“How would you go about rebuilding a technological society from scratch?”
That’s the question that Dartnell aims to answer in The Knowledge, and (without testing it myself), he seems to do a damn good job. This book has a LOT of information in it. Not only does it prepare you to rebuild society, but it gives you an excellent history lesson on how humanity has figured out what we have so far.
“The most valuable part of our flying start is knowledge. That’s the short cut to save us starting where out ancestors did.” — John Wyndham, The Day of the Triffids
Darntell’s intention with The Knowledge is not to help you and your family survive the first few days of the apocalypse. You should already have a bunker prepped, and this book handy, so when you band together with other survivors you have a place to start. He lays out the ideal scenario — you want a group of about 10,000 people in order to have a variety of skills and, eventually, a variety of genetic material. A nuclear war won’t leave much safe material to work with — Darntell “hopes” for maybe a new disaster that will wipe out most of the population, but leave supplies and buildings intact. Doesn’t seem too far fetched, unfortunately.
“Correct scientific understanding and ingenious designs aren’t sufficient: you also need a matching level of sophistication in construction materials with the necessary properties and available power sources.”
From here, Darntell lays out all of our important systems — agriculture, transportation, medicine, communication, energy, etc. Each chapter discusses what you will likely have to start with, how to use existing supplies to get where you need to be, and frequently, a brief history of how civilization got to its current status in this field. So for instance, with agriculture — you may or may not have access to seeds, you may or may not have a tractor (if you do, here’s how you get it running), you should plant this crops for the best results, here’s how people have tackled agriculture across the world going back as far as we know.
It’s a very informative book — a little dry at times (SO much chemistry), but interesting overall. I appreciate that it wasn’t just a look forward, but a recap of where we’ve been as well.