Friday, August 19, 2011

Like Minds

It's been nearly a year since I started this blog, and a number of things have become abundantly clear.  One thing is that there is a growing sense among people that things really aren't headed in the right direction.  It may be from environmental concerns, too many promises made by governments with shaky finance, or just a gut feeling that we are entering a time when various unseen factors begin to create a complex pattern which will bring civilization to its knees.  Another is that people are looking for information and motivation, anything which will help them both prepare and also to come to grips with what seems inevitable at this point (revolutions, war, famine, pick something).  However, the last is the fact that some people have also gone down the same road that the Leibowitz Society has, that of understanding that there is much valuable information which needs to be saved and preserved. 

Added to the resources links are a couple of items that people may not have looked at before, the Ozymandius Society and the Long Now Foundation.  The contrast between the two ideas could not be more different.  The Ozymanidus Society would like to preserve some record of the apex of human knowledge, going out probably far beyond the lifespan of our species.  I've had a few discussions with the gentleman who has initiated that project and it's interesting to see where our ideas both intersect and diverge. 

The Long Now Foundation is a completely different effort.  Instead of being one highly intelligent person, it is a gathering of highly intelligent people, among them one Neal Stephenson, whose novel Anathem has been some of the inspiration of the Leibowitz Society.  Their idea is to take a long-term view with regard to human thought, to create a body of thought which lasts beyond the few milliseconds that our information-saturated minds seem to be able to retain any pattern.  While the idea of a dark age is implicit in their work, it is a dark age of the mind and human cognition, not a physical one which involved the collapse of human society.
But, in both cases, there is still the idea that we need to save our thinking, our knowledge, our ideas.  The Leibowitz Society sits somewhere between these two extremes, recognizing on one hand that the pace of events in human civilization, the "black swans" so to speak, are aligning so quickly now that there isn't a lot of hope of stemming a collapse.  On the other hand, there is the idea that we can and should preserve knowledge and ideas for a future age, as well as for their own sake. 

While part of the "mission" of the Leibowitz Society is to collect and preserve knowledge, we need to step back a minute from storing books and trying to figure out what would be of value, and instead just think for ourselves for a time.  What ideas catch our interest?  What theory or insight has been valuable in our lives and would be of value to others?  Is it psychology?  Philosophy?  Applied mathematics?  I would be interested in hearing from people who have rejected the "fast food" of modern pop culture and begun to explore the pathways of their own mind.  This, I think, is where we begin to see that we are not alone, that we are indeed part of a common vision of letting our knowledge outlive ourselves.


  1. I grew up on a family farm in the 1950s, raised by a couple of salt of the earth type peope who believed in self reliance and hard work. My mom always said, "Learn as much as you can, from anyone who will teach you." Dont you think now is the time to have knowledge, which cant be taken away from you, instead of things, which can?

  2. The old cliche "Your Mind is Your Primary Weapon" still seems relevant. Ideas and attitude, the means and will to survive and succeed, always seem to make the difference in how we live and deal with the problems that we face.

    I don't think even that it's necessarily the content of our thinking, but the context of which it occurs in, which is important. If we see things as possible, then we can fill in the details over time.


  3. AS for what type of information to collect, I think that basic technical information is the foundation necessary to support any other information preservation. By this I mean, family or small community scale agriculture, food preservation, home building and maintenance, clothing techniques, woodworking, and the like. I don't think that a family unit could have the skill or manpower energy base to support much knowledge beyond very basic survival concerns. One can observe this in rural indigenous Mexico - there is very little scholarship. It would take a cooperative community with some division of labor in order to maintain knowledge in excess of fundamental knowledge needed for material survival, and the basic needs of spiritual explanations.

  4. Over forty years ago some of us lived on communes. A gas crisis came and went and none of us noticed. After milking the goats, feeding the chickens, and inspecting the gardens we chose "projects", like building a new chicken coop or hooking up a wood heated shower. We also created a lot of sculpture, paintings and music. It was the artifacts and the music that became the point of interface with the larger society. And a source of money for paying the land taxes. I left in 1973 due to a family crisis. Four years later the land was sold and the "family" dispersed. I know having done it once it can be done again. Have no fear for human society. It will persevere. The current model is obviously imploding.