NetCiv Internet and Civilization Eagleman

Are the threats that brought down previous civilizations averted by our new technologies? David thinks so, and he has a new book on it: WHY THE NET MATTERS

Read more: Why the Net Matters
 


Screenshot 2Congratulations on living at a fortuitous moment in history. We enjoy a stable society that brags about technology, progress and opportunity.  It proves difficult to imagine that all this -- our governments, our culture, our storytelling, our creations -- could fold up and collapse.  How could our lofty glass-and-steel edifices fall into ruin?  How could our proud national story shrink to a few lines in history texts of the future? How could our venerated deities go the way of Neptune and Kukulcan and Osiris? How could our culture degrade to the unremembered?

These possibilities feel distant, but you would have had exactly the same trouble envisioning collapse if you lived in the brawny empire of the Romans, or during the Golden Age of the Athenians, or during the pinnacle centuries of the Egyptians, the African Mali, the Babylonians, the Mesopotamians, the Toltec, the Anasazi, or any of the other societies that have risen and fallen before us.

An astounding number of great civilizations have collapsed.  Centuries of progress and development have caved in on themselves, leaving nothing but archeological ruins and scattered genetics.  Sensitive literature, inspired mathematics, and bold architecture have sunk down into the vapors of history.  When it comes to looking at the civilizations that have come before us, hindsight is not 20/20.  It's tragically hazy.

These are problems that almost all civilizations face at some point; those that survive have either been lucky or have developed new technological strategies to evade these unrelenting challenges.The most compelling reason to study collapse is to avoid it.  The mysteries of disappearing cities and nations and civilizations have attracted thinkers and researchers to sift through the evidence to discern what happened.  Although there are many vanished civilizations, they share in common a handful of reasons for collapse.  Foremost are disease, natural disasters, poor information flow, political corruption, economic meltdown and resource depletion.

But we may be luckier than most of our predecessors, because we have developed a technology no one else possessed: a rapid, growing communication network that finds its highest expression in the Internet.  I will present the case in this book that this technology obviates many of the threats faced by our ancestors--and that our largest threats may already be counterbalanced by our most popular technology.  The advent of the internet represents a watershed moment in history that just might rescue our future.


 

Here's the spot to discuss content, design, agreements, disagreements, errors, additions, and your thoughts on Why the Net Matters. Looking forward to the conversation. - David

 

From the Blog

  • The Brain and the Law
    The Brain and the Law

    Interested in the intersection of the brain and the legal system? Watch a talk I delivered at the Royal Society for the Arts in London, entitled "The Brain and the Law".

  • Scanning a 3,000 year old mummy
    Scanning a 3,000 year old mummy

    I recently performed a CT scan on Neskhons, an Egyptian mummy who I brought to our scanning facilities at Baylor College of Medicine.  

  • The science of de- and re-humanization
    The science of de- and re-humanization

    Why do groups of people inflict violence on unarmed neighbors? (Germany, Rwanda, Darfur, Nanking....). Here's the neuroscience point of view.

  • Possibilianism at PopTech
    Possibilianism at PopTech

    I recently spoke at PopTech on the limits of science, the problems of false dichotomies, and my new movement of possibilianism. See the video.

Newsflashes

Guggenheim Fellowship

David has been named a John Simon Guggenheim Fellow. He will use the fellowship opportunity to pursue the genetics and neuroimaging of synesthesia.

Emily Blunt reads for the Sum audio book

Hear the actress Emily Blunt (Young Victoria, Devil Wears Prada) read "The Cast" from Sum. She is one of the dozens of terrific actors who read for the audio book.

Neurolaw: The Brain on Trial

Want to know how neuroscience will force major changes in our criminal justice system? Read David's article The Brain on Trial in The Atlantic. Now anthologized in 2012 Best American Science and Nature Writing.
atlantic072011

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