Civilizations always think they’re immortal, Eagleman noted, but they nearly always perish, leaving “nothing but runes 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:
- “ Try not to cough on one another ” – More humans have died from epidemics than from all famines and wars. All businesses should develop a work-from-home capability for their workforce.
- “ 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.” Distribute, don’t re-invent.
- “ 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.
- “ 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. We should reward companies that stand up against censorship, as Google has done in China.
- “Get more brains involved in solving problems ” – Undertapping human capital endangers the future. Open courseware from colleges is making higher education universally accessible. Perhaps the next step is “society sourcing”.
- “ Try not to run out of energy ” – when energy expenditure outweighs energy return, collapse ensures. E-mail saves trees and trucking. We need to expand the ability to hold meetings and conferences online.