The Story Behind the Story: a Personal Account

A New Reality is the product of many years of thought, research, and collaboration between Jonas Salk and his son, Jonathan. Read Jonathan’s personal recounting of those years.


My father loved to write. As a child, I remember him, often in a chair or in bed, with a legal pad in his lap, writing in his distinctive script and working out his thoughts and theories. 


He had a realization. Looking at human population growth which was expanding seemingly without limit, he realized that it would likely slow and assume the shape of an S-shaped or sigmoid curve.


My father published a book called The Survival of the Wisest in which he presented the idea of the curve along with the concept of Epoch A and Epoch B. 

Several years later, he was asked by the United Nations Fund for Population Activities (UNFPA) to write a short book relating United Nations projections of population trends to the concepts of the epochal change he had described in his earlier book. 

Loving graphs and simple, minimal design, he assembled what he called a “pictographic essay”—a page of short text opposite a figure or graph. 


The manuscript sat unfinished for several years. I joined him to help with the project. This resulted in World Population and Human Values: A New Reality, which was published in 1981. It received little attention. In retrospect, it was decades before its time. 


My father used the ideas and images in his lectures, but after he died in 1995, few people knew of this work. Over the years, however, as I watched many of the things we had predicted come to pass, I often thought about the diagrams and concepts in the book and related them to current trends and events. 

There things sat for nearly twenty years.


Out of the blue, I received a call from David Dewane, a young architect and designer. He had come across the book, felt that it spoke to him and his generation and wanted to know if I would be interested in updating, redesigning, and republishing the work. I said yes. 

We then embarked on a journey. We revised the data, rewrote sections, assembled a small team, and engaged a wonderful designer, Courtney Garvin, who transformed that simple text and diagrams into a work of clarity and of beauty. 


On April 12, the anniversary of the announcement of the polio vaccine’s effectiveness, we launched a Kickstarter campaign to raise the profile of the book and raise funds for publication. 833 backers from more than a dozen countries pledged $40,000 for over 900 preview copies of A New Reality.


June 26, 2018 marks the revised edition’s publication by City Point Press.