Justin Jacoby Smith is an organizer, web geek, Buddhist, and poet.

rebooting human society with a sentence

Richard Feynman famously wondered--if all human scientific knowledge were destroyed in some great cataclysm, and you only had one sentence to pass on as much information as you could to the next generation of survivors, what would you say? What would be the wisest thing to pass along in brief?

I believe it is the atomic hypothesis (or the atomic fact, or whatever you wish to call it) 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.”

SEEDblog decided to put Feynman's question--what one sentence would you pass on?--to some leading thinkers. Here are some of the answers I was fondest of:

“Many social and natural phenomena—societies, economies, ecosystems, climate systems—are complex evolving webs of interdependent parts whose collective behavior cannot be reduced to a sum of parts; small, gradual changes in any component can trigger catastrophic and potentially irreversible changes in the entire system that can propagate, in domino fashion, even across traditional disciplinary boundaries.” —George Sugihara is a theoretical biologist at the Scripps Institution of Oceanography.

“Knowledge is a public good and increases in value as the number of people possessing it increases.” —John Wilbanks is vice president of science at Creative Commons.

“We started human life as hunter-gatherers, where contact with others, kin and non-kin, was the center of human life, social and moral. Begin by holding hands and talking, face to face, recalling our shared evolutionary history, and the importance of human nature.” —Marc Hauser is an evolutionary biologist at Harvard University.

Check out the rest at SEED.