Neuroscientist and fiction writer David Eagleman presents "Six Steps to Avert the Collapse of Civilization."
Civilizations always think they're immortal, Eagleman says, but they nearly always perish, leaving "nothing but ruins and scattered genetics." It takes luck and new technology to survive. We may be particularly lucky to have Internet technology to help manage the six requirements of a durable civilization:
1. "Try not to cough on one another." More humans have died from epidemics than from all famines and wars. Disease precipitated the fall of Greece, Rome, and the civilizations of the Americas. People used to bunch up around the infected, which pushed local disease into universal plague. Now we can head that off with Net telepresence, telemedicine, and medical alert networks. All businesses should develop a work-from-home capability for their workforce.
2. "Don't lose things." As proved by the destruction of the Alexandria Library and of the literature of Mayans and Minoans, "knowledge is hard won but easily lost." Plumbing disappeared for a thousand years when Rome fell. Inoculation was invented in China and India 700 years before Europeans rediscovered it. These days Michelangelo's David has been safely digitized in detail. Eagleman has direct access to all the literature he needs via PubMed, JSTOR, and Google Books. "Distribute, don't reinvent."
3. "Tell each other faster." Don't let natural disasters cascade. The Minoans perished for lack of the kind of tsunami alert system we now have. Countless Haitians in the recent earthquake were saved by Ushahidi.com, which aggregated cellphone field reports in real time.
4. "Mitigate tyranny." The USSR's collapse was made inevitable by state-controlled media and state-mandated mistakes such as Lysenkoism, which forced a wrong theory of wheat farming on 13 time zones, and starved millions. Now crowd-sourced cellphone users can sleuth out vote tampering. We should reward companies that stand up against censorship, as Google has done in China.
5. "Get more brains involved in solving problems." Undertapping human capital endangers the future. Open courseware from colleges is making higher education universally accessible. Crowd-sourced problem solving is being advanced by sites such as PatientsLikeMe, Foldit (protein folding), and Cstart (moon exploration). Perhaps the next step is "society sourcing."
6. "Try not to run out of energy." When energy expenditure outweighs energy return, collapse ensues. Email saves trees and trucking. Online shopping is a net energy gain, with UPS optimizing delivery routes and never turning left. We need to expand the ability to hold meetings and conferences online.
But if the Net is so crucial, what happens if the Net goes down? It may have to go down a few times before we learn how to defend it properly, before we catch on that civilization depends on it for survival.
Stewart Brand is co-founder and president of The Long Now Foundation and co-founder of Global Business Network. He created and edited the Whole Earth Catalog (National Book Award), and co-founded the Hackers Conference and The WELL. His books include The Clock of the Long Now; How Buildings Learn; and The Media Lab. His most recent book, titled Whole Earth Discipline, is published by Viking in the US and Atlantic in the UK.
Dr. David Eagleman
Dr. David Eagleman is a neuroscientist, New York Times bestselling author, and Guggenheim Fellow who holds joint appointments in the Departments of Neuroscience and Psychiatry at Baylor College of Medicine in Houston, Texas. Dr. Eagleman’s areas of research include time perception, vision, synesthesia, and the intersection of neuroscience with the legal system. He directs the Laboratory for Perception and Action, and is the Founder and Director of Baylor College of Medicine’s Initiative on Neuroscience and Law.
Dr. Eagleman has written several neuroscience books, including Incognito: The Secret Lives of the Brain and Wednesday Is Indigo Blue: Discovering the Brain of Synesthesia. He has also written an internationally bestselling book of literary fiction, Sum, which has been translated into 27 languages and was named a Best Book of the Year by Barnes and Noble, New Scientist, and the Chicago Tribune. Dr. Eagleman has written for the Atlantic, New York Times, Discover, Slate, Wired, and New Scientist, and has been profiled in The New Yorker. He appears regularly on National Public Radio and BBC to discuss both science and literature.
As the director of the Long Now Foundation, Alexander Rose has facilitated projects such as the 10,000 Year Clock with Danny Hillis, the Rosetta Project, Long Bets, Seminars About Long Term Thinking, Long Server and others. Rose shares several design patents on the 10,000 Year Clock with Danny Hillis, the first prototype of which is in the Science Museum of London.
Hired as the first employee of the foundation in February of 1997, Rose has been an artist in residence at Silicon Graphics Inc., a project manager for Shamrock Communications, and a founding partner of Inertia Labs. Rose attended the Art Center College of Design and graduated with a bachelor of arts honors degree from Carnegie Mellon University in Industrial Design in 1995.
Did you know the UPS trucks that deliver your online purchases save millions of gallons of gas every year by never making left turns? This is one reason neuroscientist David Eagleman believes that online shopping and email are critical weapons in the fight against climate change.
Neuroscientist David Eagleman asks, "What happens when the Net goes down?" He advocates for a back-up plan modeled after the Svalbard Global Seed Vault. The facility would be powered by renewable energy and contain information on how to rebuild the network.
It's an oversimplification to say that net based shopping and distribution, with it's endless selection of goods that may be sourced from anywhere in world, is more fuel-efficient than localized shopping with a finite number of goods.
But OK, let's assume that's the case, it doesn't address the unsustainable lifestyle model of US suburbia, it merely extends it's lifespan for a while.
But - can history be considered the stringing together of trivia that combined creates a larger, and on a societal level, more meaningful - in that ramification and cause/effect involves more lives; and, understanding trivia that seems insignificant on its own but when applied as part of a larger whole, takes on meaning we might miss when "isolatively" examined? (I do understand that what makes trivia meaningful, and its combination into a meaningful whole, is in the eye of the beholder.) So, maybe its the interpretation? Which, of course, makes the time taken to write our posts/arguments worth doing?
I learned last week that David Eagleman has written this information into a longer "book" that can only be read as an interactive app on the iPad. It's called "Why the Net Matters". I'm trying to find a friend with an iPad to check it out. Please let me know if anyone's read it and what you think.
Another major reason Napoleon gave up on the Western hemisphere was because of a slave revolt in Haiti. He had been depending on the revenue from sugar to finance his war machine, and the slave rebellion ended that.
He doesn't really seem to grasp the underpinnings of the dangers facing our modern society. It's the economy stupid, more on point, huge fiscal debt in most of the world's modern nations is the true danger to our "western" civilization. It's like a slow growing cancer that nobody wants to deal with. Let's see how the internet fixes this huge problem.
This article is superficial at best.
This guy is indisputably smart, and he's probably a decent neurologist and fiction writer. But one thing that he should not be talking about is social collapse. I mean, seriously, he knows lots about lots of thing, but does not know shit about this. I wish someone told me to just skip over all that silly stuff about how the internet will prevent societies from collapsing and jump to the question period. The questioners quickly give up asking about social collapse because of the speaker's childlike naivete on the work of Tainter et al., but once they mercifully change the subject, things get more interesting.
I think that Stewart Brand has a crush on this guy, but he should have gotten him to speak on a topic that he knows.
ALEXANDER ROSE: Good evening everybody, please take your seats. As some of you know westart these talks off with a long short, a short film that exemplifies long termthinking. This long short is one of the shortest at sixty seconds and probably coversthe longest time span at several million years.STEWART BRAND: And for the next four and a half billion years. Good evening I'm StewartBrand from the Long Now Foundation. As for tonight's speaker how many here have readSum Tales of the Afterlife, how many have given copies to their friends. That happens alot and it's going to happen more.DAVID EAGLEMAN: Okay so this is you and you live in a fantastic, terrific society andyou would probably think that there's no way that anything's ever going to happen inthis society. You can't even imagine how something like this would fold and collapse.It's very difficult to imagine, but note that you would feel exactly the same way ifthis were you and you lived in the Roman Empire. You would have thought exactly thatsame thing and if you lived in ancient Greece it's impossible to imagine that yourwhole society would fold and collapse. Similarly if you were living in ancient Egypt orin the Mali Empire in Africa it would be very difficult to imagine these things. But infact an astounding number of civilizations have come before us and they have collapsedand centuries of progress and development and invention have caved in on themselves andwhat this has left is nothing but archeological ruins and scattered genetics. So someof these civilizations here have declined slowly and others have suddenly toppled andscholars are still trying to figure out why, and there's an entire academic disciplinethat's devoted towards figuring out why societies collapse? Now one of the main reasonsto figure out why societies collapse is to figure out how to avoid that happening tous. So when you sift through the evidence about the different societies and how theyfell, you find that there are things in common. Things in common that cause them tocollapse and these include things like disease, natural disaster, political corruption,economic meltdown and resource depletion. So the civilizations that survive are thosethat have either been lucky or the ones that have developed new technologies tocircumvent these challenges. What I'm going to argue tonight is that we are a verylucky civilization because we have sort of accidentally invented a technology that Ithink obviates many of the threats that have caused previous civilizations to collapse.This is a con-activity map of the Internet. What I'm going to do tonight is present acase of this rapid electronic network system, it provides six very important steps thatwe would want to avoid collapse. So I think we're at a water shed moment in our historyand this may just be the thing that saves our future. For each step I'm going toexplain why it matters historically and what still remains for us to do to keepourselves safe. Step number one for avoiding the collapse of civilization is try not tocough on one another. This is a virus and disease epidemics caused by microbes likethis, viruses and also bacteria; these are the things that precipitated the fall of theRoman Empire and of the golden age of Athens and of most of the empires of the NativeAmericans. It's sort of surprising that when you look at the largest threat to thesurvival of civilization that something so small, and in fact it's so invisibly smallthat viruses and bacteria weren't understood until very recently in history and yetdespite their small size these have caused more death and destruction than all thefamines and wars put together. Take as an example small pox which was the mostdestructive disease in history. It's killed hundreds of millions of people betweenancient times and 1977 when it was finally eradicated. The Romans lost up to a third oftheir population in parts of their empire and about a millennium later what happened isthat the crusaders came back from pillaging distant land and they brought an epidemicof small pox to Europe. Europeans then went over to the new world, they brought smallpox to the new world and in doing so it devastated the Incas and the Mayans and othernatives there. Some of you may know in 1707 small pox wiped out a third of Iceland.Similarly the black plague, Yersinia Pestis, this wiped out a third of Europe startingin 1347 and then it kept coming back to haunt Europe century after century. Yellowfever so badly decimated Napoleon's army's in Haiti that Napoleon gave up the idea ofhaving a Western French empire just because of yellow fever. Because of his 22,000crack soldiers he had sent to Haiti, 21,000 of them died so that's why Napoleon soldthe Louisiana Territory to the United States because he said I just don't want to berunning this show confronting diseases that I no longer understand. So he sold it forroughly five cents per acre which in a bloodless manner doubled the size of the UnitedStates. It goes on and on, there are these viruses and bacteria that have reallynavigated the course of history in major ways. What I'm going to suggest is that theInternet is really our key to survival here and this is for three reasons. First whatthe Internet gives us is the ability to work remotely and when you can work from hometelepresently, what this allows you to do is inhibit viral transmission by reducingface to face contact, the human to human contact. So here's the idea, the next timethat there's a really killer virus coming our way, if businesses are prepared inadvance, what they can do is really leverage telepresence to keep supply chains runningwith the maximum number of employees working from home. Now this isn't going to keepeverybody off the street but it's going to vastly reduce the density and it turns outthat when it comes to epidemics that's all you need to do. You just need to get thingsbelow a tipping point so the reason viruses have this sort of tipping point is becauseviruses have a limited lifetime and a certain probability of infecting somebody. If youhave very low host density then the virus dies before it can get to a new host. But assoon as you get enough people together then it can find new hosts and you go from somesort of equilibrium state into an epidemic, it really blows up. In fact you can seethis sort of thing happening every Christmas holiday season with people shopping in themalls, because they all bunch together and then you cross over this population tippingpoint and then everyone gets the flu and cold. Now here's the problem, in the pastsocieties have reacted to epidemics by bunching together so for example in medievalEurope when the black plague hit and other plagues like it, war and religious factionswho spent all of their time killing each other would show solidarity in the face of allthis death by marching together in the streets together to show that the Catholics andthe Protestants could be friends in the face of the plague. Well that was the realmisstep in terms of density. It turns out that the Native Americans in a show of goodwill, they would gather in the tents of people who were infected with small pox,everyone would gather together and again unfortunately that was a gesture that was sortof ill fated. This is exactly the fear that all major medical centers have the nexttime we have a new strain hitting us, whether it's the Asian flu or Swine flu orsomething, the big fear that medical centers have is that everybody with a cough isgoing to come flocking into the medical center to get checked out. This is reallydangerous. I think this is the second great opportunity afforded to us by the netbesides telepresence is telemedicine whereby with increasingly sophisticatedtechnologies we don't have to have patients coming in and bunching up together butinstead we can have diagnosis from a distance. The telepresence and the telemedicineare very useful because they keep the population density below a tipping point. I thinkthere's a third benefit that we get from the Internet which is we can optimally directresources when there is an outbreak. You may know that the Center for Disease Controltracks the flu by tracking what happens at the local hospitals. Now the thing is thatit takes two weeks for the CDC to put together their report. It lags the actual fluoutbreak by two weeks, so Google came up with a better idea. What they do is they trackwhere people are searching for terms related to the flu so if their searching forinformation on symptoms or medicines or something it turns out that over the course ofthe nation that serves as an excellent proxy for where there is a flu outbreak. Whilethe CDC's report lags by two weeks, Google's lags by only a day. This gives us a veryrapid way to know dynamically exactly where the flu is and where the outbreaks arehappening. Unlike previous generations that were brought down by disease, especiallybecause they didn't know how to react in terms of density and sparseness, we can now dobetter because of the Internet. If we're well prepared when the next epidemic arriveswe can fluidly shift into a self quarantine telepresence society in which the microbesfail by dent of host sparseness. There is a lot of talk of course about the ills ofsocial isolation and everybody sitting on facebook, but whatever those ills are it[Inaudible] a lot worse for the microbes than it does for us. Although we're well intothe step there's work to be done if we want to save our civilization. Businesses reallyneed to work on developing their disaster plans and their work from home epidemicplans. I wrote a paper on this in the Journal Nature about five years ago and I've beenwatching what businesses are doing. I've been monitoring how this has been going. Somebusinesses are doing it, most aren't still. It's really important to try to getbusinesses to do this and it's extremely easy to test, to work out the kinks, to haveeverybody to work from home. The second thing is in society we really need to keepdeveloping telemedicine and similar ideas like that. So that's step one where theInternet already gets us a long way down that road of not coughing on each other. Thesecond way that I propose the Internet is going to avert the collapse of civilizationis with this. You don't want to lose things so in a battle between Julius Caesar andTony the eighth, Julius Caesar got backed into a sort of funny military move and whathe ended up doing was burning his own ships at the dock. Now military historians talkabout whether it was a good idea or not but the thing was he accidentally lit the dockson fire and that burned down the library at Alexandria. Now the reason that was such atragedy is because the library at Alexandria had for a very long time been collectingthe manuscripts of every single person who passed through the port. So if you weregoing through Alexandria you had to give up your manuscripts for careful copying by thescribes and then they would give it back to you. So what the library housed was all ofthe knowledge at that time. This was the repository. The problem was it was the singlerepository and when it got torched; it's now just a memory. The thing is that all theknowledge collected over that period of time was lost entirely in a single fire. Itturns out that the learning and discovery of the Mayans met the same fate in thebonfires of the Spaniards. Of the thousands of books that the Mayans had written, thatcataloged all of their learning and discovery and so on, we only have four of them.Only four survived in the modern times. Now can you imagine somebody trying tounderstand our civilization by reading let's say the Bible and Frankenstein and HarryPotter and Twilight. That's the situation we're in where we're trying to understand theMayans. All of their knowledge is gone it was burned. The Minoan civilization was aflourishing civilization between 2700 BC and 1450 BC. It was on the island of Crete,they had all kinds of trade and discovery. Here's one of their Frescos, this is knownas the Phaistos Disc from the Minoan's. Does anyone know what those symbols mean?Nobody does, join the club, yeah exactly, because it was completely lost. In fact theyweren't even called the Minoans, that's not what they called themselves. That's a namethat a British archeologist gave them because we don't know what they calledthemselves. So everything they had and knew was lost to us. So knowledge is hard won bysocieties and civilizations but it's very easily lost and it proves impossible toestimate the number of museums and archives and libraries and houses of learning thatfell under the swords of invaders or under the wrecking balls of natural disasters. Sothe problem is history is characterized by the sort of amnesia where you havecivilizations that flourish if you can imagine little fires on the surface of the globethere where there's a fire that happens for a while and then it gets doused out forwhatever reason and everything they learned is now forgotten. The thing is that thisimpacts survival; this isn't just some sort of historical interest thing. So take as anexample inoculation. Many people know that in Europe inoculation was introduced by LadyMontegut, and the idea is that you introduce a little bit of the virus to somebody andthat confers immunity to a bigger dose of the virus. For example with small pox, thisis where it was used. But inoculation isn't just a good idea it's a great idea becauseit really reduces the death rate. But what's not so widely known outside of westerncircles is that Lady Montegut didn't invent this, in fact the Audubon Empire where shefirst saw it, they didn't even invent it. It turns out that this inoculation had beenin practice in China and India and Africa for centuries unbeknownst to the Europeans.For example in China inoculation was underway since the tenth century and by the timeof the Ming Dynasty in the 1500's it was widely practiced, everybody was doing it. Butthe Europeans had to sort of re-stumble on this on their own much later. Does thismatter? Well you bet it matters because millions of people died in the meantime whilethis was going on while some people had the knowledge of inoculation and others didn't.Now Edward Jenner in 1796 improved on inoculation instead of injecting somebody withsmall pox you used cow pox instead which makes them less sick but it also confers theimmunity. Well that was a great idea that Jenner had except we now know that six peoplein Germany and England had the same idea and they had shown the success of that ideabut nobody knew. What happened is the little fires got lit but they didn't spread soeverybody had to independently rediscover this. Now as I mentioned it really matters ifthese things have to get rediscovered or if they can catch on and spread because at thesame time that all this was going on with Lady Montegut and then later with Dr. Jenner,Native Americans were dying of small pox. The knowledge existed in other places on theplanet but they didn't exist as these whole empires were falling here. Okay whathappens is if you can imagine these little fires going on, I should mention two moreexamples actually. This is stunning but did you guys know that basic plumbing ceased toexist for a millennium after the collapse of the Roman Empire. People forgot how to doplumbing, they had to rediscover that a thousand years later. One more example in theyear 1900 three different botanists independently discovered the rules of geneticinheritance which Gregor Mendel had quietly published forty years earlier. It wasindependently rediscovered three times in the same year. If you can imagine theselittle fires, you've got inoculation that goes away and you've got basic plumbing andyou've got the rules of genetic inheritance and what you really want is for an idea toget discovered once and then to really catch fire. That's what you want to happen andthat's what the Internet is good for because it's distributed and when you distributeideas it can latch on everywhere and get spread around and in fact this was one of theoriginal motivations for the Internet was to have distributed storage. The big idea iswhen you distribute things bits of knowledge and transformed ideas can latch onimmediately. The news spreads everywhere quickly and redundantly and it makes it verydifficult to erase. So fires like the library of Alexandria and floods and so on have avery difficult time erasing such a knowledge set. So for example in my field as aneuroscientist I everyday use Pop Med which is the central collection of all of the biomedical research. So anything that's discovered anywhere on the earth is going to endup in here very quickly and I can find it with a few clicks. There's a company calledJSTOR which some of you may use, they scan these old archives of all these old journalsfrom the 1600 and 1700's. Journals that nobody goes down to the library and actuallydusts off anymore, now it's fully text searchable, you can find things that were oncelost to history, they've been exhumed now and they're all right there at yourfingertips. And of course with something like Google books you have the worlds writingis all there and it's clickable and discoverable and readable. So the idea is if theMayans had had Pop Med they could have just looked up inoculation, right, and unlikethe library of Alexandria you can't torch Google books, that's really here to stay.That's the idea. Now as an example of the modern appreciation of storing knowledge in aredundant indestructible manner, everyone recognizes Michelangelo's David. Well this isnot actually Michelangelo's David, this is Michelangelo's David and it's being scannedwith a 3D laser scanner, it's from a group Stanford and University of Washington. Whatthey did was they scanned the entire statue and what you're seeing on the right is areproduction of it made of a billion polygons at a quarter of a millimeter resolution.This is the largest scanned object in the world right now and the idea is that if themuseum were to be suddenly destroyed in an earthquake, this statue would not be lost.It's totally reproducible now; this is what's known as the digital Michelangeloproject. You can download this onto a CD under jump drive it's stored all over theworld and what this means is, by the way, this just got completed a few months ago, soprevious to that if this hadn't been done and there was an earthquake it would just beutterly lost. There would be no more statue there. Now this is just a piece of art ofcourse but I'm using this as an example of the way that we can create things now andmake them immune against destruction. Where this becomes really important is with theintellectual discoveries that might be happening anywhere on the earth and that mightbecome really important for our future. We won't be losing those ideas anymore and wecan draw on them when we need them and we're not wasting time with parallel rediscoveryas has happened so many times in history. This allows us to optimally solve problemsincluding problems that we don't even know are problems yet. Okay, so step two isdistribute, don't reinvent. Now the fast spread of these ideas obviously injects noiseinto the data base but it also very importantly prevents the loss of discovery. In thisway societies can optimally ratchet up and we can use the latest bricks of knowledge inour fortification against existential threats. I think we're doing a good job here,there's a lot more that we're going to develop here, for example, aside from doingdigital statues I don't see why we couldn't do full digital cities and combine forexample Flicker and Microsoft Photosynth passively and reconstruct very fine threedimensional detail of everything that's out there and have that for the future. Rightnow that's a lot of data but in four years it won't be. I've been thinking about waysto improve information science so that you could not only make sure that none of theinformation is not lost but you could develop algorithms some day that could actuallygo and read all the papers in Pop Med and analyze them and start constructing newhypothesis and experiments and that ratchets things up even faster. So there is a lotof room to grow here but I think we're well on our way on this step for savingcivilization. Okay, step number three. Tell each other about things faster. What you'reseeing in the top left here is an image from Pompeii which was destroyed when MountVesuvius blew and covered the city in ash. What you're seeing in the lower right is aFresco from the Minoan's civilization that I mentioned before which was destroyed by atsunami. Here we see the Harappa civilization which is in between India and Pakistan onthe coast which disappeared entirely and Meghito which is in modern day Israel, both ofthese seem to have fallen to earthquakes. So in all these cases natural disastersuddenly made a civilization disappear. When I really started thinking about therelationship between natural disaster and the Internet is when I was watching what washappening with the California wildfires starting several years ago. So what happenedwas Californians were glued to their television sets trying to figure out if theirneighborhoods were in danger. Here's a picture from San Diego and you can see the fireway in the distance. What people wanted to know was am I in trouble? So they turn onthe news station let's say CNN and they got disappointed because what happened was CNNwas spending all their time covering celebrity mansions and they were looking atwhether these mansions in Hollywood and Malibu were going to be in danger and somehowthese houses were taking up air time in proportion to their square footage. So if youwant to know if your neighborhood is in danger that's not useful to you. So whathappened is you could see this several years ago happening something tipped, somethingchanged and what happens is everybody turns off the TV and they went to their computer,they start taking Geotag cell phone pics, they started twittering, they startedupdating their facebook pages and what happened is the news started spreading veryfast. The news started spreading in a very accurate way faster than the front of thefire and faster than CNN could cover it because essentially what you had were all thesehome journalists. You had journalists embedded on every block in every home and peoplewere taking information and putting this out there. What happened was thisdecentralization and this massive networking really sped up the information in a waythat old news networking just couldn't compete with anymore. So that got me thinkingabout what happens when you do and you don't have this kind of networking in the faceof a natural disaster? Take what happened in December of 2004 when there was anearthquake underneath the ocean and that caused a massive tsunami that hit all of thelip of the Indian Ocean and caused a devastating tsunami in Southeast Asia. It allhappened without warning, nobody saw this coming. People saw the water receding andthey thought it was interesting, they went out there and everybody knows about thethousands of people that died. Contrast this with what happened in the Pacific Oceanjust four weeks ago, February 27th. What happened was the Pacific Ocean has a tsunamiwarning system because in 1964 there was a giant earthquake in Alaska which triggered atsunami and after that happened scientists went and built this specific tsunami warningsystem, essentially it's a bunch of buoy's that are sprinkled out over the entire oceanand they track what's happening in real time and they're connected to an informationalway of getting the word out. So what happened on February 27th, just four weeks ago,was that there was an underwater earthquake and the system picked up these shock wavesand sent out the word. What happened is within hours the beaches in Hawaii werecompletely evacuated, there was nobody there everyone went up to the high groundspeople were sort of festive about it and got a picnic or whatever, but they were up inthe high grounds, nobody was on the beaches. The U.S. Navy took their ships from PearlHarbor and steamed them out so they wouldn't be caught in near shore damage. It turnsout what happened is the big wave never came, it was sort of a false alarm but it was atremendously successful test of the system. Because had the wave come nobody would havebeen hurt because there was great warning that happened there. So the Indian Oceanlacks a system like that and so I think what we have is this fantastic contrast just inthe last few years of what happens when you do and you don't have the sort of networkcommunication where you can get the word out very quickly. And if you can imagine thatif the Minoan civilization had had a tsunami warning system then they'd still be herewith us and they would be sitting in the audience next to you. Okay, I want to giveanother example of how having fast information like this impact existential threats soimagine that the Pompeian's had had electronic communication when Mount Vesuvius blewand this was in the year 79 and the volcanic eruption actually happened in two phases.What happened the first day is over the course of about twenty hours there was thishuge plume of pumice that rained over the course of the day about nine feet on Pompeii,but that's not what killed people. Actually what kills people often with these volcaniceruptions is what happened the next day, it's called pyroclastic flow. What pyroclasticflow is, is you've got this hot rock and gas and dust that's screaming down the side ofthe volcano at a hundred miles per hour and this is a thousand degrees in temperature,right so this is what kills you. It turns out that this is what eventually hit Pompeiiand it hit all the people that were still there and this is what killed them and whatdestroyed the city. By my calculation here's Vesuvius right here and here's Pompeii, bymy calculation it would have been very easy with a networking system for the Pompeian'sto march ten kilometers to the southeast in about two hours and it would have all beensaved had they just known that this was coming, right? The idea is they were stymied bythe lack of information and they were completely killed and then they were forgottenfor centuries. Something that strikes me as very interesting is that Pompeii wasrediscovered in the 1700's. Can you imagine now with our network system forgetting acity but it was forgotten where it was, who they were, it was forgotten until the1700's. Okay so what I've been telling you about is early warning systems with tsunamiswith volcanoes, but you might be thinking what about something fast like an earthquake,is that going to help anybody? Well maybe not, but certainly where the net has beenproving very useful lately is with aggregating information for the public for crisisresponse. Just like the information was spread about the California wildfires, quicklythis has all been sort of formalized. This is a site called Ushahidi.com and this wasoriginally built in 2008 to monitor violence that was happening in the elections inKenya. What you're seeing here is a real time map of areas of trouble in Haiti and whatthis is, is people can contribute with text messaging or e-mail or web submissionexactly where trouble is. Different sorts of trouble too, emergencies, menaces, publichealth problems, all this stuff and in the immediate aftermath of the Haitianearthquake, this was a real go to site. Because everybody on the ground with a mobilephone can text and say hey here at this location something is happening and everybodygets to see this. It aggregates it and this optimizes disaster response. I also want tomention a very interesting twist on this. The fact that people we know will inevitablynow a days twitter and text and update statuses from wherever there is a disaster,actually gives us another way to read information if things go really badly. We shouldbe able to assess spots of really big damage because of the absence of information. Sowhat I mean is imagine there is a really big hail storm somewhere where there is goingto be a lot of twittering about that but now imagine that a giant meteor slams into theUnited States somewhere, it's the absence of any twittering from that spot that's goingto carry the bad news at the speed of electricity. That's how we're going to knowsomething really bad happened there. So the idea with step number three here withadvanced communication networks, humans grow closer to omniscience and omnipresence andthey can spread news of a disaster faster than the disasters wave front. And with theright circumstances that head start can provide the extra hours that saves us. We stillhave a long way to go with monitoring these sorts of disasters. Scientists right noware working on putting the same sort of monitoring system that's in the Pacific Oceanin the Indian Ocean so that we won't have a recapitulation of what happened in 2004 andit's a very good step and we'll continue to have better and more accurate disasterrecovery sites. One of the things that has to be absolutely certain is that these sitesdon't go down right when we need them most. Okay, step number four, how to avert thecollapse of civilization is you have to minimize tyranny. Political censorship has beena familiar specter in the last century with state approved news outlets in Rumania,China, Cuba, Iraq and lots of other countries. The official newspapers of the SovietUnion, what you're seeing here, you're seeing Pravda, had a complete lock on the newsand foreign newspapers were only allowed in if they were published by communist partiesin other countries and approved by the Soviets. It wasn't just the newspapers, theSoviets had a firm lock on all the copying machines so that you couldn't even have selfpublished books and disseminate flyers and that sort of thing. And of course theSoviets were very fond of editing photographs to remove people who had fallen out offavor with the party, so you see these sorts of things where people are just gone. Thisis Photoshop before Photoshop was cool. They were fond of doing this sort of thing,this is an unusual fact but even the weather reports were doctored so in Cheska Romaniafor example it turns out that certain weather extremes translate to time off from workand so those temperatures were never reached, ever. It turns out that Stalin did thesame thing because if the weather report suggested that the sun was not going to shineon the day of celebration of the labor movement then it was doctored. In all of thesecases what the censorship did was it hobbled cultural progress and it directly fomentedrevolutionary reactions and the reason is that censorship never seems to work that wellwith the population because people never really fall for doctored messages that easily.The parties always think that they're going to get away with it but in fact thepopulation is usually smarter. So it doesn't do a regime much good, but the point Iwant to make is that censorship can be much more dangerous than just books and photosand weather. Tyranny can actually bring down a nation so on the far left here is TrofimLysenko, he was a Soviet Agronomist who became extremely powerful in the USSR becausehe was favored by Stalin. So Lysenko had these theories about how to grow wheat and itturns out that we now know those theories were scientifically fraudulent but it didn'tmatter because he was favored by Stalin he got more and more power and by the late1940's he was completely in control of Soviet agriculture about the way that everybodyhad to grow their wheat. The problem is with the centralized command is that the SovietUnion covered thirteen time zones and had an incredible variety of soils and climatesand a lot of local common sense by local farmers and as a result this central rulesetting that happened, it was called Lysenkoism, the central rule setting for how togrow agriculture was absolutely disastrous for the wheat crops in the Soviet Union. Thelocal farmers knew better how to care for their crops but they were disallowed thisfreedom. What happened is that scientists who disagreed with Lysenko and it turns outthat they were correct, they were disbarred from their position and several of them, atleast four of them, were executed based on the fact that they were disagreeing with hisgenetic theories. Well historians traced part of the downfall of the USSR to thiscatastrophe that happened with their agriculture. It hobbled the economy and itcrippled the proletariat belief in the new system and so the lesson for history is thathaving a centralized tyranny rarely works as well as having local information andnested feed back loops. Well the Internet allows us in a very natural way; itdemocratizes the flow of information by giving the open access to everybody. To thenewspapers to the world, to the photographs to the world, to the blogs. Now obviouslysome postings that you find on the Internet they're full of doctoring and dishonestyand others strive for independence and impartiality, but in the end everything isavailable on the net for the end user to sift through and to give reason andconsideration to. As a result of this, related to this, the Internet can allow formassive speedy democratic responses to things. So I'm just going to use this as anexample because this happened just four months ago. On December 30th the Canadian PrimeMinister Stephen Harper announced that he was going to shut down Parliament until March30th presumably so he could continue to work on a stimulus package. But a lot of peopleknew that the reason he was doing it was because he was about to get a vote of noconfidence that would force an election and maybe force him out of office. So what hedoes is he just shuts down Parliament and he did it on December 30th so that everybodywould be busy with the holiday season and in fact a lot of people were busy and sort ofdidn't notice. Well one student noticed and he started a facebook group which veryquickly got 214,000 members and through this they were able to organize rallies allacross Canada. Many of these rallies had 3,000 people at them and he was able to dothis with such rapidity and effectiveness in a way that would not have been possiblebefore the advent of the Internet. Of course we see this all the time now, we're seeingthis all over the world. And so the idea is that governments can be kept in check thisway with a sort of speed that wasn't possible before. Here's another way thatgovernments can be kept in check by publicly aggregating and displaying informationabout vote tampering. This is a growing trend in many countries, this has been used inthe voting, the national elections in the last few years by Nigeria, Kenya, Afghanistanand among several others. So the idea is that citizens using their cell phones canreport disturbances or defamations or vote tampering or they can even just reportincidents where things went well. What this has the effect of doing is keeping theelection fair and free as possible, in fact I mentioned earlier the crisis mapping toolUshahidi, it was developed in Kenya for the 2008 elections when a lot of violence wasgoing on. What this does is it publicly shines a light on the election and this is justone way to keep governments a little bit more transparent than they might otherwisevolunteer to be on their own. Now obviously the benefit of the Internet in shininglights on governments and minimizing tyranny is in danger in many places around theglobe as most of you know, I'm sure. In 2006 Google agreed that they would sensortraffic in China because it was obviously very appealing to tap into a market of fourhundred million people. As many of you know if you search for Tiananmen Square protestmost places in the world on Google this is what you get. If you're inside China and yousearch for Tiananmen Square protest this is what you get. So what happened veryrecently of course is that Google changed their mind on this topic and recently startedputting into practice ways of circumventing the great fire wall of China. In doing sothey are taking a real risk about giving up this giant chunk of market, but I thinkit's a very admirable thing to do if you care about mitigating tyranny. It puts theChinese authorities in a very difficult position which is interesting because thegovernment there is weary of agitating local Google users who tend to be very highlyeducated and vocal. So I bring this up to emphasize this point that minimizing tyrannywith the Internet is not automatic, it's not straight forward, it's going to requireconstant vigilance. In fact, here's another example of that: This is a map of theInternet and information flow around the world and how free it is and you can see thatthe red areas are sort of the usual suspects where there is really serious danger interms of the openness of the information flow, but what some of you might not know isthat the government of Australia in 2008 decided to try to pass mandatory ISP filteringon all the web sites and in 2009 it was leaked that they had a list, the black list ofall the sites they were going to filter out. Now this hasn't actually been put intopractice in Australia but it is a subject of real political discussion and thegovernment that's in power wants to do it and this is something for us to really beaware of. Because again while the Internet can reduce the control of a government thereis constant vigilance that is required. So I mentioned these difficulties, even in theface of these difficulties, it remains likely that future attempts at censorship areeventually going to be defeated by the new technology of the Internet or at least theInternet will help with this. Among other things as citizens our next steps are firstof all to demand transparency in government at every point that we can, this is alreadyunder way with sites like recovery.gov and we should financially encourage companieswho stand up against censorship. There are several companies now that are consideringpulling out of China. Now it's complicated, some of them have various reasons, some oftheir servers have been hacked and they're mad about that. They have various reasonsfor wanting to do that, but I think the [Inaudible] is on us as a population to givepositive feedback to those companies. Google's stock has fallen 6% since they startedhaving this trouble with China and that's a shame. Thinking a little further into thefuture, eventually people are going to get very good at having home brewed satelliteuplink systems which means that you can circumvent government firewalls all together. Ithink all these steps are going to be very important in terms of minimizing tyranny andthe Internet is one of the technologies that can really help us get there. Step five:If you want to save civilization is to get more brains involved in solving problems. Weall know about crowd sourcing and the idea here is that you solve problems by massiveparticipation and what you do is you get lots of people together and their essentiallythe nodes of the super computer. There's been a lot of scholarly writing and popularwriting about the wisdom of crowds and the fantastic properties you get out of crowdsourcing. For example on the site Foldit, protein folding is an extremely intensivecomputational problem and the idea here is that you turn it into a game and you haveend users work on the game and see how they can fold it and see who can get the minimumenergy configuration and then you can win prizes and so on. So what you're doing isyou're distributing this very hard problem to lots and lots of people. It's a greatidea for crowd sourcing. CSTART is a new organization that's just begun and their ideais to do open source knowledge gathering to get to the moon. So we don't have to dependon governments anymore we're going to get to the moon by ourselves by everybody sort ofpitching in the same way you can do open source movements to develop really goodsoftware. So that's the idea with crowd sourcing, but what I want to point out is thatcrowd sourcing really, the way it's going now, involves less than 1% of the worldpopulation who are actually involved in this sort of thing. I want to suggest animportant way to go beyond crowd sourcing. Eighty years ago Virginia Wolf and her essayA Room of One's Own, she pointed out that half of the planet's writing talent had beensquandered by the simple fact that women at that time didn't have the same opportunityas men to become writers. She imagined in this book what would happen if WilliamShakespeare had had a sister named Judith Shakespeare who was equally as talented. Whatwould have happened? And her answer is we would never have heard of Judith Shakespearebecause she simply wouldn't have had the opportunity. That's a real waste of humancapital. Human capital is a term that originally was defined by Adam Smith and itrefers to the skills of the labor force. It turns out that it's now becoming clear thatthe development of human capital depends on open access to education and opportunities.Many economists have been really emphasizing lately the importance of cultivating humancapital because the investment translates directly into economic output. In a worldwhere we know that historical collapse is so tightly tied to economic meltdowncivilizations would be well advised to leverage all the brain power that they have. Theproblem is most of the world doesn't have the opportunity to get the education that'safforded to a small minority. For every Einstein, or Yo-Yo Ma, or Barak Obama who havethe opportunity for education there are uncountable others who just never get thechance. This vast under tapping of our civilizations potential steals security from ourfuture. The Internet addresses this problem with a kind of natural ease by opening thegates of education in a way that's never been possible before. So a motivated teenanywhere on the planet can start walking through the world's webs of knowledge,starting with Wikipedia and then going to MIT's open course ware and getting an IvyLeague education. Many universities launch this sort of thing, Rice University has asite called connections which is essentially Wikified text books from children toprofessionals and it's been very successful. So for the intrepid learner anywhere onthe globe, if they can get a hold of the Internet, there are tens of thousands ofcourses on line, there are lectures, there are lecture notes, there are homeworkproblems, there are quizzes, interactive web demo's and so on. And beyond the coursesthe world's scientific knowledge is now at the fingertips of everyone. So hunting downa scientific paper when I had first started graduate school you had to walk over to thelibrary. Now everything is at your fingertips and the National Institute of Health hasdemanded that all the papers that are published on their dime, in other words, anyscientist who has an NH Grant, now has to upload the published manuscript to Pop Medcentral. So the idea is that for the tax payers the fruits of their labors should beright there at their fingertips. If they're the ones contributing to the research theyshould be able to access that. The same with Archive.org, you've got all the physicspapers available so all the world's knowledge is available right there to anyone whocan get a hold of the Internet. If you're ever going to be a medical patient of coursenow's the right time to do it, until recently physicians had a lot of asymmetricknowledge over the patients, but with the proliferation of medical web portals andsites where patients get together and share information, the patients are bettereducated and that ends up being better for everyone. Okay, I know what you're thinking,you're thinking you know it's not actually trivial for kids in impoverished countriesto get a hold of the Internet and much of the world does not have access still.Nonetheless, even the mere feasibility that completely redefines the playing field andpeople are working on getting computers into the hands of children all over. Many ofyou are familiar with the One lap top per child program, which builds very cheapcomputers and allows children to have these so that they can have this self empoweredlearning. There was a lot of development that went into One Lap top Per Child to makethese computers very inexpensive and Negroponte, the guy who's been leading thischarge, just announced that they're working on a new model of the computer which willbe based on the tablet model and the advantage here is that it's a lot cheaper and morerobust to build because the former model has nine hundred moving parts including thekeyboard and the hinge and so on whereas the tablet model has none of that. So you cando it for cheaper and it's more robust and you can get this into the hands of even morechildren. So this is a program that's underway and it's been tremendously successful. Italked a few steps ago about the retention of knowledge and the speed of spreadingknowledge, but what I'm really talking about here is the creation of knowledge and I'dlike to be able to come up with a better word than crowd sourcing which as I mentionedjust uses less than 1% of the population working on these problems. Since there will beproblems in the future that we haven't even thought of, in the face of that what wewant to do is maximize our problem solving machinery and so what I think we want to doas we democratize education is move from crowd sourcing really to something likesociety sourcing where we're getting 10%, 50% of the population involved in reallysolving problems. It goes without saying that vast numbers of people on the planet willnot take the opportunity to give themselves an Ivy League education, but for the firsttime in history it's widely available. So the Internet has sort of naturallyaccomplished a human resource capitalization that would make Judith Shakespeare proud.We're finally in a position to actualize the brains available in a worldwidepopulation. There are a lot of steps that we need to do next. We need to keepincreasing sites and application for crowd sourcing, contribute to open course wheresupport open access publishing in all areas financially incentivize that and improveinformation science. I can go into that a little bit more. Finally the last step if youwant to overt the collapse of civilization is try not to run out of energy. It turnsout that carrying capacity is one of the main concerns on the mind of scientists andpoliticians and thinkers. It's the fugacity of the natural energy resources that wehave is really the concern because when societies exceed their , in other words howmuch energy is available to support them, that's when all is lost. That's when theystart fighting for the resources that are there and everything goes down the tubes. Sothis characterizes many different types of collapses that have come before us, so inJared Diamond's book Collapse, he points out that a common reason for societal failureis environmental damage for example: deforestation, or soil erosion. In his bookAncient Maya, Arthur Demarest points out that the same thing that draught and a loss ofsoil fertility precipitated the fall of the Mayan even before the small pox arrived. Itturns out that just recently people have come up with evidence for the excedance ofcarrying capacity among the Minoan's, a civilization that I mentioned before that gotwiped out by a tsunami. It turns out that archeological recovery shows evidence fordeforestation around that part of Crete, meaning that if a tsunami didn't get them,carrying capacity issues might have. Well happily the Internet again addresses thissort of problem with very natural ease. I was recently just giving a talk at the NIH in[Inaudible] and I was absolutely amazed by these atavistic filing cabinets that linedthe hallways and the rooms and they filled everything with this unnecessary gravity andno one accesses these anymore because all of the important papers of course haveshifted into electrons at this point. So what remains in the hallways are these fossillike evidence of a recent age in which you measured information content, not bygigabytes but by cubic meters? The inefficiency of these giant filing systems hascharacterized everything, businesses and scientists until very recently. I'm going tosuggest that the technological shift from bigger to smaller is more than convenient,it's absolutely critical to the future. Take for example our mail service, since theintroduction of e-mail our postal system which has now been demoted to the moniker ofsnail mail, has been hemorrhaging financially and they have been raising their stampprices continually to try to keep up. Why, because everybody is sending their documentselectronically, whether it's real estate contracts or book manuscripts or whatever itis everybody is sending this electronically. It's very difficult to estimate thebillions of pounds of carbon dioxide saved by not having to ferry batches of papereverywhere for simple transactions. We can be sure that this makes a contribution toair quality. Similarly we've diminished the need to drive long distances to browse andpurchase products and this has allowed many brick and mortar stores to shift a lot oftheir operation online. If you're shopping for a perfect set of cutlery or dishes or ashirt or something you might have previously driven around to several stores to lookfor this, to look over the stock, and now it's replaced with some minutes of websurfing, you find exactly what you want at the best price and you click to get a singledelivery. Now I know what you're thinking, you're thinking well what makes you thinkthat the delivery trucks are any better for the environment than if you drove around.Well there's a couple things, it turns out that one thing you might worry about is allthe packaging that involves in delivery but of course all the companies that are movingtowards more eco friendly packaging, they call it eco friendly packaging, but of coursethey're saving themselves money. The only reason that they ever had big packaging wasto prevent shop lifting. You have to put things in big display packages so people can'tstick it in their pocket and walk out. Well now you don't have to do that and companiesincreasingly they're all advertising how they're saving more and more and more on theirpackaging. So now things are very tight. Okay, but obviously we still have to worryabout the trucks driving around, but the good news is everybody's trying to save moneyand energy and so it turns out that companies like UPS who deliver these things havedeveloped these super optimization algorithms where they can figure out how to makedeliveries in the most optimal way possible and some of you may know that UPS trucksdon't even make left turns anymore. Why because left turns are terrible. You sit there,you idle, you waste a lot of time and gas, so UPS they never make left turns anymore,their super optimized and as a result they've saved millions of miles off theirdelivery route, they've saved millions of gallons of gas and they've reduced CO2 by alot. In many cases it turns out it actually is much more efficient to have these thingsdelivered to you and to your neighbors rather than you driving all over town in yourinefficient, sitting alone in your car, left turning method. And then finally it's thecase--so I'm a scientist and I see this all the time, people in businesses and otherpeople see this in your own ways all the time, but we're having more and more meetingson line. A few months ago I was invited by the Journal of Nature to give a talk insecond life and I was able to use power point slides and people dropped in from allaround the world to hear the talk and it was a fantastic experience for me becausethere was not a drop of jet fuel burned for all the people to come and hear the talk.It was seamless and it was absolutely environmentally friendly. Now there are of coursereal costs for the forest of computers that under pin the Internet, but these costs arefar less than the trees and the coal beds and the oil deposits that would be spent downfor the same amount of information flow. A lot of people are working on ways to produceelectricity more cheaply and quickly, but there aren't any such plans for trees andcoal and oil. So to summarize this many authors have pointed out that societal collapsecan typically be cast in terms of energy. When energy expenditure begins to our weighenergy return, that's when collapse ensues. So next time you're annoyed by theaccumulation of e-mails in your e-mail box just think about how grateful you are thatit's not all packages and papers like it was in the old days. Okay, so what to do next,well I think it would really be useful for companies to commit to server forms aroundsustainable energy. Governments can incentivize us with tax breaks and you know I don'tsee in the future why we can't have phone apps where you're minimizing your own routesdoing no left turns and figuring out how to go places and this is just in the nearfuture. I think in the far future we're going to have even better ways involving crowdsourcing and other methods of really getting better energy efficiency. In JaredDiamond's book Collapse, he points out that societies often fall because ofmalfunctions in long distance trading for needed resources. And I think through themodern lens we can suggest that maybe the most important trade works nowadays, thetrade networks nowadays are carrying zeros and ones. They're informational, they're inother words instead of sort of the silk route it's the fiber optic trading route. Andwhat I've argued is that the Internet can in a very natural easy way defy six problemsthat play traditional roles in societal collapse, and these are the problems. Now ofcourse I'm sure some people are scribbling down questions, now saying you know it'smore complex than that and that's exactly right. There are a lot of things that theInternet will only address tangentially. There are many scholars who address whycivilizations collapse, some point out that, very general things they don't changetheir fixed design for solving problems or they find problems they cannot solve. Theseare two famous ideas about why societies collapse. They are very general. I actuallythink that even though it's sort of tangential here the Internet with the crowdsourcing, the marketization of education and so on, the speed of information, I thinkit might actually be able to touch on these. There are others that it probably won't beable to touch on directly. Two men invented in 1948 listed many prerequisites for acivilizations survival, I've picked out some here that I think the net doesn't directlyaddress. Basic nutritional needs, construction of a good legal system, maintenance oforder with good executive and judicial branches, and having meaningful diplomacyabroad. These are all things that maybe the net doesn't directly address. And then I'msure somebody scribbled this down on a piece of paper already, there is a really bigproblem with everything I've been saying which is what happens when the net goes down?We are completely married to this, I mean it's already the case that we're in thissituation, but I'm arguing that it will save civilization and here's the real Achillesheel to the argument here. I think there are at least two ways that the net will godown, one of course is major electricity outages and I think what's going to need tohappen is people are going to need to think very hard about back-up plans not only forthe server farms but the routers, the end users people having waves at their own homesto run this and it might not, you might not want to just have it solar because theremight be something like a nuclear winter where there is no sun, you maybe want wind, Imean there are a lot of really bad scenarios you can imagine where the net would godown and you're completely depending on it and you want some way that the whole societyhas a back-up plan here. I have a suspicion that the nets going to go down a few timesbefore people get really good about having home back-up plans and everybody along theway has a good method for this. Then of course there's going to be network attacks andwe're already seeing some of this. The Internet in Iran went down recently and Ihaven't been able to find out exactly the follow up of what happened, but at the timethey were saying it looked like cables were cut, these undersea cables and I think thejuries still out about exactly what happened, if it was purposeful or not. What's clearis that in warfare of the future we're not going to be talking about just having ruggedsoldiers in camos and machine guns, we're going to be talking about young people intheir work out clothes slamming energy drinks and fighting national wars this way withcyber warfare. This is really, as we get more and more married and interact with theInternet. That's going to be the future of warfare. I just want to wrap up with makingone statement. Given how married we are to the Internet and given that this is thething that might save us in various ways I think we should probably have something likean equivalent of the seed vault. This is the seed vault in Svalbard which holds fivehundred different types of plant seeds and the idea is that if there's some globalcatastrophe you've got a back-up of everything here and you can actually reconstitutethe crops of the world by pulling them out of this seed bank is Svalbard. So we need tohave some sort of Internet seed bank, and I'm not talking about the Internet archive orjust having a copy of what's happening on the Internet, I'm talking about things burnedin the physical media that teach you how to generate electricity, how to build acomputer and how to reconstitute the net. Because we might have back-up of all the dataon the net, but someday if things get really disastrous we want to be able to actuallyrebuild the net. So that's all I'm going to say and I'm happy to take questions now.Thank you so much.