One of the strange things that I think about from time to time is, ‘What if there was some horrible cataclysm, and I were one of the few people who survived. How much of human culture could I be relied on to carry single-handedly into the future, and would it be enough to prevent a new dark age?’ A slight variant on this thought is, ‘If I were abducted by aliens as a representative homo sapiens sapiens, what picture of our species would they get from downloading my brain?’

I think the bottom line is that I do know enough to keep us from falling into a dark age, but it really makes me realize how much I (or any one person) comes up short. I mean, arithmetic and algebra would carry on, but calculus might be a bit spotty, and if it depends on me, Euler substitutions are not going to be around anymore. All languages other than English would be lost. I’d be sure to tell them that everything is made of atoms. A lot of music stuff would be saved, even if I were the only person in the world who could still tune a guitar. Of course, there’s a lot of other areas that I could at least describe or interpret, so maybe we’d be OK. Sure is interesting to think about, though.

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