Evolving Ourselves: How Unnatural Selection and Nonrandom Mutation are Changing Life on Earth by Juan Enriquez and Steve Gullans. Portfolio/Penguin, 2015. The single best book currently available for a general audience that explains the genomic revolution now taking place and its implication for the future evolution of humans and all living things on Earth. Future humans could become the greatest caregivers of the planet...but only if we make the right choices now.
Radical Evolution: The Promise and Peril of Enhancing Our Minds, Our Bodies -- and What It Means to Be Human by Joel Garreau. Broadway Books, 2006. Garreau explores the promise and the danger of what our rapidly advancing knowledge of genetics will mean for the future of the human species and what it means to be human. This is our future, either in this civilization cycle or the next. Consciously controlling our own genetic destiny will be the greatest challenge homo sapiens has ever faced. All intelligent species in the universe go through this phase of evolution.
Arrival of the Fittest: Solving Evolution's Greatest Puzzle by Andreas Wagner. Penguin, 2014. A landmark book that explains the astonishing hidden structure of evolution. Darwin wrote of the survival of the fittest. This book seeks to answer the question: how did the fittest arrive in the first place? In the process it conclusively demolishes the idea that random mutations drive evolution.
Feeding Everyone No Matter What: Managing Food Security After Global Catastrophe by David Denkenberger and Joshua Pearce. Academic Press 2015. This book promises to revolutionize our thinking about the possibility of saving billions of humans in the event of a years long catastrophe that collapses world agriculture. It discusses conversion of existing vegetation and fossil fuels to edible food using mechanisms such as natural gas-digesting bacteria, extracting food from leaves, and conversion of fiber by enzymes, mushroom or bacteria growth. Some of these techniques are already being used to produce animal feed. A book intended for those with a scientific background but readable by lay people if you are patient.
Political Order and Political Decay by Francis Fukuyama. Farrar, Straus, and Giroux 2014.
If you were to read only one book about the development and evolution of the modern nation state this is the book. Fukuyama's analysis of how societies create strong, impersonal, and accountable political institutions is both profound and disturbing. A nation's political system can become so corrupt that it is incapable of reforming itself. Then change can only come from either revolution or a severe external shock. The United States may have reached that point.
The Collapse of Complex Societies by Joseph A. Tainter. Cambridge U Press, 1988. One of the most significant books of the past one hundred years. Second in importance only to Political Order and Political Decay. Explains the dangers of complexity to all societies, ancient and modern.
Collapse: How Societies Choose to Fail or Succeed by Jared Diamond. Viking Penguin, 2005. The third most important book on this subject. The uplifting aspect of this book is how Diamond shows that not all societies make disasterous mistakes. Responsible leadership by those who care more about their people than their personal gain can make all the difference. Sadly the reverse is more often the case.
The Party: The Secret World of China's Communist Rulers by Richard McGregor. Harper Perennial, 2010, 2012. This book is indispensable to understanding how modern China is really run. The Chinese Communist Party is central to everything that happens in the country, from political and economic policy to military goals and priorities. The former China Bureau Chief for London's Financial Times, McGregor is a master at explaining a system of government like no other in the world but one that, if it continues to be successful, others may try to emulate in the future.
The Knowledge: How to Rebuild Our World from Scratch by Lewis Dartnell, Penguin 2014. This book is in a class by itself. The Knowledge is not a prepper manual but a carefully reasoned thought experiment by the prominent British astrobiologist about the knowledge humans would need not just to survive an apocalypse but to rebuild an advanced civilization. There is also practical information about how to make soap, gunpowder, paper, ink, and fuel for an internal combustion engine.
The Dictator's Handbook by Bruce Bueno de Mesquita and Alastair Smith. Public Affairs-Perseus, 2011. Not really a manual for dictators because they already know the rules of power. This is actually a handbook for those who would fight corrupt leaders of all stripes, whether dictators or those posing as democrats. The larger the size of the group the leader must rely on the more likely both the government and the leader will be restrained. Size matters!
The Death of Money: The Coming Collapse of the International Monetary System by James Rickards. Portfolio/Penguin, 2014. A deep understanding of how the the international monetary system really works, gained from 35 years on Wall Street, enabled Rickards to call the Euro crisis correctly while Nouriel Roubini and Paul Krugman got it totally wrong. One of the most insightful yet accessible books on money and world finance ever written. Also probably the best analysis of China and its profound internal weaknesses in print. Rickards is a top consultant to the US Defense Department and the CIA on financial warfare.
Global Catastrophic Risks, edited by Nick Bostrom and Milan M. Cirkovic. Oxford U. Press, 2008. Probably the most authoritative single volume on risks capable of destroying civilization, from asteroids, cosmic ray blasts, and supervolcanoes to pandemics, biotechnology, nanotechnology, and nuclear terrorism. A relatively advanced text written for academics and policy makers but indespensible for understanding the true magnitude of the risks we as a species face.
The True Believer by Eric Hoffer. Harper and Row, 1951. A brilliant analysis of the psychology of the fanatic and the mass movements, both secular and sectarian, to which he is drawn.
Rise of the Robots: Technology and the Threat of a Jobless Future by Martin Ford. Basic Books, 2016. Winner of the Financial Times and McKinsey Business Book of the Year Award and Forbes' Top Business Book of 2015, this book convincingly refutes the idea of creative job destruction, that new technology will always create new and better job opportunities. The rise of intelligent robots means there will be fewer and fewer good jobs and more education will not be a solution. Ford argues that we have to solve this problem now or rising wealth inequality and economic insecurity could destroy the consumer economy.
The Dead Hand: The Untold Story of the Cold War Arms Race and Its Dangerous Legacy by David E. Hoffman. Anchor-Random House, 2009. This book reports on the Strangelove Paradox from the point of view of the Soviets. The Dead Hand was a real life Doomsday Machine. We are all lucky to still be alive to read about it. But now others may be building their own doomsday machines... All intelligent species in the universe pass through this phase of evolution. Some survive. Others do not.
13 Bankers: The Wall Street Takeover and the Next Financial Meltdown by Simon Johnson and James Kwak. Pantheon Books, 2010. Wall Street bankers have the American political system by the throat. Nothing has been done since 2008 to get them under control. Soon 'too big to fail' will not just fail but totally crash, bringing with it the greatest depression in world history. More than any other book this work, without intending to, explains why the existing global financial system almost certainly cannot be saved. Let us learn from this experience and not repeat it in the next civilization cycle.
The Rise of the West: A History of the Human Community by William H. McNeil. U of Chicago Press, 1963, 1991. One of the very best general world histories in print. Arnold Toynbee called it "the most lucid presentation of world history in narrative form that I know." Toynbee's nemesis H.R. Trevor-Roper called The Rise of the West "not only the most learned and the most intelligent, it is also the most stimulating and facinating book that has ever set out to recount and explain the whole history of mankind."
The Federalist Papers in Modern Language, edited by Mary C. Webster. The principles of the Federalist are as relevant today as they were two centuries ago. Mary Webster does an outstanding job making them accessible to a modern audience by replacing obscure archaic words used by the 18th century intelligentsia with 20th century modern English. A nine page glossary is included for readers to verify the accuracy of the changes.
On Revolution by Hannah Arendt. Viking, 1963, 1965. The phenomenon of revolution has become a dominant theme in modern history. Arendt examines the American, French, and Russian revolutions to understand why this is so and what it means for the future of human political life. With extraordinary insight she shows why the American revolution produced a constitutional democracy while the others failed.
Some Historical Resources
Thinking More Deeply
Superintelligence by Nick Bostrom. Oxford University Press, 2014. It appears inevitable that machine intelligence will one day come to surpass human intelligence. As disturbing as that realization is we humans have one advantage. We get to make the first move. Can we insure that we survive the intelligence explosion? The challenge is truly immense but Bostrom in remarkably lucid prose for a topic so deep explains how it might be done.
Quantum Questions: Mystical Writings of the World's Greatest Physicists (ed) by Ken Wilber. Shambhala, 1984, 2001. Six of these men were Nobel laureates, including Einstein, Planck, Heisenberg, Schroedinger, deBroglie, and Pauli. None were atheists. All were mystics although not necessarily adherents to any specific religion. The deeper meaning of this book is that it shows all scientists and those who will someday be scientists that it is alright to be a mystic.
The Seven Mysteries of Life by Guy Murchie. Houghton Miffin, 1978. An extraordinary exploration of the relationships between science, philosophy, and spirituality. There is no other book in print like it. Guy Murchie's books have been praised by Buckminster Fuller, Isaac Asimov, and James A. Michener. If you could have only one book on a desert island this is it!
The Road to Reality: A Complete Guide to the Laws of the Universe by Roger Penrose. Alfred Knopf, 2005. Penrose is both a mathematician and and physicist. This is an very deep yet still accessible book for those not afraid of the mathematics associated with the laws of the physical universe. It's also an extremely well written explanation of those laws for those of a more literary bent. If modern technological civilization were to be destroyed by some catastrophic event this one book contains the key knowledge required to recreate science to the level of the early 21st century. Like Political Order and Political Decay, an absolute must for every library.
God is Not One: The Eight Rival Religions that Run the World and Why Their Differences Matter by Stephen Prothro. Harper One/Harper Collins, 2010. Harvey Cox of the Harvard Divinity School says of this book that it "could well be the most highly readable,accurate, and up-to-date introduction to the world's major religions."
The Righteous Mind: Why Good People are Divided by Politics and Religion by Jonathan Haidt. Pantheon, 2012. E.O. Wilson, one of the world's greatest living scientists, calls this book "a remarkable and original synthesis of social psychology, political analysis, and moral reasoning that reflect the best of sciences in these fields and adds evidence that we are innately capable of the decency and righteousness needed for societies to survive."
The Future of China
A lively debate among top elites is going on about China's future and Eric X. Li and Yasheng Huang are at the center of it. A venture capitalist, Eric Li was born in China and educated at the University of California and Stanford. Yasheng Huang was also born in China and teaches political economy at the MIT's Sloan School of Management.
Li's TED talk has had over two million hits. In it he argues that China's success rests on a fundamentally different, more authoritarian model of development from that of western style democracy. It is rooted in China's culture and therefore cannot be exported but it proves that there are alternatives to the Western model. Huang argues the other side, contending that China must move toward more democracy and freedom or ultimately collapse.
These issues and this kind of debate are central to Radio Alexandria's mission. Here are some links to presentations by Li and Huang:
Oxford University Study on the Future of Employment
The recent Oxford study looks at the growing impact of intelligent machines on employment and concludes that almost one half of all the jobs in the USA could be eliminated by computers in the next two decades. That's approximately 70 million jobs. This is an issue the mainstream media hardly touches but we cover it extensively on The Next Chapter. To read the full study click here.
EMP: The Myths and the Facts
Electrical engineer Jerry Emanuelson has put together probably the most authoritative site on the web about the threat posed by an Electromagnetic Pulse and how to protect against it. Required reading for preppers and others interested in protecting valuable electronic equipment. Click here to go to Jerry's site.
The Maine Organic Farmers and Gardeners Association
MOFGA is an excellent source of information about organic farming and gardening, especially in colder climates.
For more information click here.
The Harpswell Foundation
The Harpswell Foundation is an American based tax-exempt organization with a mission to provide education, housing, and leadership training to children and young women in the developing world. Harpswell is completely supported by donations from individuals, foundations, and corporations.
Studies by the World Bank and other international organizations have shown that educating and empowering girls and women is the single most effective way to aid developing countries. The Harpswell Foundation is dedicated to improving the condition of women and the societies they live in by promoting women's education and leadership.
All major projects of the Foundation so far have taken place in Cambodia, a country in desperate need after essentially all of its educated class was destroyed by the Khmer Rouge in the 1970s. Since its founding the Harpswell Foundation has completed a four-room primary school building in a village about 50 miles from Cambodia's capital of Phnom Penh. The foundation maintains the school and its teachers and has created a scholarship program in which the brightest graduating sixth graders are sent to attend secondary school.
Between 2006 and 2009 the Foundation completed construction of two dormitory and leadership centers for college women in Phnom Penh. These two facilities, among the first dormitories in Cambodia, allow women from the provinces, which make up 90% of the population, to attend college by eliminating one of the major obstacles: not having a place to live in Phnom Penh. Colleges in Cambodia do not provide housing for their students. Male students can live in the Buddhist temples but female students cannot.
Harpswell students have been selected from a wide geographical distribution on the basis of their intelligence, ambition, and leadership potential. Most of them come from poor farming families in rural areas. Despite their humble beginnings, these young women are now at the tops of their classes at their various universities and have received internships at some of the leading international and national NGOs and other organizations working in Cambodia.
For more information click here.
The Transition Network is a worldwide movement in 44 countries on six continents whose goal is to build resilience, the capacity of local businesses, communities, and settlements to deal with shock across a wide range of areas including food, economics, and energy. The Transition Model helps local people work together to create environments that are less dependent on fragile, centralized systems and better able to utilize local physical and human resources to meet local needs.
For more information visit these websites: transitionnetwork.org and transitionus.org.
The Transition Network
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Radio Alexandria's signature ID
Our signature ID is the first 13 notes of the melody of Shaker hymn Simple Gifts. Simple Gifts became famous around the world as the main theme in Aaron Copeland's Appalachian Spring. The lyrics written by Joseph Brackett are included below as well as new lyrics added over the years.
'Tis the gift to be simple, 'tis the gift to be free
'Tis the gift to come down where we ought to be,
And when we find ourselves in the place just right,
'Twill be in the valley of love and delight.
When true simplicity is gain'd,
To bow and to bend we shan't be asham'd,
To turn, turn will be our delight,
Till by turning, turning we come 'round right.
The Earth is our mother and the fullness thereof,
Her streets, her slums, as well as stars above.
Salvation is here where we laugh, where we cry,
Where we seek and love, where we live and die.
When true liberty is found,
By fear and by hate we will no more be bound.
In love and in light we will find our new birth
And in peace and freedom, redeem our Earth.
25 Essential Books
Galvanized trash cans
For most people the simpliest and cheapest solution for storing computers, radios, and other small electronic devices is to use one or more galvanized metal trash cans available at most hardware stores. There is a 6 gallon version with a locking lid but apparently judging from customer feedback the lid does not always fit correctly. The larger 31 gallon can does not have a locking lid but I have heard of preppers using aluminum foil pushed up under the rim of the lid to insure a tight seal. Normally you would put the can in the basement or the garage so concerns about small animals like rats or racoons or even pets getting into them should be minimal. An easy deterent would be a few bricks on top of the lid to make it too heavy for small animals to lift. Just be careful not to dent or otherwise distort the lid.
Transient Voltage Suppressor Diodes (TVSs)
These cost less than a dollar and are available mail order from the major electrical parts supply houses like Mouser, Newark, and Allied.
Using Mouser as an example they would have parts numbers like 5KE18AG, 5KE36AG, and 5KE47A.
The model with 18 in the number would be best for protecting 12 volt solar panels, controllers, inverters, and other 12 volt equipment found in autos and RVs. The model with 36 would be selected for protecting 24 volt solar electric systems while the model with 47 in the number would be used with solar panels that have an open circuit voltage rating of 38-39 volts.
You would place TVSs on the wires leading away from the solar panels and just in front of the charge controller if it located at some distance away from the panels. On the other side of the controller you would place a TVS to make sure EMP energy picked up by the wires leading to your battery bank does not flow back up into the controller. The batteries themselves do not need EMP protection but you would probably put TVSs on the cables leading from the battery bank to the inverter.
If you can get some help with installation from a licensed electrician. Some ham radio operators are also knowledgeable about the subject, especially if they are active in the Amateur Radio Emergency Service (ARES) which assists hospitals, the Salvation Army, the Red Cross and other volunteer organizations that provide community assistance in time of disaster.
Jerry Emanualson's futurescience.com website has much more detailed information on protecting against EMP but the above are some relative simple and inexpensive things you can do to get started.
In the near future I hope to add a lot of additional information related to protecting radio equipment, especially ham gear for two way communications.