The Safety Net
This book is about re-examining our technology – not in the 10-month window of Silicon Valley cycles,
but in the context of 10,000 years of civilizations. We will widen our lens to encompass the globe and lengthen our timescales to think about millennia.
From that vantage point, we’ll see ourselves in a new light in which we are just starting to open our eyes
and blink in the dawn of a new millennium that has changed all of the old equations.
The Safety Net: Surviving Pandemics and Other Disasters is an upcoming e-book and audiobook, due for release in July 2020. This book originally debuted some years ago as an iPad app called Why The Net Matters, and in that form it introduced a novel way to navigate a non-fiction argument, to zoom in and out on 3D interactive figures, and to navigate with random-access chapters. Alas, the iPad app is no longer available, but in 2020 we have put out a fully updated and revised version of the book.
- “Some of the most fascinating books around aren’t books; they’re superbooks — books with so much functionality that they’re sold as apps. Consider David Eagleman’s Why the Net Matters, a book about the Internet with photos, animation and even 3D.” – New York Times
- “This is an impressive and intriguing work” – Telegraph (UK)
- “I read it in one sitting, engrossed…. This bold restatement of the political and social potential of the web was useful and intelligent in its simplicity.” – BookFutures.
- “A very enjoyable app with Eagleman’s ideas very accessible and engaging.” – FutureBook
- “Why the Net Matters on the iPad is a breakthrough work, showing the way for generations of digital books to come. Text has never been so spectacularly illustrated; intellectual argument has never been so fluidly designed. And Eagleman’s message is as revolutionary as his format: The Internet protects civilization from collapse without even trying.” – Stewart Brand, President, The Long Now Foundation
Why the Net Matters was a finalist for the Digital Book World Innovation Awards.
What’s the book about? The Safety Net argues that the advent of the internet sidesteps the dangers that brought down previous civilizations. If you’d like a taste of the content, here’s a talk I delivered at the Long Now Foundation. (For over a week this was the most watched video on fora.tv, and was ranked the #8 technology talk of 2010)
Six Easy Steps to Avert the Collapse of Civilization from The Long Now Foundation
This thesis about the internet started life as a short piece I wrote in Nature in 2006 about the internet and epidemics, and then fleshed out in a short essay in WIRED and in the book Is the Internet Changing the Way You Think?
Although the app is no longer available on the iPad, here’s a demonstration of the app in action:
- Excerpt from The Safety NetCongratulations on living at a fortuitous moment in history. We enjoy a stable society that brags about technology, progress and opportunity. It proves difficult to imagine that all this — our governments, our culture, our storytelling, our creations — could fold up and collapse. How could our lofty glass-and-steel edifices fall into ruin? …
- Screenshots from the Why The Net Matters appCheck out actual screenshots from the app on the app version of Why The Net Matters (former title of The Safety Net). …
"What Eagleman seems to be calling for is a new Enlightenment."
- Sunday Herald
"David Eagleman offers startling lessons.... His method is to ask us to cast off our lazy commonplace assumptions.
- The Guardian
"David Eagleman may be the best combination of scientist and fiction-writer alive."
- Stewart Brand
"A popularizer of impressive gusto...[Eagleman] aims, grandly, to do for the study of the mind what Copernicus did for the study of the stars."
- New York Observer
"David Eagleman is the kind of guy who really does make being a neuroscientist look like fun."
- New York Times
"Eagleman has a talent for testing the untestable, for taking seemingly sophomoric notions and using them to nail down the slippery stuff of consciousness."
- The New Yorker
"[A] neuroscientist and polymath."
- Wall Street Journal