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Guide to Rebuilding Society

A simple, easy to read manual containing all of modern knowledge
  (+36, -3)(+36, -3)(+36, -3)
(+36, -3)
  [vote for,
against]

Originally suggested by scientist James Lovelock in his recent book "The Revenge of Gaia", this would be a compendium of all human knowledge, written by the leading experts of the time, with brief articles written in plain English covering all kinds of useful information, such as basic medicine, scientific truths, and other knowledge that was gained at enormous time and expense by our civilisation. Lovelock proposed that it be a text about the same length as the King James Bible, and be just as ubiquitous.

What makes my interpretation different is that it would begin with an entirely visual language, which would serve as a brief primer on deciphering the later text, just in case civilisation regresses to pre-literate levels. It would basically resemble a comic book, with clear, symbolic pictures and actions standing in for words. That way, with a bit of time and patience, a pre-literate person could perhaps begin to decipher the other truths held therein.

The first section after the primer would contain scientific knowledge relevant to nomadic hunter-gathering peoples, or primitive agricultural peoples. Such information could include: the fact that disease is caused by micro-organisms, details on proper sanitation and hygiene, that the world is round and the earth revolves around the sun, basic information about growing food, basic knowledge about creating tools and discerning poisonous plants, and some simple mathematics like the base 10 number system, addition and multiplication.

The parts after this would deal with subjects relevant to more advanced peoples. It could include information about crop cycles, seasons, weather and climate, architecture and engineering, plumbing, civic administration and diplomacy, invasive surgery, domestication of plants and animals, writing and linguistic systems, and some basic algebra.

Later sections would deal with progressively more advanced topics of study. While they would mention modern knowledge in brief, since the sum total of modern human knowledge is too much to be contained in any book, it would merely sketch out the basics of some of the more prevalent topics, to serve as a kind of blueprint, so that people know what to aim their studies for. It would have to leave the hard work up to them. Examples could include: electromagnetic theory, computing science, modern mathematics, quantum mechanics, and general relativity.

I believe that this would be a worthy thing to create.

qt75rx1, Mar 24 2008

Phone Call to the 14th Century http://cdn1.libsyn....r/kh01phonecall.mp3
This kind of project always reminds me of the Kasper Hauser skit. [jutta, Mar 24 2008]

How to Engineer It howtoengineerit_2ecom
Related discussion [imaginality, Mar 24 2008]

Aqua Ducks http://www.alaska-i...lard-ducks_7356.jpg
[normzone, Mar 25 2008]

Teflon Archive The_20Teflon*_20Archive
Vernon's version of such a book [Vernon, Mar 25 2008]

AfterHistory AfterHistory
Vernon's notion on how to get people prepared for it. [Vernon, Mar 25 2008]

(?) Barberous Aliens http://www.union.ic...ges/barberella1.jpg
[normzone, Mar 25 2008]

'Earth Abides' by George R Stewart http://www.amazon.c...d=1206621686&sr=1-2
Classic sf tale of a man trying to re-build civilisation and failing. [DrBob, Mar 27 2008]

Surely this will be included? The_20Analog_20Halfbakery
The most important aspect of civilization must live on. [MikeD, Dec 15 2008]

(??) Evpatoria Messages http://www.active-seti.org/default.htm
Under the 'Evpatoria Messages' link, you can download/view the messages as image files - I remember being impressed by the ingenuity of them. [zen_tom, Dec 18 2008]

Baked! http://the-knowledge.org/en-gb/
The Knowledge, by Lewis Dartnell [notexactly, Jan 03 2016]

[link]






       But we have yet to develop a true civilization. What you are proposing is a primer on how to reboot the operating system of a pre-civilization.
normzone, Mar 24 2008
  

       Halfbaked in the form of museums by the Moties in Niven's "The Mote in God's Eye", as that civilization tended to "bomb themselves back to the invention of the brick" every few decades.   

       I have doubts about the success of such a venture - it'd be all black and forbidden magic to future generations, since the survivor generation would likely try to sell them on the idea of "let's not do *that* again". Still, I think trying to pass on what we know would be a good exercise, even if the intended situation doesn't arise. Maybe we don't leave survivors, and the book is found by spacefaring explorers from elsewhere.
lurch, Mar 24 2008
  

       Think we already did this one, perhaps with only the technical side of it covered.
RayfordSteele, Mar 24 2008
  

       A discussion on an earlier idea touched on this topic (see link), though that idea wasn't specifically aimed at rebuilding civilisation.   

       You get a bun from me for the visual symbolic approach. On the other hand you didn't consider that the book might need to be made from something a little more durable than paper.
imaginality, Mar 24 2008
  

       If it was hard to invent, shouldn't it be hard to re-invent?   

       Anyway, you probably don't want all knowledge in one book. Like Niven's Moties, spread the knowledge around and require a certain level of understanding before letting them have access to the next level.
phoenix, Mar 24 2008
  

       Carve it into the walls of a hollowed-out monolith made out of something rather long-lasting, like a nickel-chromium alloy. I'd suggest a big block, maybe 50 metres square and 10 metres high. This block would be hollowed out to form a spiral tunnel inside. The message could then be carved into the walls and ceiling of the spiral tunnel. Being inside, the inscribings would be reasonably well proteced from weathering, coupled with the fact that the entire monolith is made out of an abbrasion resistant, non-corroding, extremely strong material.   

       Cost would be astronomic, but who cares? It's like an insurance policy. May I suggest that this be an entirely seccular undertaking?
Custardguts, Mar 24 2008
  

       .oO What this? Big book? What say? Idiot guide to reb... civ... civ... Wha? Hey! Mongo not idiot. Book no good. Book evil. Mongo not touch book. Mongo need sacrifice daughter to moon after Mongo touch book!
globaltourniquet, Mar 24 2008
  

       Recording the information at various technological levels on the same document/monolith would also be a good way to help the 'new' civilsation advance.

For example:
Level 1: The aforementioned graphical/comic style, to get things started.
Level 2: As science (optics in particular) advances, the document/monolith is revisited, and the drawings are revealed, under magnification, to be made up of letters, giving a massive increase in the amount of information available.
Level 3: As technology continues to advance, the document/monolith is looked at again, and the pages/surfaces are revealed to be a high density optical (eg. Blu-ray) storage medium, increasing the available data even more.
Level 4: ??? (Suggestions welcomed.)
(Idea sort of borrowed/stolen from the multiple level message in 'Contact'.)
neutrinos_shadow, Mar 24 2008
  

       "Look, Thag! People who let civilization collapse say we should invent stock market and nuclear weapons."   

       I had a set of old Popular Mechanics how-to-do-it books from @ 1944. They included a lot of text, but still ran to ten volumes. So did the old High School Subjects Self-Taught series. One book is not going to work, if it has to cover everything from inventing fire to appreciating Kafka.   

       It's a worthy goal, but I think more method is needed. Teaching to read is a good start, yes.
baconbrain, Mar 24 2008
  

       I must agree [bacon]. Describing how to rebuild a society on the offchance that it manages to destroy itself is a bit like a self-fulfilling prophecy, no?   

       The one advantage I see is that as the eons roll by, viable weapons grade nuclear material will become more and more scarce. I could see that in a few billion years you'll eventually get an iteration of civilisation that will be unable to make fission weapons.   

       They'll probably just end up making very efficient chemical/biological WMD's instead.
Custardguts, Mar 25 2008
  

       Well, the original reason as to why it was proposed to be a ubiquitous paper book -- as commonplace as the Bible -- was so that many people would have access to it, and so many would have the chance to gain the information contained therein. To reasonably inform an equal number of people with permanent monoliths would require that we dot the land surface the of the earth with hundreds of the things, in likely spots where humans are to aggregate. The advantage of having a book (or even several volumes of the same encyclopedia) would be that people could easily carry it around and transcribe it to other copies.   

       Also, addressing the length of Popular Mechanics books, these were instructions on how to build various technical gadgets, were they not? Basically instruction manuals. This book would describe only briefly some of our later inventions, while giving a summary of only the most important facts of human knowledge. One or two pages should be enough for each entry.
qt75rx1, Mar 25 2008
  

       Good point. If someone knows something is possible, they have a goal to aim for, and still get all the side benefits of doing the work. (And impossibilities are avoided, too.)   

       But a damn big plinth with a 747 on top would serve as a reminder of flight. And be a lot more impressive.
baconbrain, Mar 25 2008
  

       [iantindale], we differ in our definition of civilization.   

       In my book, humans must pass the test with one of two solutions.   

       A) We develop a sustainable culture that allows us to continue to exist on this planet in a relatively pleasant manner indefinitely.   

       B) We develop FTL travel and colonize other planets.   

       Anything else is failure.
normzone, Mar 25 2008
  

       Olaf Stapledon used this idea in 'Last And First Men', in exactly this form. After the Patagonian civilisation destroyed itself in a nuclear accident, the few survivors put a document together. It wasn't found for ten million years, by which time the technology was far more advanced than this species had ever managed, and it revealed more about our shortcomings as human beings than our technological achievements.
nineteenthly, Mar 25 2008
  

       And in case things get really bad, see my entry on Terraforming Earth. Your book should:   

       1) include low-tech ways to confirm the truth of statements that could be controversial in a post-collapse situation, such as shape of earth's shadow on moon as evidence of roundness. Maybe that would give enough credibility that they'd take the part about not killing people with other religions on faith.   

       2) consider ways in which things would be different the second time around; for example, scrap metal might be easier to find than ore deposits near the surface.   

       3) Include a copy of Asimov's "Nightfall."
Ford, Mar 25 2008
  

       I stand by my interpretation of the word. Language evolves, meanings change.
normzone, Mar 25 2008
  

       Then please give us a new word we can use for what Rome had.
lurch, Mar 25 2008
  

       Aqueducts.
imaginality, Mar 25 2008
  

       The Encyclopedia Galactica. Written by Issac Asimov quite a long time ago. Its a very good series of books, I suggest you read them.
Antegrity, Mar 25 2008
  

       //Aqueducts//   

       <tries to wave fist convincingly, while giggling>Dang it, you know what I mean...</ttwfc,wg>
lurch, Mar 25 2008
  

       Oh, you're referring to those things IN the aqueducts. See link.
normzone, Mar 25 2008
  

       Someone posted an idea like this a while ago. He was one of those very grumpy and thin skinned newbies but his iteration of the time capsule idea was pretty cool. I think he deleted a lot of stuff in a fit of pique but someone asked him to bring this one back. I thought he did but I can't find it now. It used copper, and satellites, I think.
bungston, Mar 25 2008
  

       I once read a SF story about a girl whose father had set up a survival encyclopedia. It was so big that there was an index to the index.   

       Copper and satellites, huh? It might be amusing to print up survival information in durable form, store it and a few widgets inside orbiting satellites with ablative heat shields, and set them to re-enter at odd intervals. The natives would notice them coming down, go for a look where they land, and be damned impressed by what they find.
baconbrain, Mar 25 2008
  

       No, no, [Antegrity], it's not supposed to be a complete and detailed compendium of all human knowledge - a la Foundation - it's supposed to be a guide. A basic instruction manual with only the most important truths needed to restart civilization.
qt75rx1, Mar 25 2008
  

       This would be a great thing to have after the Bush administration.
nomocrow, Mar 25 2008
  

       "You will find that your oil reserves have been exhausted."
normzone, Mar 25 2008
  

       Barberous aliens? (See link)
normzone, Mar 25 2008
  

       [baconbrain] you are totally right. An enormous nickel-chromium monolith would be a completely awesome thing to inspire people. Maybe we could organise a religion around this magical Guidebook and have as one of its tenets a once-in-a-lifetime pilgrimage to the Giant Guide Monolith standing in the desert outside of Salt Lake City, Utah. And the inside could be filled with lots and lots of copies of the Guidebook...
qt75rx1, Mar 26 2008
  

       I have to agree with all the intelligent life out there that chooses not to help us. If we can’t figure it out on our own, we don’t deserve it.
bneal27, Mar 26 2008
  

       (+) Although I think that a, "The Idiot's Guide to How Not To Rebuild Civilization after the Collapse" may do more good.   

       As I recall, the cover story for Encyclopedia Galactica was that the information in it WAS what was needed to restart civilization. That actually made more sense to me than a priesthood based on nuclear power.
Ford, Mar 26 2008
  

       True, but the chapter heading quotations used throughout the book seem to indicate that it was mostly just an encyclopedia.
qt75rx1, Mar 26 2008
  

       "Don't Panic"
baconbrain, Mar 26 2008
  

       "Introduction:   

       If you are reading/assimilating this, you are not dead!... [appologies to [daseva]]   

       Chapter One:   

       We realise that you might be feeling a little depressed right now....   

       ....Chapter 435569232   

       We realise that you might be feeling a little depressed right now...."
4whom, Mar 26 2008
  

       I'll [+] this, but can some other civilization write it?
Noexit, Mar 26 2008
  

       bungston, that rings a bell. I think I asked whomever it was to keep that one around.
RayfordSteele, Mar 26 2008
  

       I prophesy that at least one of the world's libraries will survive a nuclear war, and that there will be a guy who likes to read with broken glasses in that library, but this is perhaps a really good idea! Then people will worship their ancient culture as being "all knowing" when in fact we haven't even mastered teleportation yet.
quantum_flux, Mar 26 2008
  

       It might be better to construct huge, durable stone buildings - the pyramidal shape is good for this - and then carve or paint the information on the interior in pictographic form. Perhaps some basic artefacts like carts or boats, tools or weapons, could be left as exemplars of 3-D of items less obvious in 2-D representation.
8th of 7, Mar 26 2008
  

       There should be some kind of time-based access system built in; let them have a few decades to chew on something before they learn what comes next. I think we'll all agree that too much advancement in too little time has done enough damage in a world without an instruction manual. People building a paint-by-numbers civilization would have even less idea of what they are doing than we do.   

       This also raises some interesting ethical dilemmas, as a few others have pointed out. Would we be right to omit certain details, such as advanced weaponry, national socialism, and internet pornography, thinking we'd be doing future civilizations a favor? Should we record everything, lay it all out as-is, but include little warnings about things that mingt lead them down a bad road? If we choose to do either, we would be cutting awfully close to something like the Bible, only on a broader scale; do this, don't do that, woe to he who does this... On the other hand, wouldn't transcribing everything we know without abridgement, as Custardguts and others allude, simply put them in the same soup in which we ourselves currently marinate?   

       On the subject of the pictorial "Rosetta Stone" preface, I recall something I read about a few years ago involving the nuclear waste dump under construction at Yucca Mountian. Seems the administration there hired a bunch of anthropology types to come up with a symbol that would convey the idea of lethal radiation to somebody a hundred-thousand years from now when nobody speaks languages even remotely like ours. It turned out to be a lot harder than they anticipated (I never did learn if they came up with something).
Alterother, Mar 26 2008
  

       Reporter: “Mr. Gandhi, what do you think of Western civilization?”   

       Gandhi: “I think it would be a good idea.”
baconbrain, Mar 26 2008
  

       I was going to make the same point as 8th but, seeing as he has already made it, I shan't bother. Instead I shall just add a link about something completely different.
DrBob, Mar 27 2008
  

       Dr. Bob, that is like one of my favourite books of all time! It ranks up there along with Dune, Nineteen Eighty-Four, and the Foundation Series.
qt75rx1, Mar 27 2008
  

       Vernon's Teflon Archive idea suggested making a book out of something useless, so folks don't tear it up. Which doesn't mean they'll bother to read it.   

       I contemplated making this book out of something useful, so people would at least look at it as they tore the pages out. Unfortunately, the obvious use is as toilet paper, which will at least mean that folks are sitting still and looking for something to read.   

       Make one of the common instructions a guide to which leaves are safe to use instead, or how to make paper. Then folks will have something else to use, and the start of respect for the book's information.   

       Sorry, [qt75rx1], no disrespect meant for this idea. [+]
baconbrain, Mar 27 2008
  

       One of the most important aspects, [baconbrain], is that this book should be reproducible by materials people will have at hand after the apocalypse. That means, it should be both useful and durable, and contain information on how to replicate it. I think it should definitely contain information about not only papermaking, but parchment and papyrus making as well. And a guide about nutritious or poisonous plants is entirely essential.   

       People should also be encouraged to see it as, if not a sacred book, then a very important one. That'd give them incentive to replicate it in its entirety, even if they don't yet understand its later contents.   

       Maybe it should also be modifiable. Encourage the use of note pages and blanks for people to draw diagrams or write notes as they fill in the gaps to which the book alluded or only vaguely sketched out.   

       As such, the book should be made of materials that are easy to replace.
qt75rx1, Mar 27 2008
  

       Thank you, [DrBob], for the book link. I remember that book from my college days - in the library, bored, pull down a random book and start in the middle. I never knew what the title was until now.   

       In a non-fiction vein, [qt75rx1], you might want to consider looking at the Foxfire series of books edited by Eliot Wigginton. Started as a compendium of schoolkids' interviews with the old folks in Southern Appalachia in the 1960's. Just in case you want to know how to butcher a hog, build a log cabin, do midwifery or undertaking, make 7-day coleslaw, distill corn liquor, spin thread, weave cloth, cobble shoes, build a wagon...
lurch, Mar 27 2008
  

       I feel like this is my idea, but maybe I saw it in someone elses scifi: the idea that "junk dna" in the human genome is actually coded messages for us to interpret when our technology reaches the appropriate level. Messages in DNA might not be the idea place for a how-to civilization guide, though.
bungston, Mar 28 2008
  

       Sh! Don't blow my cover!
pertinax, Mar 28 2008
  

       And before we knew it, Vagina Jam became the foundation of the Y'tan Quatu'ra of 10,000 A.D.
qt75rx1, Mar 28 2008
  

       This kind of thing has happened before - civilisations (however you want to define them) have had their highs and lows, all across the world. And despite most of these completely crashing and burning at the hands of various entropic equestrians, here we are today with little elements of those past civilisations embedded within our own.   

       Examples include the Babylonian number system that we use for keeping time, various Persian, Indian and Chinese imports in the fields of mathematics, language and weaponry, not to mention ancient Egyptian, Greek and Roman texts on all manner of Classicisms - some of which themselves harken back to great, lost civilisations (Homer's Atlantis) that existed even earlier.   

       In many cases, the knowledge that has lasted throughout all of these millennia is that which has proven useful. During the height of the Roman empire, many of the older Greek texts were largely ignored (Pythagoras' theorem being excepted due to its practical applications in marching armies across bodies of moving water) and remained all but forgotten in cellars and far away monasteries, where they were kept alive by copying, and re-copying them in an environment of veneration. After the collapse of the Roman government in Western Europe, there followed a time of relative strife, with a recession and withering of trade and inter-communication that must have lasted well into and beyond the 13th Century. In many cases, it was these monastic sites that spawned new forms of thought, based on the saved classics of old - and encouraged people to engage once more in fields of study (which became possible once again as the damage of the post-Roman recession was repaired, allowing some people the economic freedom to pursue lives of academic, if often highly religious, dalliance)   

       If these strongholds of knowledge hadn't been able to harbour these artefacts of bygone times, who knows how much longer it may have taken for Western Europe to pull itself out of the chaos of the Dark Ages - though an alternate likelihood would have been conquest from Persia, or Mongolia.   

       As it turned out, the first ex-Imperial states to recover from the post Roman funk, were those on the Mediterranean, who had close trading ties with the various peoples of North Africa - and by association - Asia, to enrich their social and educational environments.   

       The point being that knowledge needs to be kept alive - in small pockets if needs be - in order for it to be preserved.   

       There are all manner of ancient carvings and texts that survive in clay tablets, or great stone monoliths - the meanings contained within we have absolutely no clue. And likely never will, because there is no longer anyone living to provide us with the suitable context.   

       I fear the same fate would befall this project without some kind of continuing 'process' that keeps the information alive in some form.
zen_tom, Mar 28 2008
  

       However it's done, we need a permanent way to preserve modern information. Nuclear explosions wipe out computers and electronic data. If things go blooey, or rather bang, everything is gone.   

       If the survivors ever reconstruct computers, they'll still not be able to get back all the old files. Especially since most information is stored who-knows-where.   

       All the great ideas that are in the Halfbakery, that are so vital to the continuation of life on this planet, are lost to me every time an ice storm takes out the phone lines. I'm helpless if [jutta] needs to change servers and shuts down for a few.   

       Hmm. Maybe we should build and widely distribute a series of solar-powered computers, hardened against EMP, with cases as tough as possible. Hook them up to the internet, and update their databases continuously. If things go bad, they disconnect, switch on the IR motion sensors, and hibernate until a human wanders in. After that it's standard science fiction.
baconbrain, Mar 28 2008
  

       //post Roman funk//
New music genres #380 in a series.
calum, Mar 28 2008
  

       How about a grass roots approach to this? Instead of one massive project to compile information, why not start a new holiday. Call it International Preservation Day.   

       Everyone on the planet would be encouraged to put whatever is meaningful to them in a time capsule and bury it under ground. There would also be a universal symbol used as a marker for where all the capsules are buried.   

       This holiday would also serve as an annual reminder that human extinction is always possible.
bneal27, Mar 28 2008
  

       ...and it came to pass, that the sum of all Halfbakery postings, annotations and wayback machine retrievals were laser encoded within the hearts of tens of thousands of fourteen carat man-made diamonds, launched into orbit and detonated to fall at random times and places across the surface of the globe over the course of two centuries after the Great Clism.   

       .   

       Prepare the sacrifice!   

       //reminder that human extinction is always possible//   

       Thank you. I was about to give up. I'll keep trying. Thank you.
baconbrain, Mar 29 2008
  

       [Zen-Tom] is correct in that line of reasoning. It would frankly be impossible for the archaeologists of 20,000 A.D. to, if coming across a document such as this unawares, even with the graphic primer, to make out most of it. Probably by then cultural notions would have drifted so far as to render the graphical primer irrelevant, perhaps even misleading.   

       But my annotation further on suggests that it could be copied and recopied, translated into all languages, and adapted as languages evolved. In essence, it should be a living document, as replicable and universal as the Bible.   

       Think of it as a secular bible, a bible of basic knowledge as it is at the cusp of the 21st century.
qt75rx1, Mar 29 2008
  

       //Everyone on the planet would be encouraged to put whatever is meaningful to them in a time capsule and bury it under ground.//

I think Landfill has already been invented ;o)
DrBob, Mar 29 2008
  

       <gazes into hole in ground>   

       Bah, where's [Treon] when you want him ?   

       </gazes into hole in ground>
8th of 7, Mar 29 2008
  

       If we leave religion out of the instruction manual, how will they know that it has no place in politics?   

       "Look, Thag! them don't know about the almighty Gordo, smighter of all enemies. No wonder them dead!"
bneal27, Mar 29 2008
  

       [8th] - It's just like playing whack-a-mole. Just sit there quiet-like with your shovel for a while and he'll pop up.
lurch, Mar 29 2008
  

       <non-sound of Borg Collective waiting very quietly round the hole for Treon to appear>
8th of 7, Mar 29 2008
  

       [+] Instead of a book, move the stars or put giant letters on the moon or in orbit. That way when the book burning mobiles come around to destroy the old society's remnants, the knowledge will survive.
Bcrosby, Dec 14 2008
  

       <ian tindale>, cities do not only beget civilisations.   

       refer indigenous australians as an example.
williamsmatt, Dec 15 2008
  

       It has been said that the mice shall inheret the Earth, and then the roaches, and then the ameobas.
quantum_flux, Dec 15 2008
  

       The idiot's guide could easily be set up like an internet wiki, with a number of printers in bunkers worldwide that print (or etch into copper foil, or draw into clay tablets) the entire contents once a year. Completely robotize the entire operation, give each bunker its own power plant and a vaguely temple like exterior.   

       However, I'm not really convinced that even major global catastrophes would really reduce mankind's intelligence to the point where the laws of nature would be regarded as being caused by spirits or fairies. I'd think all that would be lost is infrastructure and specific knowledge. So all the guide would need to do is set up a framework for those. And of course describe how to kill the roaches...
Forthur, Dec 16 2008
  

       sounds like a bad plot point for Stargate but I'd buy it. Just kep the part out about how to create a reality show around anna nicole smith!   

       "But a damn big plinth with a 747 on top would serve as a reminder of flight"   

       whats a plinth???
Arcanus, Dec 16 2008
  

       I recently purchased the special forces survival guide. It has some of the info you mentioned in it, like how to tell if a plant is poisonous / edible, how to filter water, how to set broken bones, how to ....   

       Perhaps I'm not very optimistic about this idea of printing money to solve an economic problem - I started buying a bunch of non-perishible food in bulk, too. Maybe next week I'll get some aluminum foil for making hats.
Zimmy, Dec 17 2008
  

       I disagree that a pictorial representation could not be made that would be interperatable in the distant future, given a sufficiently large sample. The current problems with translating ancient languages are most related to small sample sizes and no non-symbolic references.
If you saw:
* - tra sel
** - pra sel
*** - etra sel
**** - netra sel
Is it not fairly easy to interpret tra, pra, etra, netra as numbers? It doesn't matter if they're words or symbols or what, the graphics provide an alternate reference, and repetition allows comparison. Care must obviously taken with things that don't have a clear reference (what is a cubit, anyway) but at least basic information can be conveyed.
MechE, Dec 17 2008
  

       It's a little more complex for non-arabic numerals, but even there the symbology follows a logical progression.
With arabic, you just need to provide enough symbols in your chart to go through the first couple of iterations of places to make sense:
tra na
tra tra
tra pra
tra etra
tra netra
pra na
pra tra
etc. for base five.
I'll admit having the english numbers of eleven-nineteen throws things off, but it starts making sense again at 21. (And I'd suggest using either a very simplified English or another language with more logical construction for this anyway).
MechE, Dec 18 2008
  

       [MechE] that reminds me of an image of a message that was bouncing round the internet about 4 years ago - it was a self-referential message that started by defining and demonstrating its own format, then went through an iterative process of defining a set of symbols for numerics, and continued through a series of logical progressions to all sorts of human knowledge, including prime numbers, basic geometry, where we were, what we looked like, that we knew how big a hydrogen was, and even showing them a representation of our DNA. I've been trying to find a link but without success. It was quite clever really. [edit] link found, take a look.
zen_tom, Dec 18 2008
  

       I read a story by a man who was with another man on a life raft. This other man decided the best way to get rescued was to prove his faith by destroying the solar still and pouring out the water on-board. The results were as bad as you would imagine: the faithful man died of thirst a month later and the other man barely survived.   

       If something like this were made it would need a back-up copy somewhere people cannot get to. After all religious insanity is one of the more likely things to destroy society.
Voice, Jan 03 2016
  

       Surely just a printed-out copy of the Halfbakery would suffice?
hippo, Jan 04 2016
  

       Upon awaking from semi-hibernation to find Sorta Claus's gift to me, the Guide To Rebuilding Society, I can confirm that it does resemble a print copy of the Halfbakery. It even had an illuminated 'Badinage, Drollery, Irony, Sarcasm, Satire, (and occasional) Ennui Alert'* on the frontispiece.   

       *The Guide clarified that BDISSEA is pronounced 'buh-diss-ah', sounding somewhat like a rimshot.
Sgt Teacup, Jan 04 2016
  

       //the best way to get rescued was to prove his faith [...]//   

       That's worrying. Can you quote a source for that story?
pertinax, Jan 07 2016
  
      
[annotate]
  


 

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