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posted by Fnord666 on Sunday October 21 2018, @09:36PM   Printer-friendly
from the documenting-our-tech-tree dept.

Imagine that in the future you can rent time machines just as easily as you can rent a car. Paradoxes are nicely sidestepped, and you even get the handy pamphlet "1001 Fun Ways to kill Hitler". Sounds great, right? Suppose that time machine breaks down. Turns out it's easier to re-invent civilization than it is to fix said machine, and that's what this book purports to do.

This book is chock full of tidbits, like this on buttons. People wore buttons for thousands of years as ornaments. It was only fairly recently someone realized they could hold clothes closed. This is disgraceful and embarrassing. You can do better.

Scalzi's page describes this book much better than I can. Need to know which animals to domesticate? Covered. Foods to cultivate? Covered. Crop rotation? Compass? Non-sucky numbers? Forge? Birth Control? Logic? Chemistry? Steel? check, check, check, check, ...., check.

This is not a textbook, there is no math, and minimal theory on why things work. It's focused on why and how, not "how does it work?".

I got my copy from the library and, after an hour or two, ordered my own copy from Amazon. I'm sure my fellow Soylenters will also love this book.


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  • (Score: 2, Troll) by The Mighty Buzzard on Sunday October 21 2018, @09:49PM (2 children)

    I'm sure my fellow Soylenters will also love this book.

    It's quite possible but we'll never know. Scalzi's too much of a rabid SJW douchebag for me to contribute to his wealth and fame.

    --
    My rights don't end where your fear begins.
    • (Score: 3, Informative) by Snotnose on Sunday October 21 2018, @10:04PM (1 child)

      by Snotnose (1623) on Sunday October 21 2018, @10:04PM (#751784)

      Scalzi didn't write the book, he just let the author talk about it. There's nothing SJW'ish about the book, it's just a ton of fun to read.

      And if you don't read Scalzi because of his personal opinions you're missing out on some great work. The Collapsing Empire is one of the best books I've ever read.

      --
      Why is tamales pronounced tamales but females is pronounced females instead of females?
  • (Score: 0) by Anonymous Coward on Sunday October 21 2018, @09:51PM (9 children)

    by Anonymous Coward on Sunday October 21 2018, @09:51PM (#751778)

    1. Live forever with the latest medical technology.
    2. Put this book, every other book and paper, and most videos on your yottabyte crystal storage technology.
    3. Time travel far into the past and rule as a God.
    4. Conquer the galaxy.
    5. ???

    Was that so hard?

    • (Score: 4, Interesting) by maxwell demon on Sunday October 21 2018, @10:04PM (2 children)

      by maxwell demon (1608) Subscriber Badge on Sunday October 21 2018, @10:04PM (#751785) Journal

      Yes, it is hard. You know, there are lots of other time travellers trying to do the same.

      Ever wondered why so many different gods were worshipped? :-)

      --
      The Tao of math: The numbers you can count are not the real numbers.
      • (Score: 1, Insightful) by Anonymous Coward on Sunday October 21 2018, @10:22PM (1 child)

        by Anonymous Coward on Sunday October 21 2018, @10:22PM (#751791)

        New timeline created by time traveling! Problem solved!

        • (Score: 0) by Anonymous Coward on Sunday October 21 2018, @11:37PM

          by Anonymous Coward on Sunday October 21 2018, @11:37PM (#751808)

          Well, there are quite a few technical details involved in that, so I'll explain later [youtube.com].

    • (Score: 4, Insightful) by driverless on Sunday October 21 2018, @10:55PM (3 children)

      by driverless (4770) on Sunday October 21 2018, @10:55PM (#751800)

      For people who have read it, how does it solve the standard problem with these sorts of go-back-and-create-everything narratives that in order to "invent" X you need to first invent the twenty things you need to build X, and before that invent the four hundred things you need to build the twenty things you need to build X, and before that invent the sixteen thousand things you need for the four hundred things for the...

      Inventions rarely come about because someone has a flash of inspiration and makes something happen out of thin air. It's usually because the conditions are right, in that the required prerequisites have been created to allow you to create the actual invention. If you're starting from scratch, that's a lot of inventing once you're done with the initial low-hanging fruit.

      • (Score: 4, Interesting) by takyon on Sunday October 21 2018, @11:37PM

        by takyon (881) <takyonNO@SPAMsoylentnews.org> on Sunday October 21 2018, @11:37PM (#751809) Journal

        How much luggage can a hypothetical time traveler bring? If you can bring a cubic meter, you might be able to bring a replicator, self-replenishing nanobots, robot assistants to perform delicate and dangerous tasks, or whatever you need to simplify and skip hundreds of steps on the way to becoming self-sufficient and reaching a modern level of technology. And while reinventing hundreds of rudimentary things in order to build X is a hassle, you could have a good shot at doing so if you have some specialized equipment, no time limit due to anti-aging, and have the "cheat codes" that the real inventors never had. There are other, more subtle advantages that you could exploit, such as a historical map of all known iron, gold, titanium, crude oil, lithium, etc. deposits on the planet.

        The pursuit of knowledge doesn't just mean finding a new way to make a smaller microchip. We can also learn how to do more with less. That could mean finding a new chemical reaction that is less energy and resource intensive, using genetically engineered organisms to produce complicated pharmaceutical products, or using cheap tools [hackteria.org] to perform the same tasks as expensive lab equipment. This knowledge would be useful for space colonization, a post-apocalypse situation, or the hypothetical time traveler.

        --
        [SIG] 10/28/2017: Soylent Upgrade v14 [soylentnews.org]
      • (Score: 4, Insightful) by bzipitidoo on Monday October 22 2018, @12:41AM

        by bzipitidoo (4388) Subscriber Badge on Monday October 22 2018, @12:41AM (#751828) Journal

        There's an awful lot of knowledge that would not have to be rediscovered. If you already know the Periodic Table of the Elements, all the most useful recipes of metallurgy and chemistry, maps of the whole world that include geology info about mineral deposits, knowledge of electricity and the electromagnetic spectrum, some knowledge of engineering, biology, medicine, and modern agriculture, you could advance quickly, skipping all the mistakes and wrong ideas the ancients had. Wouldn't take long to harness some serious power, and soon after that things would really take off.

        Now if you have to start all the way from scratch, Old Stone Age level, with no crop plants, no domesticated species of animals, no metals of any sort readily available and no mines, and in a relatively hostile climate maybe with freezing cold winters so that you have to devote much time to hunting for food and making furs and leather and such (clothmaking being way too labor intensive to start up in one season), an even knapping stones to make spear points and the like, then yeah, that's going to slow things down. Worse is if you are in a nasty swampy tropical place with all those lovely diseases such as malaria, and tsetse flies and the like, your best bet would probably be to move, on foot, to better ground first, if possible to do so without becoming dinner for large predators such as big cats, crocs, hyenas, and wolf packs. Poisonous snakes could be another big problem. In that case, wilderness survival training would be vital. Even so it wouldn't take that much longer, if you didn't succumb to the many dangers of the wild.

      • (Score: 2) by Snotnose on Monday October 22 2018, @01:15AM

        by Snotnose (1623) on Monday October 22 2018, @01:15AM (#751838)

        For people who have read it, how does it solve the standard problem with these sorts of go-back-and-create-everything narratives that in order to "invent" X you need to first invent the twenty things you need to build X, and before that invent the four hundred things you need to build the twenty things you need to build X, and before that invent the sixteen thousand things you need for the four hundred things for the...

        The book has a tech tree, much like the Civilization games. You want steel? You need this, this, and this. Everything in the book has maybe 3-4 things you have to invent first. Of course, those could also have 3-4 things you have to invent first, but that's why you have a tech tree. But in 300 some odd pages he gets you to steam engines, internal combustion engines, and computers. As a side note, he also describes how to make music and great art. All with prerequisites that are provided in the book.

        The key point the book makes over and over is that we could have invented *this* several hundred years earlier, sometimes a few thousand years earlier. He also points out things like cement that the Romans invented but the tech was forgotten for a thousand years.

        The book does a pretty damned good job of setting out the prerequisites needed for a technology. Each prerequisite is also described (earlier) in the book, with it's own set of prerequisites.

        --
        Why is tamales pronounced tamales but females is pronounced females instead of females?
    • (Score: 2) by tangomargarine on Monday October 22 2018, @04:25PM (1 child)

      by tangomargarine (667) on Monday October 22 2018, @04:25PM (#752029)

      3.1. Get stabbed in your sleep by a random superstitious visitor and die

      --
      "Is that really true?" "I just spent the last hour telling you to think for yourself! Didn't you hear anything I said?"
      • (Score: 2) by tangomargarine on Monday October 22 2018, @04:28PM

        by tangomargarine (667) on Monday October 22 2018, @04:28PM (#752030)

        blarg, s/visitor/villager/

        --
        "Is that really true?" "I just spent the last hour telling you to think for yourself! Didn't you hear anything I said?"
  • (Score: 3, Interesting) by Gaaark on Sunday October 21 2018, @10:47PM

    by Gaaark (41) Subscriber Badge on Sunday October 21 2018, @10:47PM (#751796) Journal

    Makes me think of the BBC Connections show.

    --
    --- Please remind me if I haven't been civil to you: I'm channeling MDC. ---Gaaark 2.0 ---
  • (Score: 2, Insightful) by Anonymous Coward on Sunday October 21 2018, @11:24PM (4 children)

    by Anonymous Coward on Sunday October 21 2018, @11:24PM (#751805)

    I hate to be the downer here, but I can't help but be that guy today. :)

    These type of stories miss a critical part of the equation. Will the people actually believe you in the past? Regardless of your ability to be 100% correct. Will you be able to influence them into buying, using, accepting your inventions? There are many examples throughout history where the general public has been "sold" something that is just plain wrong. And the person doing the selling made millions (or whatever equivalent power/influence/etc. the person was after). There are also many examples of people who are right and are just not believed. A "Casandra syndrome" situation.

    For a relevant example, I moved from a top tier tech company (think Google, Facebook, Amazon level company - it's actually one of those three...) to a second tier tech company. I thought going in that I could help them solve a bunch of problems because I'd seen several solutions to those exact problems already. Like this story, I essentially went back in time when joining the new tech company. What I found was that they rejected most of the solutions I proposed. Even those my team prototyped to prove they worked and were of value. The company's culture was such that they did not accept the new/modern ways of building software. Think monoliths instead of services, leaders who make all the decisions, product prioritized over tech such that systems rotted and failed regularly, and more.

    So, just knowing the answer is not the key. It's being able to get everyone around you to believe the answer is correct and follow it. In reality, the correctness of the answer doesn't matter if the person doing the selling is influential enough.

    The book I want to read is the one that explains how to get everyone to believe in the solutions you are proposing. Of course, those books likely exist and are what modern CEOs use to get where they are...

    • (Score: 2, Disagree) by realDonaldTrump on Sunday October 21 2018, @11:39PM (1 child)

      by realDonaldTrump (6614) on Sunday October 21 2018, @11:39PM (#751810) Homepage Journal

      Think Big and Kick Ass in Business and Life -- best book on Amazon.com! amazon.com/Think-Kick-Business-Life-Paperback/dp/B00FKY5BT6 [amazon.com]

      • (Score: 0) by Anonymous Coward on Monday October 22 2018, @03:50PM

        by Anonymous Coward on Monday October 22 2018, @03:50PM (#752017)

        Gag me.

    • (Score: 3, Informative) by Farkus888 on Sunday October 21 2018, @11:42PM

      by Farkus888 (5159) on Sunday October 21 2018, @11:42PM (#751812)

      That book exists and is called "A Connecticut Yankee in King Arthur's Court"

    • (Score: 2, Interesting) by anubi on Sunday October 21 2018, @11:48PM

      by anubi (2828) on Sunday October 21 2018, @11:48PM (#751815) Journal

      Isn't it frustrating to have taken the trouble to understand what you are doing, only to be out-sold by a guy selling bullshit?

      How do you think ol Steven Krivet [duckduckgo.com] must have felt up against all the "Doctorates" pushing Rossi's ECAT? I know good and well Steven was demonstrating perfectly good paradigms as to how to verify the ECAT, and no one seemed much interested in allowing him to test the thing, as the paychecks from the investors depended on them not understanding what they were doing.

      While highly paid men dressed in suits, shook hands, and signed investor's money away, neatly substituting presentation skills in lieu of knowledge of what they were doing.

      --
      "Prove all things; hold fast that which is good." [KJV: I Thessalonians 5:21]
  • (Score: 2) by MichaelDavidCrawford on Monday October 22 2018, @12:48AM

    by MichaelDavidCrawford (2339) Subscriber Badge <mdcrawford@gmail.com> on Monday October 22 2018, @12:48AM (#751832) Homepage Journal

    I remember two exact sentences from the story: "I went back in time and shot George Washington in the brisket" or maybe it was "Colonel" Washington.

    Also "We are the sauce".

    The sauce is made up of time travelers who have traveled too many times. The noodles are individual timelines. All that altering history does is move you to a different noodle.

    --
    Yes I Have No Bananas. [gofundme.com]
  • (Score: 0) by Anonymous Coward on Monday October 22 2018, @02:10AM

    by Anonymous Coward on Monday October 22 2018, @02:10AM (#751844)

    and you even get the handy pamphlet "1001 Fun Ways to kill Hitler"

    Are you proposing murder here? Or is it high treason? Or both? Do you wish your readers to be hanged-until-dead with piano wire on meat hooks?

    The author of said article/book is an enemy propagandist (most likely) or is just too dumb and stupid and him able to eat food without choking on it is a miracle and him writing books and making money off them is the second miracle.

    So-called fun book is useless if it does not give you knowledge you can use. It is only a distraction then to keep you getting to the real knowledge.

  • (Score: 0) by Anonymous Coward on Monday October 22 2018, @05:20AM

    by Anonymous Coward on Monday October 22 2018, @05:20AM (#751873)

    You don’t actually need electricity. You can build logic gates [and computer] out of ropes and pulleys.

    While technically true, I'm not sure how useful such would be beyond a curiosity. What would you compute in the 1500's that you couldn't another way? Babbage himself had difficulty selling the practically of his draft.

  • (Score: -1, Troll) by Anonymous Coward on Monday October 22 2018, @07:00AM (2 children)

    by Anonymous Coward on Monday October 22 2018, @07:00AM (#751890)

    If you wanted to get rid of a bunch of human suffering and death, start with Mohammed. Nobody else comes close.

    After that, it's probably Karl Marx, assuming he exists without Mohammed. That'd stop Lenin, Stalin, Mao, Kim, and a whole bunch of others. Most likely it would stop Hitler too, since his initial popularity was based on opposing the violent communists with his own violence.

    • (Score: -1, Flamebait) by Anonymous Coward on Monday October 22 2018, @01:14PM

      by Anonymous Coward on Monday October 22 2018, @01:14PM (#751954)

      Start with the founder of Judaism. This would eliminate jews, which would stop jews taking advantage of non-jews. This would stop Khazars from Khazaria from converting to Judaism when they were threatened with death if they didn't stop their evil ways. This would stop Khazars from invading pure native cultures and mixing them up to produce mongrels and moral decay. This would stop Karl Marx from being an evil satanic jew, and hence jewish-communist filth would not exist. Israeli Khazars would not exist. Regional conflict would not be upgraded to World Wars. And we could all live in peace and prosperity.

    • (Score: 4, Insightful) by HiThere on Monday October 22 2018, @05:56PM

      by HiThere (866) on Monday October 22 2018, @05:56PM (#752060) Journal

      There are lots of good choices, but there's no particular reason that any one choice is better than any other. E.g. without Tamerlane the Muslims would have been a lot less violent, but there might well have been some other group being violent instead. The thing that does most to make people peaceful is having a lot to lose and little to gain. Being likely to lose and unlikely to gain doesn't count as much, as people are quite bad at figuring the odds. Las Vegas is proof of this, and so is every lottery.

      --
      Javascript is what you use to allow unknown third parties to run software you have no idea about on your computer.
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