venue in San Francisco, we are also building a collection of books that will reside here.  We have named this collection the Manual for Civilization, and it will include the roughly 3500 books most essential to sustain or rebuild civilization. Using this as an curatorial principle is helping us assemble a very interesting collection of books.

So… If you were stranded on an island (or small hostile planetoid), what books would YOU want to have with you?  We began asking this question to the Long Now Board and staff, as well as our Interval donors and the Long Now membership.

We have also asked a number of others with great book collections and specific expertise.

Author Neal Stephenson selecting books for the Manual For Civilization

This process has just begun, and we will detail these submissions and trips to amazing libraries more in the future, but some of the guest contributors now include:

Kevin Kelly selecting books for the Manual For Civilization

What are these books?  In order to make sure we don’t just get a bunch of books on how to make fire, we spread the collection across four basic categories to help guide the collection process:

  • Cultural Canon (Great Books, Shakespeare, Plato, etc.)
  • Mechanics of Civilization (Technical knowledge, how to build and understand things)
  • Rigorous Science Fiction (Science fiction that tells a useful story about a potential future)
  • Long-term Thinking, Futurism, and relevant history (Books on how to think about the future that may include surveys of the past)

We will be publishing the list in the coming months once we have the suggestions narrowed down by our members and supporters.  We have reached about 1400 nominations but will need four to five thousand to have enough to winnow it down to the very best 3000 books.  We are not limiting the nominations to western civilization, or even the English language, as one piece of the collection will be the Rosetta Disk itself.

But now that we have a good start on the collection, we need to begin editing the list down.  We are using an open source voting system suggested by Heath Rezabek called “All Our Ideas” which has turned out to be a great way to sort lists like this.  The system allows our supporters to choose between just two books in a given category, or suggest a new book.  This way you don’t have to rank a huge list of books, rather just make decisions between book A or book B and these decisions are aggregated.  We are just now sending this system out to our staff and supporters and it is yielding great results.  You can see an example of what a voting page looks like below.

Once The Interval is open we hope to have events where people can argue a new book in OR out of the collection.  It will be a living collection.  The Internet Archive has generously agreed to serve as the digital backup repository of the collection so that anyone with internet access can “check out” the books, or use the list to help create their version of the archive.

So how can you contribute and share your opinion?  The first contributors are Long Now members and Interval supporters. If you have a particular expertise or suggested resource, we welcome you to make book recommendations in the comments of this post.  There will be a lengthy process of collecting the actual books for our shelves. We had a fair number of titles in the Long Now library to begin with, but we have fewer than 15% of the books suggested to date.  We are working with in partnership with  Borderlands Books and Friends of the San Francisco Public Library to help fill in the collection. But donations of books and funds will also be essential as some titles on the list are quite rare.  Please do leave a comment on this post if you are interested in helping to supply books.

This project was originally conceived in a meeting hosted at the Internet Archive by Brewster Kahle with Kevin Kelly, Rick and Megan Prelinger and Alexander Rose.  Past references and writing on this can be found in this Manual for Civilization blog article by Alexander Rose as well in the Library of Utility article by Kevin Kelly.  Data wrangling is being ably handled by Kurt Bollacker and Catherine Borgeson with web help by Ben Keating, and the process has also been helped along by Intern Heath Rezabek.

In addition had several volunteers helping with the project that include:

Alison Hunter
Ashley Hennefer
Bryan Campen
Casey Cripe
Danielle Engelman
David Kelley
Elizabeth DeRieux
Nick Gottuso
James Alexander
Jennifer Woodfield
John Kausch
Kurt Bollacker
Ned McFarland
Michael McElligott
Michael Pujals
Alastair Mcpherson
Tim Reynolds
Whitney Deatherage
Mike Johnson

 

Hugh Howey’s Dystopian Silo Saga Joins the Manual for Civilization

Posted on Wednesday, January 22nd, 02014 by Catherine Borgeson
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Science fiction author Hugh Howey donated to the Manual for Civilization a one-off hard cover set of his Silo Saga with a special title page for The Long Now Foundation.

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The dystopian science fiction series developed out of a single novella Hugh Howey self-published on the Web in 02011.  He continued the story with four more installments, which now comprise the Omnibus edition of Wool.  Shift (books 6-8) are a prequel to Wool (books 1-5), Dust is the conclusion.

Without giving away any spoilers, each story has its own resolution, adds clarity and answers questions from the last, but then creates some larger questions:

What would human beings be like if for several hundred years they had been forced to live in a giant container, a refuge from the destruction of the planet? Would we recognize them? Would they have changed? Would we understand their concerns and desires? Our ubiquitous human nature and some of its seemingly unchanging characteristics are major themes in Howey’s Wool. Tens of thousands of people are packed into a silo buried in the Earth, protected from the toxic atmosphere which surrounds it. Yet despite hundreds of years, the occupants still long to explore, to expand their horizons. Howey explores the traditions, mores and laws necessary to protect this remnant of humanity from the creative urges and deep desires which always seek to push beyond the safe confines of the silo into the unknown. –GeekDad, Wired Magazine

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