Here’s an exclusive from author Roland Hughes who is talking about his book John Smith the Last Known Survivor of the Microsoft Wars.
Why Did I Write “John Smith”?
We are the sum of what came before. Even if every person was an identical infant clone at birth, placing them in different environments and giving them 30+ years of different life experiences will yield individuals with varying, sometimes dramatic, uniquenesses.
There were few things school-wise I found enjoyable in high school. I’m not claiming to having had some horrible school age period, just that it took quite a while to figure out what I liked. While I enjoyed the coming up with stories part of English and Lit classes, my handwriting was (and still is) horrible. My inability to spell and construct grammatically correct sentences would probably still shock English teachers. Let us not forget the manual typewriters of the day were a lot of work.
Prior to my senior year that left the various history classes as my favorite thing. I liked the teacher and actually took an interest in many of the topics. I also didn’t mind reading. I rather enjoyed it. Even read quite a bit of mythology then.
Everything changed my senior year in high school. It was the year the school got its first three computers. Commodore Super PETs with dual floppy drives. I was in the first class to work on them. Here was a keyboard which was easy to type on. Rudimentary (although high end for its day) word processing with spell checking (not on the fly, but checking none-the-less.) You could save this work to disk and if you needed to change a paragraph or word it was a simple thing to print another copy.
Forgive the “barefoot in the snow up hill both ways” sound of this, but that was life changing. I went to college to become a computer programmer and eventually an IT consultant. That career path allowed me to work in a wide range of industries and absorb a lot of different information and helps provide unique perspectives when solving problems today. Contrary to what many might think, the most important part of any system architecture isn’t the “happy path” of when everything works, but the “very unhappy path” when things go horribly wrong. If there is a chance human life could be damaged or lost the “very unhappy path” gets an immense amount of work.
At the time John Smith started talking there was great hubbub about the end of the Mayan calendar and the new “Battlestar Galactica” had re-interpreted the opening line of “Peter Pan.” (For those who don’t remember “All of this has happened before, and it will all happen again.”) I believe those questions you find on the back cover are the first questions John Smith asked over the days he was attempting to form in my mind. “What if the Mayans got the start of the end correct because they had survived it before?” “What if our written history was just as accurate as the old tale about three blind men describing an elephant?” There are others, but, you get the gist of it.
One question, above all others, the one I asked, or at least believe I asked, really set him off on a tither. “What if that opening line from Peter Pan is the only thing which has survived across the cycles?” I mean, what if it is some kind of genetic memory or subconscious recognition of a message or signal from the past? I have met people raised in cultures where they claimed “Peter Pan” did not exist or at least never existed as part of their childhood, yet, their culture has such a phrase. Once that question was posed there was no turning him off.
Anyone who was even half awake during world history class has to have realized human civilization gets wiped out on a rather frequent basis. Well, frequent in terms of the galaxy. It’s almost as if the universe periodically hits the reset button. The length of the period may be different, but there can be little doubt the reset button gets hit. Take your pick: the Ice Age, Roman Empire, Ottoman Empire,
Egyptian Empire, Black Death during the Middle Ages, others. I mean, doesn’t the name Middle Ages imply that there has been a Beginning Ages and must be an Ending Ages?
The Great Pyramids are a wonder of the world quite simply because humans lost the ability to build them using nothing but hand tools and animals. It obviously took hundreds, if not thousands, of people so how to cut and move those stones had to be widely known at the time. That twenty story high-rise you walk or drive past on your way to work without even thinking about will be a wonder of the next world if it happens to still be standing and humans no longer have any idea how to build it. Just how many people do you think it took to build the thing?
John Smith kept chattering in the back of my mind. He kept insisting that the cycle itself could not be prevented but the catastrophic loss of knowledge could. There-in lied the rub. If we are the sum of what came before, what are we when nothing came before?
Hurricane Sandy proved there is no existing disaster recovery plan in place anywhere which does not rely on the bulk of civilized infrastructure surviving. Generators flooded in basements, generators on roofs without a functioning fueling infrastructure, you saw the news reports. Imagine that globally. Imagine every disaster recovery plan on the planet relying on some place else coming in to save them and living in a time where no place is in better shape to offer help. Once you begin to imagine that you begin asking the most important question of all:
How do you reboot humanity?
We are all the sum of what came before. Unlike John Smith though, we are not desperately trying to pass on the entirety of human