1380: Manual for Civilization

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Manual for Civilization
We will have an entire wing of the library devoted to copies of book #26, because ohmygod it's the one where Jake and Cassie finally KISS!!!
Title text: We will have an entire wing of the library devoted to copies of book #26, because ohmygod it's the one where Jake and Cassie finally KISS!!!


Brian Eno is a musician and a co-founder of the Long Now Foundation. He is explaining to an audience that one of the missions of the Long Now is a Manual for Civilization - a collection of reference materials that can help rebuild society in case it collapses. But in Randall's version, the experts have made a list composed of many books from the Animorphs series.

Animorphs is a series of books written by K.A. Applegate. It follows a group of five children (later, an alien joins as the sixth member), that try to stop the parasitic aliens, the Yeerks, by transforming into animals. A Yeerk that enters a human has complete control over their host, and can read their memories. Because the Yeerks can imitate their host almost perfectly, humanity is slowly being taken over without knowing it, and for this reason the children cannot contact the authorities and are on their own in the battle against the Yeerks.

When asked if all the books on the experts' list are from the Animorph series, Eno misses the point of the question by saying No!, only to mention the Megamorphs books and The Andalite Chronicles, both of which are side stories to the Animorph universe.

There are other books like these which aren't mentioned here — but it is clear from the last two panels that it is a quite long list — and it seems to be written in two columns, so maybe all 54 Animorphs books and all ten side stories could be included on the list.

In suggesting that a series of children's novels make up the blueprint for rebuilding civilization, Randall is spoofing the idea of such libraries (since such books would be largely useless in terms of providing the detailed instructions that would be necessary). However, due to the surprisingly deep and introspective nature of Animorphs books, which several generations have grown up on, it may also entirely be possible that Randall is expressing his fondness for the series by suggesting that reading the books would be sufficient for creating the moral foundations of a functional civilization.

The title text makes it completely ludicrous by saying an entire wing of the library will be devoted to the book (#26) where two main characters who have been attracted to each other since the beginning of the series finally kiss. While this is a momentous event for fans of the book series, the information is of no consequence for the rebuilding of civilization.[citation needed]

This comic may also be inspired by Isaac Asimov's Foundation series, where Hari Seldon, a mathematician, claimed that the Galactic Empire is going to collapse in three hundred years, there is no way to stop it but his group of scientists are writing Encyclopedia Galactica to help people rebuild civilization.


[Brian Eno is talking to an unseen audience.]
Brian Eno: Hi. I'm music's Brian Eno, co-founder of the Long Now Foundation.
[Panel 2 shows he is standing on a stage.]
Brian Eno: As part of our mission to promote long-term thinking, we've asked experts to help us assemble a collection of books from which civilization can be rebuilt if it ever collapses.
[Panel 3 shows he is holding a manuscript with a long list of book titles.]
Brian Eno: Today we're sharing the results — the first ever Manual for Civilization.
[Panel 4 shows him reading from the manuscript.]
Brian Eno: *Ahem*
Animorphs #1: The Invasion
Animorphs #2: The Visitor
Animorphs #3: The Encounter
Unseen Audience member: ...are they all Animorphs Books?
Brian Eno: No! There's also Megamorphs and The Andalite Chronicles.

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There's probably some connection between Eno and animorphs/post-apocalyptic earth, but because I don't know him, I only added info on the animorphs Shadowmanwkp (talk) 08:40, 11 June 2014 (UTC)

Brian Eno is associated with Long Now foundation as a board member: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/The_Long_Now_Foundation 08:50, 11 June 2014 (UTC)

The joke at the end of the comic about the list being 'all' animorph books is not that not all animorph books are included in the list but that the list contains the megamorph and the andalite books in addition to all the animorph books. 09:03, 11 June 2014 (UTC)

I wonder why only Megamorphs and Andalite Chronicles were mentioned. Does Eno not like the others? 12:40, 11 June 2014 (UTC)

Yeah, and aren't there also the Hork-Bajir Chronicles? 14:56, 20 March 2024 (UTC)

Am I the only one who saw "Manual for Civilization" and thought: "I am Gandhi of the Indians. Our words are backed with NUCLEAR weapons. We have decided to rid the world of your pathetic civilization. Goodbye." -? Ah, that takes me back. Sid Meier, you owe me many hours. Fluppeteer (talk) 13:15, 11 June 2014 (UTC)

Great comment - yes he owes me a lot of hours too! I had not seen it but it is very obvious - although probably not intended ;) Kynde (talk) 15:38, 11 June 2014 (UTC)
It's what happens when you don't properly program your peaceniks. (To those who don't know, Gandhi in the original Civ had an Aggression stat of 1. When a nation went democratic, it would reduce their Aggression stat by 2. Due to an oversight, this meant Gandhi's Aggression went negative, and because of the way the game handled (or didn't handle) negative numbers, it meant a democratic Gandhi went from 1 to 255 points worth of pure omnicidal nuclear rage.) -Pennpenn 04:53, 11 June 2015 (UTC)

I disagree with the Asimov Foundation pun - I do not think Randall refeers to that at all. It was put at the top before the explain of the Amorph books. As it is a side issue I moved it down to the bottom of the explain where it might belong. But I think it should be removed! But I will leave that for others to decide! Kynde (talk) 15:38, 11 June 2014 (UTC)

The first thing I thought of when seeing "Long Now Foundation" and the reference to a person saying books are needed to help rebuild society was Asimov's Foundation series. So I think it should remain in the explanation. It my not be a pun, but I think significant reference to it is possible, and maybe likely. --Dangerkeith3000 (talk) 17:34, 11 June 2014 (UTC)
For what it's worth, the Long Now Foundation really is building a Manual for Civilization: http://blog.longnow.org/02010/04/06/manual-for-civilization/ -- 18:55, 11 June 2014 (UTC)
Thank you for linking to this! I came to this explainxkcd page because I wanted to know the answer to that very question. I think this link should be included in the article. (talk) (please sign your comments with ~~~~)
For the record, I had the idea for a "Post-apocalyptic Survival Guide" in 2008. I believe 3 text-book sized volumes could contain enough information on wilderness knowledge, engineering, science, medicine, and psychology for an individual or small community to exist quite happily. I considered making it a wiki, but that defeats the purpose, since nobody's going to have internet after an apocalypse. If you're actually trying to rebuild society to its present advancement, the hard part won't be finding the information, it will be finding people more interested in rebuilding than in their own survival. The Postman comes to mind...-- 20:58, 11 June 2014 (UTC)
Actually, we can assume there WILL be some warning apocalypse is coming. Post-apocalyptic Survival Guide must therefore be wiki-based system with simple "print" button, to be pressed (on multiple computers) in moment of such warning, immediately transferring the data to local computer before the Internet collapses and printed hopefully before the electrical grid collapses (and/or backup generators run out of fuel). -- Hkmaly (talk) 12:34, 14 June 2014 (UTC)
I think the best method, considering the quantity of information such a guide could contain in electronic form, would be to make it a wiki that is published as an app that receives regular content updates. Each device with the app would sync and retain a full copy of the entire guide. In order to ensure the device continues to function post-apocalypse, the app would come with instructions for protecting a device from damage/EMP and for generating power. I'd love to market a ruggedized and EMP shielded tablet with a hand generator.-- 16:20, 16 June 2014 (UTC)
 ::::: I've had a stab at writing such a manual for rebooting civilisation, at least as far as is possible in a single hardback, in a popular science book published this year called "The Knowledge: How to Rebuild our World from Scratch" ( [1] ). The complete bibliography for the book should offer a pretty complete library for genuinely restarting from scratch ( [2] ). And if you're interested, I've also contributed a selection to The Manual for Civilization for The Long Now Foundation ( [3] ){Lewis Dartnell}


I always though that in Asimov's Foundation, the Encyclopedia Galactica itself was not actual point. The point was that the Foundation, that is the organization writing the Encyclopedia, consisted of large amount of educated people concentrated on one place and equipped with lot of informations they supposedly were formating for inclusion into the Encyclopedia. So, when the Empire collapsed, they could start rebuilding civilization with this initial advantage. Not speaking of other advantages Seldon prepared, like the position of that place. -- Hkmaly (talk) 12:34, 14 June 2014 (UTC)

"If, in some cataclysm, all of scientific knowledge were to be destroyed, and only one sentence passed on to the next generation of creatures, what statement would contain the most information in the fewest words? I believe it is the atomic hypothesis that all things are made of atoms — little particles that move around in perpetual motion, attracting each other when they are a little distance apart, but repelling upon being squeezed into one another. In that one sentence, you will see, there is an enormous amount of information about the world, if just a little imagination and thinking are applied." - Richard P. Feynman (quote mentioned in Daniel Bor's "The Ravenous Brain", and sourced from: http://www.brainpickings.org/index.php/2012/09/11/richard-feynman-lectures-on-physics/) 17:40, 11 June 2014 (UTC)

Don't have time to create an account today, or I would do so to correct a typo: Asimov's character's first name was "Hari", not "Harry" (Seldon). Sorry if this seems like nitpicking... 16:36, 12 June 2014 (UTC)


Any reference in this comic to "The Knowledge"[4]? (talk) (please sign your comments with ~~~~)

--> Not directly, I don't think, no. {Lewis Dartnell} (talk) (please sign your comments with ~~~~)


I wonder whether part of the point of this comic is that Eno/the experts are implicitly suggesting that the most likely failure mode for civilization is that humanity will be taken over by Yeerks and that the Animorph books therefore represent the best guide to recovery. And if the experts believe this then most likely they believe that the Yeerks are here already (otherwise, why Animorphs not some other alien invasion story?) And of course is very hard to prove the Yeerks AREN'T here. Which also makes me wonder whether that means the experts/Eno are, themselves, Animorphs since who else would know about Yeerks and be prepared to talk about it? 04:14, 28 June 2014 (UTC)

the KISS in the end would be a reference to lovemaking, creating children and thus the most vital aspect of recreating civilization! -- Solsang (talk) (please sign your comments with ~~~~)

My only question is... How many of these books did Randall read to know that *that* is the most ohmygod worthy moment of the series? 05:28, 10 July 2014 (UTC)