CRF Blog

Want to reboot civilization? What you’ll need

by Bill Hayes

In Want to reboot civilization? What you’ll need for the Boston Globe, Annalee Newitz looks at what humans would need should a horrible event wipe out much of civilization.

When you’re looking down the barrel of a civilization-erasing event, you have to plan for a world where humanity has lost everything. Canned goods might be nice, but you’d better have brought along a can opener—or know how to make one. In the event that life as we know it is truly upended, the survivors will have to rebuild our civilization. Given everything humanity has learned over the past hundred thousand years, what information should we leave them? And how do we store it so they can actually make use of it?

In recent years, these questions have jumped from the pages of science fiction novels and onto the research agendas of a range of thinkers, from physicists to philosophers to agricultural engineers to librarians. As humans become increasingly aware of our impact on the planet and the gravity of the disasters that have struck Earth in the past, it’s starting to seem wise to consider how we would reboot in the event of a system failure. Our best shot at clawing our way out of a new dark age may be to start curating and preserving caches of the most useful and important information, tools, and biological samples from today’s world. And the things we’re trying to save say as much about what we value in the world we’ve already built as they do about our hopes for the future. [more]