TheKnowledgeThe Knowledge: How to Rebuild Our World from Scratch‘ is a thought experiment about how to reboot civilization following an apocalypse (zombie or otherwise). It’s a perfect blend, appealing to the fictional survivalist day-dreamer side of me while at the same time employing real science and practical action. It’s like the Crispix of survival guides.

I bought this for the Kindle, but probably should have gotten the hard copy, just on principle. I mean, really, they shouldn’t even offer this book for Kindle. Because, as ‘The Knowledge’ points out, when the apocalypse hits, all the vast stores of online wisdom we have been amassing for the past couple decades will vanish. The first thing that occurs to the mind of a zombie apocalypse prepper is always to hit Home Depot, or Wal-Mart’s outdoors department, but I now realize it might be just as important to raid the local Barnes & Noble.

Update: I have solved this problem! I will now be able to read my Kindle books for a good long while with my new SPOR solar USB recharger. I know, this is giving me more peace of mind than warranted. I mean, it’s not like I’m actually going to be facing such a scenario REALLY. But I’ve been wishing we could add solar panels to our roof, and that’s just financially out of reach for us right now. This represents a step in that direction.

Because The Knowledge is a serious thought experiment, it does take some of the fun out of the whole post-apocalypse fantasy. Rebuilding after an apocalypse would be a hell of a lot of work, I’m learning. Most of us like to focus on the “grace period”, the time when all the products of our prior existence would be readily available. The time when you’d be looting the massive aisles of the local Costco, syphoning gas from unlimited numbers of abandoned cars and heading off into the woods with a portable generator and a crossbow.

Maybe we do briefly consider the toil of farming, but likely not to its true magnitude, and we don’t think about the difficulty of maintaining a supply of bread yeast, or how to make soap, or what to do when the gas eventually runs out, or some small part on the portable generator breaks. Or how we’d have to start learning to use a forge again and smelting metal, once all the existing stuff rusts away. Or weaving cloth. When it’s pointed out that no single person on this earth has the full knowledge of how to make a pencil, you start to realize just how vulnerable we are as individuals.

“My family tree begins with what in fact is a tree, a cedar of straight grain that grows in Northern California and Oregon. Now contemplate all the saws and trucks and rope and the countless other gear used in harvesting and carting the cedar logs to the railroad siding. Think of all the persons and the numberless skills that went into their fabrication: the mining of ore, the making of steel and its refinement into saws, axes, motors; the growing of hemp and bringing it through all the stages to heavy and strong rope; the logging camps with their beds and mess halls, the cookery and the raising of all the foods. Why, untold thousands of persons had a hand in every cup of coffee the loggers drink!”

This is why I think that, contrary to most zombie apocalypse portrayals, survivors of an apocalypse would band together and cooperate. We’d HAVE to, but the Invisible Hand theory, that we naturally come together and do our part in a massive conglomerate of individual roles… that rings true to me.

I enjoy this book very much, but it’s a sobering message, that’s for sure. And I doubt we’d have any time to consider making pencils again for a few hundred years, anyway.

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