Knowledge and civilization: Technical and theoretical considerations

Tuesday, March 10, 2015 2:00 pm - 4:00 pm EDT

Speaker: Lewis Dartnell, PhD

You may also be interested in attending Lewis Dartnell’s talk on the evening of Wednesday, March 11 at THEMUSEUM in downtown Kitchener. He will be speaking in more depth about The Knowledge and will also be on hand to sign copies of his book after the talk. Full details about that talk are available on the event page.


The success of Lewis Dartnell’s book The Knowledge: How To Rebuild Our World From Scratch (visit The Knowledge website) speaks to long standing anxieties about the specialization of knowledge and technical know-how. Living in the modern world, we have become disconnected from the basic processes that support our lives, as well as the beautiful fundamentals of science that enable you to relearn things for yourself. A work of popular science, The Knowledge is a book which seeks to explain ‘everything you need to know about everything’. A thought experiment premised on the collapse of the modern world, the book is an attempt to provide ‘a quickstart guide for rebooting civilization.’ Outlining dozens of critical technologies and inventions from quick lime to the crystal radio Dartnell’s book also raises a series of fascinating questions about how societies create and sustain scientific and technical understanding as well as practical know-how.

In this WICI seminar, Dartnell will explore a range of ideas, concepts and themes that are only intimated in The Knowledge. These include: the nature of invention; path dependency and the relationship between the chronological and functional sequence of technologies; and the relationship between scientific knowledge and technical know-how; the relationship between explicit and implicit knowledge and the problem of sustaining theoretical knowledge and practical know-how in situations where these are not applied or practiced. Lewis is coming with more questions than answers, so please join us with the expectation of vigorous debate and collective cogitation.

Presenter bio

Dr Lewis Dartnell
Lewis Dartnell, PhD (Lewis Dartnell's website) is a UK Space Agency research fellow at the University of Leicester. He also holds an STFC Science in Society Fellowship, and alongside his astrobiology research writes regular science articles in newspapers and magazines, and has appeared in TV shows such as BBC Horizon, Wonders of the Universe, and documentaries on National Geographic, Discovery and History channels. The Knowledge: How to Rebuild our World from Scratch is his third book.

To learn more about The Knowledge, please visit The Knowledge website.