How To Invent Everything: A Survival Guide For The Stranded Time Traveler by Ryan NorthHow To Invent Everything: A Survival Guide For The Stranded Time Traveler by Ryan North

How To Invent Everything: A Survival Guide For The Stranded Time Traveler

byRyan North

Hardcover | September 18, 2018

Pricing and Purchase Info

$30.05 online 
$36.00 list price save 16%
Earn 150 plum® points

Prices and offers may vary in store

Quantity:

In stock online

Ships free on orders over $25

Available in stores

about

An NPR Best Book of 2018

"How to Invent Everything is such a cool book. It's essential reading for anyone who needs to duplicate an industrial civilization quickly." --Randall Munroe, xkcd creator and New York Times-bestselling author of What If?

The only book you need if you're going back in time


What would you do if a time machine hurled you thousands of years into the past. . . and then broke? How would you survive? Could you improve on humanity's original timeline? And how hard would it be to domesticate a giant wombat?

With this book as your guide, you'll survive--and thrive--in any period in Earth's history. Bestselling author and time-travel enthusiast Ryan North shows you how to invent all the modern conveniences we take for granted--from first principles. This illustrated manual contains all the science, engineering, art, philosophy, facts, and figures required for even the most clueless time traveler to build a civilization from the ground up. Deeply researched, irreverent, and significantly more fun than being eaten by a saber-toothed tiger, How to Invent Everything will make you smarter, more competent, and completely prepared to become the most important and influential person ever. You're about to make history. . . better.
Ryan North is the New York Times-bestselling author of Romeo and/or Juliet and To Be or Not To Be. He's the creator of Dinosaur Comics and the Eisner Award-winning writer of Adventure Time, Jughead, and The Unbeatable Squirrel Girl for Marvel Comics, and he has a master's in computational linguistics from the University of Toronto. Rya...
Loading
Title:How To Invent Everything: A Survival Guide For The Stranded Time TravelerFormat:HardcoverProduct dimensions:464 pages, 9.3 × 6.3 × 1.45 inShipping dimensions:9.3 × 6.3 × 1.45 inPublished:September 18, 2018Publisher:Penguin Publishing GroupLanguage:English

The following ISBNs are associated with this title:

ISBN - 10:073522014X

ISBN - 13:9780735220140

Reviews

Read from the Book

2A special note if you are stranded between 200,000 BCE and 50,000 BCE and you are thinking, "The humans here are crazy and I am definitely doomed forever"Great news! You can actually be the most influential person in history!As your careful study of the flowchart on the previous pages likely revealed, humans first evolved around the year 200,000 BCE. We call them "anatomically modern humans," and they mark the moment when humans with skeletons exactly the same as ours first appeared. As an experiment, we could put your skeleton beside that of an anatomically modern human from 200,000 years ago and it would be impossible to tell them apart.We will not be performing this experiment, but we could.But what's fascinating is despite the fact that modern human bodies were now available, nothing really changed. For more than 150,000 years, these humans behaved pretty much the same as any other protohuman species. And then, around the year 50,000 BCE, something happened: these anatomically modern humans suddenly started acting like us. They began to fish, create art, bury their dead, and decorate their bodies. They began to think abstractly.Most important, they began to talk.The technology of language—and it is a technology, it's something we've had to invent, and it took us over 100,000 years to do it—is the greatest gift we humans have ever given ourselves. You can still think without language—close your eyes and imagine a really cool hat and you've just done it—but it limits the kinds of thoughts you can have. Cool hats are easy to imagine, but the meaning of the sentence "Three weeks from tomorrow, have your oldest stepsister meet me on the southeast corner two blocks east from the first house we egged last Halloween" is extremely difficult to nail down without having concrete words for the concepts of time, place, numbers, relationships, and spooky holidays. And if you're struggling to express complex thoughts even in your own head, it's pretty evident that you won't be having those complex thoughts as often, or at all.It was language that gave us the ability to imagine better, grander, more world-changing ideas than we otherwise could, and most important, it gave us the ability to store an idea not just in our own heads but inside the minds of others. With language, information can spread at the speed of sound, or, if you're using sign language instead of speaking, at the speed of light. Shared ideas lead to communities, which are the basis of culture and civilization, and which brings us to our first Civilization Pro Tip: CIVILIZATION PRO TIP: Language is the technology from which all others spread, and you've already got it for free.This huge expanse of time—the 150,000 years between 200,000 BCE, when humans first appeared, to 50,000 BCE, when they finally started talking—is where you can have the single greatest effect on history. If you can help humans of this era become behaviorally modern as soon as they became anatomically modern—if you can teach them to talk—then you can give every civilization on the planet a 150,000-year head start.It's probably worth the effort.We once thought the change from anatomical to behavioral modernity was due to some physical change in our brains. Perhaps a random genetic mutation in one human—who suddenly found themselves able to communicate in ways no animal had done before—provided us with the huge advantage of a new capacity for abstract thought? However, the historical record doesn't support the idea of this great leap forward. The things we most associate with behavioral modernity-art, music, clever tools, burying the dead, making ourselves look cooler with jewelry and body paint-all appear before the breakthrough around 50,000 BCE, but in fits and starts, appearing locally and then disappearing. Much like the magic that rhetorical wizards have long revealed was actually inside us all along, so too have humans had the capacity for language. We just needed to unlock it.The unique challenge facing you in this era is how to teach a language to people when the very idea of spoken language may be new to them. It's important to remember that most humans you encounter may not have language, but they'll still communicate with one another, through grunts and body language. All you need to do is move them from grunts to words, and don't worry: a complicated language like English with things like "subjunctive clauses" and "imperfect futures" (used here in the grammatical sense, not the time-travel sense) is not necessary, and you can get by with a simplified version of the language you already know, called "pidgin." You will also have better results if you focus on teaching children. The older humans are, the harder it is for them to learn languages, and fluent acquisition of a first language becomes much more challenging-if not impossible-after puberty.CIVILIZATION PRO TIP: Babies begin to focus on the noises used in language around them after about six months of age, so if you're inventing a language from scratch, you'll likely have more success incorporating whatever sounds the baby is already hearing from its parents.Remember: evolution happens very slowly, and even 200,000 years ago the people you'll encounter are humans, just like you-indistinguishable at the biological level. They just need to be taught.You can teach them.And you will be remembered as a god.

Editorial Reviews

“Technically, we are all time travelers and we are all trapped. So, even if you happen to be scanning this blurb in what you perceive to be a 'normal' timeline, I heartily recommend you read this book cover to cover.” —Zach Weinersmith, creator of Saturday Morning Breakfast Cereal and author of Soonish “Brilliant conceit. . . . a slyly funny piece of popular science writing.” —Glen Weldon, NPR’s Great Reads of 2018 “Hilarious and endlessly fascinating . . . For the vast general population that might decide to trust their lives to the FC3000, this book is potentially invaluable (and mighty entertaining) one-stop-shop for everything you need to know about life, the universe, and the fly wheel.” —Christian Science Monitor  “Ryan North's latest is a handy guide for what to do if you get stuck in the Stone Age…The manual stands well on its own, even if you'll never set foot in a time machine.” —Popular Mechanics “An entertaining and informative survey of Big History . . . worth holding on to even if we never do figure out time travel.” —Toronto Star “A hilarious and practical guide.” —Atlas Obscura “The scale of How to Invent Everything is downright encyclopedic, and the voice, on every page, bubbles with humor. Reading it brought me back to all the afternoons I’d spent as a kid flipping through the big reference books in my local library, and then eagerly running home to tell anyone who’d listen what I’d learned. One of this book’s great achievements is the way it so gracefully combines scholarly rigor with youthful wonder.” —Electric Literature     “How to Invent Everything is a genuinely entertaining bit of pop science writing, a brief history of human civilization with a wicked sense of humor and sci-fi set-up that make it as fun as it is informative. It’s an essential read for would-be time travelers as well as anyone who really wants to know all the various uses for an alpaca.” —Barnes & Noble Blog “I recommend this to any time traveler or world builder who is in the market for a fresh civilization. This is certainly one of those ‘better to have and not need rather than need and not have’ books, folks. So run out and grab this.” —Geeks of Doom   “A must-read for any potential time traveler.” —Unbound Worlds “Stranded in a past century? Not to worry! Here’s the entertaining and sometimes even hilarious book that will tell you everything you need to know.” – Christian Science Monitor “A dazzling piece of work that's also genuinely hilarious.” —Elan Mastai, author of All Our Wrong Todays “A witty pop science guide intended for those demanding times when one needs to create a civilization from scratch... wry humor keeps the discussion lighthearted. North’s 'survival guide' is a fun, thoughtful, and thoroughly accessible reference for curious readers, students, and world-builders, as well as wayward time travelers.” —Publishers Weekly (starred review) “Packed with cool, fun, and useful stuff... a friendly and thought-provoking reference, just the thing for the bright kid in the family, to say nothing of the neighborhood time traveler.” —Kirkus Reviews