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Data Storage Technology

Ask Slashdot: Permanent Preservation of Human Knowledge? 277

Wayne2 writes "While there have been many attempts to preserve human knowledge in electronic format, it occurred to me that these attempts all assume that human civilization remains more or less intact. Given humanity's history of growth and collapse with knowledge repeatedly gained then lost, has anyone considered a more permanent solution? I realize that this could be very difficult and/or expensive depending on how long we want to preserve the information and what assumptions we make regarding posterity's ability to access it. Alternatively, are we, as a species, willing to start over if we experience a catastrophe, pandemic, etc. of significant magnitude on a global scale that derails our progress and sends us back to the dark ages or worse?"
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Ask Slashdot: Permanent Preservation of Human Knowledge?

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  • by erroneus ( 253617 ) on Wednesday July 03, 2013 @04:30PM (#44181415) Homepage

    It "protects" content right?

    • TL;DR: If the end of the world is imminent in two hours, check existing articles for typographical errors, errors of fact and style issues and start transmitting them from the world's radio telescopes to the 300 nearest stars and to the centre of the galaxy for as long as possible.
    • Wasn't that an April Fool's Day joke article?

      • "The message will be accompanied by a short video message by Wikipedia founder Jimmy Wales, and images required for the re-creation of fundraiser banners."

        I can tell it's definitely the real deal and in no way an April Fool's joke!

    • by Muros ( 1167213 )
      BS alarms ringing after reading this bit: "It is already the practice of the encyclopedia to create a database dump, a record of the data from the Wikipedia database, on a regular basis. This data is compressed using the highly efficient Honda-Beech data compression method, which compresses the data by a ratio of up to 1,000,000:1."
      • by dgatwood ( 11270 )

        BS alarms ringing after reading this bit ...

        Wait, so it took you two-thirds of the article before your alarm started sounding? The zombie apocalypse bit (global revenant epidemic) didn't tip you off?

    • by Z00L00K ( 682162 )

      Most of the information we have is actually not very significant. If there comes a time when we need to get back to where we had a decent civilization and knowledge it shall be on printed form, not electronic. There are too many examples already where electronic data is unreadable because the hardware to read it no longer exists and has been replaced by more efficient means. Of course - it's not very hard to re-create punched card readers and punched tape readers, but how many have the means to read 8" flop

      • by infolation ( 840436 ) on Wednesday July 03, 2013 @05:23PM (#44182081)
        There is one form of information that is very significant for future generations - the locations and contents of Nuclear burial sites. The film 'Into Eternity' about the Finnish sites documents this issue - how do we make sure humans, perhaps 100,000 years hence, understand the nature and toxicity of the contents, without making them curious about discovering what lies within. The Egyptians tried this 4,000 years ago - writing messages warding off potential interlopers to their sacred burial sites. That outcome is perhaps an indication of how a future civilization would perceive our messages.
        • "This place is not a place of honor." [] The general theory has been to create a megalith which is inherently foreboding and discomforting to human beings. Giant spikes protruding from the ground, irregular black stones too hot and close together to be used for shelter, fields of sharp objects jutting in all directions, the sort of landscape that's hostile to human life and repellant rather than beautiful and attractive.

          • Yet when people find things like that and don't know what they are, they want to find out why it was built and what it holds.

          • The egyptians tried that to protect others from their plague ridden corpses. Instead we call them tourist attractions, putting the bodies on display.

            Heck even the egyptians put warnings we could read on the outside.

            No the best bet is to bury it completely and really deeply preferably at the bottom of the ocean, where the water can act as a moderator for any spills.

            • by suutar ( 1860506 )
              May not want to make it too hard to retrieve; we might want that stuff sometime. Petroleum processing used to have a bunch of useless toxic waste products, then someone created plastic...
        • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

          how do we make sure humans, perhaps 100,000 years hence, understand the nature and toxicity of the contents

          Why worry about it? In 100,000 years the waste will hardly be more radioactive than natural uranium ore. The entire premise of this concern seems silly to me. What is the chance than 100,000 years from now, our ancestors have the ability to do deep hard rock mining, and have found a use for ores that are worthless to us (that is why we dumped the waste there), yet have no understanding of radioactivity? If that is the case, far more of their miners will die from naturally occurring radon (which they are

      • There are too many examples already where electronic data is unreadable because the hardware to read it no longer exists

        If there are "too many examples" then how come nobody is able to site a single example? Go ahead: name a single media that is unreadable today.

        how many have the means to read 8" floppies today?

        Everyone. The drives are available on EBay, and there are business where you can mail an 8" floppy, (or a tape, or whatever) and get the contents back on an SD card or CD-R, or just emailed back to you. To the best of my knowledge, no hardware format has ever become unreadable, and these old formats were far less ubiquitous than modern media, like CDROMs or SD car

      • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

        by kermidge ( 2221646 )

        You've got the ground here for an excellent adventure game also.

        Start a la Civ - develop tech and tools to decipher the puzzles to get at the records, fight off the various hordes of whatever - zombies, Luddites, other religious fans, rivals. Access the goodies, learn how to read them, develop a base of stable resources to use the preserved writings to do some real re-building. And, is there a larger goal or need than just getting the hidden goodies?

        It'd be interesting to see how high a tech level is need

  • Engineer information into the genome of the most resilient of creatures on the planet, so even if we all die out and our DVDs corrode and disappear, something of us survives.
    • Unless the genetic information is being actively selected for in some way, random errors and natural selection pressure will quicky weed it out. The Star Trek episode scenario, while being quite cool, doesn't make sense, biology-wise.
  • Low storage capacity but you can't beat their lifespan.
    • by K. S. Kyosuke ( 729550 ) on Wednesday July 03, 2013 @04:49PM (#44181665)
      Please note that they weren't fired, originally. They didn't have that much fuel in Mesopotamia to fire everything they wanted. Ironically, many of the preserved tablets come from libraries that burned down in random fires. These events stopped being celebrated by archaeologists after Middle Easterners switched to other writing materials around 100 CE.
      • Also note that many of these tablets were junk. They were intended to be temporary and erasable but managed to survive anyway. Se we get boring lists from scripts, like details of market transactions. The future may end up being a lot like Canticle for Leibowitz.

      • This is certainly true. I actually had in mind one of those random fires when I mentioned "fired" tablets. Specifically the tablets from Pylos which preserved Linear B. Were it not for the fires, and the accidental firing of the tablets thereby, its doubtful whether the tablets would have survived so well. As any archaeologist can attest, ceramics tend to stick around even as civilizations collapse about them.
    • I think that's a good place to start, but more detail is always interesting:

      I would start with a Rosetta Stone, specifically designed to explain as much of the language and text as possible. Included in those would be directions, both in terms of location and recovery procedures, to a much larger collection of paper documents stored in sealed casks of an inert gas to prevent degradation. From there it would be possible to at least describe the basic procedures and formats needed to read much, much denser

    • You also need the method to decode the tablets. Ie, a Rosetta Stone type of mechanism. Provide multiple languages, hints on the algorithms used, diagrams on how to interpret the data, and so on.

    • Anything that's going to last into unknown civilizations is by necessity going to have a low storage capacity, because it needs to be readable unassisted, and survive handling and environmental changes.

  • Say a cataclysm wipes out major cities, centers of learning, large chunks of the population, etc. but that you managed to preserve the exact DNA and RNA sequences of a lab rat. Without the machinery to use the data, and indeed without the entire medical industry to provide materiel for research using that knowledge, what does it really buy you? Or you preserve the technical schematics of the Tokamak reactor. When you're burning firewood for heat because the entire fossil fuel delivery aparatus is des

    • by HappyHead ( 11389 ) on Wednesday July 03, 2013 @05:10PM (#44181903)
      While that's true to some extent, it doesn't mean that knowledge shouldn't be preserved in a format that would be accessible by a recovering civilization. Just because they don't have electricity now, doesn't mean they never will, and a handy guidebook telling them how those things work will speed things up later.

      It does mean though, that the information should be prioritized - there's a T-shirt/poster floating around the internet full of "things to take credit for discovering if you go back in time". Most of the items it lists are either critical discoveries that led directly to improvements in quality of life, or were the basis for other technologies. Pasteurization, antibiotics, electric generation, radio, flight, and more. (It's here [] by the way.)

      A guide like that is a good start - build things up in stages, add in more (useful) detail, never assuming that the reader will already have a tool unless it has already been explained how to make it. Then if you want to go hog-wild, after you've reached the part explaining how to make a computer and digitize information, put the stuff that would require a heavily industrialized civilization into a digitized code format and explain how it's encoded, so they can read it when they're ready/able to use it.

      Random data being used for research though, is likely totally useless. Not only is the DNA/RNA sequence from that rat likely to be useless to a recovering civilization, depending on what sort of cataclysm happened, the DNA/RNA of a rat may not even match what was recorded. Leave stuff like that to DNA/Seed banks, unless it's part of an explanation of "what DNA/RNA is", and even then, the whole set is pointless. (Also probably patented.) A Tokamak reactor may not be useful to a low tech civilization, but with the boost provided by being taught how to make hydro-electric generators, lights, heaters, radios, and internal combustion engines (they can run on cheaply made alcohol, they're just less efficient that way, and wear out faster.), they might be able to make use of that information in only a few generations.

      The real problem of course, is format, and ensuring that not only does the information survive, but that these future people are able to understand it when they do see it, rather than thinking "Oh, pretty metal plates with squiggles on them. I bet I could melt those down and make a great set of knives out of them."
    • by bonehead ( 6382 )

      The data may not be useful immediately, but presumably society would begin rebuilding at some point.

      It may be a long time before the information is useful, but once that time arrived, it would save a great deal of wheel re-invention.

      • Why are we assuming a cataclysm? Yes, there may be one, and we have to prepare for the worst, but we should also make as much available via technology as well. A thousand copies of an encyclopedia on thumb drives perhaps? In that case they'd probably have all the data, but the quaint snapshot of what we knew at the time would be of interest, too.

        Just don't use ROHS-compliant electronics; the lack of lead in the solder joints would whisker them to death over time.

  • by ElitistWhiner ( 79961 ) on Wednesday July 03, 2013 @04:34PM (#44181477) Journal

    Rosetta, stone tablets, parchment scrolls and other works which have survived destruction only by obscurity, sleight and secrecy which instructs that the methods are not as important as the means to which you secure knowledge for posterity.

  • A Canticle... (Score:5, Interesting)

    by MeepMeep ( 111932 ) on Wednesday July 03, 2013 @04:34PM (#44181485)
  • by blahplusplus ( 757119 ) on Wednesday July 03, 2013 @04:38PM (#44181535)

    ... store knowledge within.

    One wonders what would could be saved if things like pyramids and tombs are used to save a cubic ass tonne of knowledge.

    • by g0bshiTe ( 596213 ) on Wednesday July 03, 2013 @04:48PM (#44181655)

      a cubic ass tonne

      It's always about goatse with you people.

    • by wbr1 ( 2538558 )
      I prefer a rounded tonne of ass, thank you. It is more shapely.
    • ... store knowledge within.

      One wonders what would could be saved if things like pyramids and tombs are used to save a cubic ass tonne of knowledge.

      Remember that virtually every nontrivial monument/tomb site that we know about was plundered, often pretty quickly after it was built, sometimes several times. If you want to preserve something, it either has to be so valuable that the succeeding civilization continues coddling it, or so worthless that it doesn't get melted down for scrap(unfortunately, given that people will scrape and reuse parchment [] and use mummies for fuel, the bar for this is pretty low indeed).

    • One wonders what would could be saved if things like pyramids and tombs are used to save a cubic ass tonne of knowledge.

      Tombs are raided.

  • by joshv ( 13017 ) on Wednesday July 03, 2013 @04:39PM (#44181545)

    Check out the Rosetta Project - []

  • Make lots of them. (Score:5, Insightful)

    by SuricouRaven ( 1897204 ) on Wednesday July 03, 2013 @04:41PM (#44181563)

    If you're planning for the fall and rise of civilisation, you need to prepare for the possibility of deliberate destruction - it's possible that a future civilisation might be so sickened by the actions of the past they seek to destroy all their works, or a religion might emerge which considers your documents heretical and in need of destruction, or perhaps a king feels that his people are living in the shadow of legendary greatness and only by destroying the legend will their story be honored.

    So you're going to need to mass-produce whatever storage media you choose - make them by the millions and put them all over the world. In museums, in caves, burried or sunk offshore (Add a big chunk of iron, ready for when the metal detector is reinvented), as many as you can. So many it'd be impossible to destroy them all.

    As for the actual storage medium? Tiny etchings on iridium would work. It's corrosion-resistant, and very, very hard wearing. It's last for millenia with ease, even in burried in moist soil or scoured by desert sand, and with such a high melting point it'd be untouched even if the containing building burned down. The only issue is the price: That stuff is expensive. Really expensive. It's cheaper than gold, but not by much.

  • by brit74 ( 831798 ) on Wednesday July 03, 2013 @04:43PM (#44181587)
    I'm not sure that I can really think of good examples of this happening - at least not on a global scale. Sure, there was a regression in Europe after the Greeks and Romans. There were quite a few works lost. And it seems that there was a very early civilization around India that was abandoned (apparently due to crop failures). But the main protection for lost knowledge seems to be to spread knowledge around the world. The world has never simultaneously regressed (the Middle East and China weren't doing so bad during the European dark ages). The works of the Greeks wouldn't have been lost if their writings had larger distribution (instead of being confined to a relatively small area, which makes the fate of those earlier works dependent on the local conditions). As long as people keep writing and reading books, I don't see how much knowledge is going to be lost. There wasn't even much knowledge lost in Europe during the Black Plague - and that killed off 1/3rd of the people in Europe.

    Perhaps the concern over "lost knowledge" says a lot about people's perception that some massive apocalyse is going to happen. I think, in general, people tend to grab onto ideas about "apocalypse" (which necessarily results in some massive social rearrangement) because they're not happy with the state of the world. Apocalyptic thinking is a little bit of a fantasy about starting over.
    • Perhaps the concern over "lost knowledge" says a lot about people's perception that some massive apocalyse is going to happen.

      As the span of time reaches infinity the probability of a global catastrophic event approaches 1. It *will* happen eventually.

      • As the span of time reaches infinity the probability of a global catastrophic event approaches 1. It *will* happen eventually.

        This assumes a fixed probability over all time.

        If the probability lowers over time, then the cumulative probability can be bounded to any chosen value.

        Consider: is the probability of world-wide plague higher or lower than it was 300 years ago? The probability of large-scale crop failures? Nuclear war?

        You could say that the probabilities are higher in each case, yet the historical statistical evidence shows that the number and severity of wars has decreased, plague vectors have been detected and averted (SAR

        • by neminem ( 561346 )

          It *will* happen eventually. That is 100% guaranteed, at least if you include disasters much larger than those affecting merely our planet as being "global" catastrophic events. Granted, I agree that if the function of how likely a catastrohy is, is going down, then the sum of likelinesses isn't guaranteed to hit one as you go to infinity. But disregarding that completely, as you look out far enough, the likeliness that the sun will nova starts to increase dramatically, and further still, you hit heat death

          • But disregarding that completely, as you look out far enough, the likeliness that the sun will nova starts to increase dramatically, and further still, you hit heat death of the whole universe. That's pretty catastrophic, and pretty certain. :p

            And in neither of those cases do we really care much about preserving our knowledge for those who come later....

    • I think, in general, people tend to grab onto ideas about "apocalypse" (which necessarily results in some massive social rearrangement) because they're not happy with the state of the world. Apocalyptic thinking is a little bit of a fantasy about starting over.

      I know someone who definitely matches this.

    • by Kjella ( 173770 )

      I'm not sure that I can really think of good examples of this happening - at least not on a global scale.

      Well, for better or for worse the world has gotten smaller in many ways including this one. For example, all of Intel's CPUs that power most PCs in the world are made in 11 plants, 7 locations, 5 countries and if there's a WW3 I predict the countries involved would be "all of the above". Floodings in Thailand sent the whole world's HDD market skyrocketing. Assuming most of this is reduced to piles of rubble, key personnel lost, the whole supply chain of tools and purified silicon gone and there's post-war s

    • "I'm not sure that I can really think of good examples of this happening - at least not on a global scale"

      Well of course not! The knowledge wouldn't be lost if you knew about it!

  • Books (Score:4, Interesting)

    by pcjunky ( 517872 ) <> on Wednesday July 03, 2013 @04:44PM (#44181601) Homepage

    Books. It worked before, it should work again.

    The electronic preservation angle was my wife's thesis. []

  • May I commend to you incised letters on stone []? This has a long history of working, at least for human notions of permanent. You can go to places like Egypt , and bring back inscriptions [] from 3000+ years ago which you can read without trouble (well, at least if you know the language, which is another problem).

    As far true permanence, and surviving things like the decay of protons in 10^35 years, you are on your own.

    • by Valdrax ( 32670 ) on Wednesday July 03, 2013 @05:36PM (#44182261)

      Oh sure, that will work for very low densities of information, but what about something the size of the Wikipedia? [] That article states that the Wikipedia has over 2.4 billion words across over 4 million articles. The article has a nice visual image of what would happen if you took all that information and printed it into 1000 page encyclopedia volumes (each containing 8 million characters). It totals over 1800 print volumes.

      Now, where are you going to find that much stone writing surface in one place, and how are you going to economically carve it in a reasonable lifetime, and how are you going to arrange it in a fashion that it's human readable/explorable?

      Even reproducing something immensely valuable for a recovering industrial society like Machinery's Handbook [] in stonework would take an immense amount of space, time, and money to do. Just something as simple as the Georgia Guidestones cost about $225,000 to do.

      No, try again when you come up with something practical.

  • Seriously? "Permanent" is kind of a binary thing.

    “The only thing that never changes is that everything changes.”
    -- Louis L'Amour

    • You'd be surprised.

      At a meeting a couple of years back, I was talking to someone that I think was the head of the British Library (I remember 'head of' and 'British' even though he was an American) We talked about some of my work in trying to come up with definitions that different communities can agree on, and he said that he had been at a meeting of archivists and they were having trouble defining 'permenant preservation'.

      He said they came up with a definition that was effectively 'make sure we can under

  • Back in the ancient times civilizations had small centers of learning and education, where a good disaster could clear out civilization and they more or less need to start over. However now information is spread across the world. A super volcano kills the US. Europe and Asia still has most of our information and society will continue on, and vice versa.

    A major super major disaster would probably send us back 70 years. And would probably take us 30 years to recover.
    We as people know about the internal c

    • Losses from early NASA days 40 years ago illustrate the problem.

      One was to the decision to use Apollo-like (moonshot) rockets and capsules to replace the space shuttle. There were some blueprints and museum pieces and personal souveniers from that era, but not complete working models. And the original engineers were dying off fast. The did successfully revive a museum piece [] for study.

      The other losses were computer tapes and films from the early space years. Many were misplaced. Or re-recorded becaus
  • by fuzzyfuzzyfungus ( 1223518 ) on Wednesday July 03, 2013 @04:49PM (#44181671) Journal

    Barring the development of a strong-AI level pedagogical expert system that can be stashed away somewhere, the task of actually preserving the present state of human knowledge in the absence of the background is pretty difficult.

    Mere storage is actually the easy part: Even clay tablets have a modest survival rate when you burn the civilization that inscribed them down on top of them, and with modern materials and machine tools, we could mass produce something better(or really, really, really mass produce something cheaper, and distribute it all over the world).

    The trouble comes once you start dealing with knowledge that exists largely in the form of continually-refreshed human capital, and with tools that exist largely in the form of a long chain of worse tools building better tools building better tools, etc. The amount of pure written knowledge you would need to restart/rebuild all the supporting industry to refill, say, a totally undistinguished hardware store, would be considerable, quite probably more than actually is written down(rather than learned on the job by the new guy from the old guy, and fabricated on tools that were built with parts fabricated with tools that go back to the early 20th century if not earlier).

    You also run into encoding problems. "Graecum est; non legitur", and that was the allegedly educated class in a civilization that probably had some greek speakers available(and it'd hardly been a global thermonuclear holocaust that ended classical civilization). You'd need to choose some human languages, and god help you with the digital file formats...

  • In one of the episodes of the animated series The Batman, future archaeologists unearth the Batcave and find information etched in binary on the titanium support pillars. []

    Alternately, I wonder what projects the Long Now Foundation [] has in the works to do something like this. The Wikipedia page lists the Rosetta project but there may be something else for general knowledge.

  • by Intrepid imaginaut ( 1970940 ) on Wednesday July 03, 2013 @04:51PM (#44181703)

    Periodically send up long distance spacecraft loaded with not just data but the means to view it and the means to rebuild from first principles, assuming a child was viewing it - here is how you find iron deposits, mine and refine them, this is how you forge ploughs, these are the basics of algebra. Have them programmed to circle around somewhere just inside Jupiter's orbit, and have multiple stations here on earth sending out a deadman signal - when they stop broadcasting, the vessels begin to return in waves seperated by ten years or so, with the last waves arriving once a century.

    When they make it home, have them attempt to locate likely inhabited areas whether by thermal imaging looking for fires at night or just vegetation profiling for fields, then drop down nearby, broadcasting light and sound, even radio, until someone comes to investigate.

    It's relatively easy to permanently preserve all of mankind's knowledge, just pack it in a rocket and send it Oort-cloud bound. Well permanently as in astronomical timescales. The trick is to preserve all of humanity's knowledge in a way that's useful to humanity in the future.

    • by Altrag ( 195300 )

      Now where did I toss that power plant capable of not decaying over potentially several millennia and at the same time powerful enough to return a craft from Jupiter back to earth in-tact?

      Ah yes, here it is! I'll get right on this one!

  • Alternatively, are we, as a species, willing to start over if we experience a catastrophe, pandemic, etc. of significant magnitude on a global scale that derails our progress and sends us back to the dark ages or worse?

    Willing? Like we have control over the cosmos and would choose to hit ourselves with an asteroid, or get decimated by a plague? First thing is to set expectations on "permanent", because in reality...there is no such thing. The Earth, the Sun, even the universe has an expiration date. In order to even begin to narrow the types of materials needed you would need to define the duration of "permanent" before you went anywhere. I couldn't dig it up but I seem to remember an article online about something like

  • This topic reminds me of the Georgia Guidestones [].
    They are a monument of granite stones that contain ten simple "guidelines" for future civilisations.
    The guidelines are repeated in eight different languages: each language having a face of each of the four main stones.

  • This is the same as asking what information & how to preserve it for a generational starship. While en route there would be limited need for much of the accumulated knowledge, but once established as a distant colony, that would change.

    Corollary would be: what is the minimum population required to maintain the diverse productive capacity that feeds our standard of living (both #'s of diverse producers and consumers to achieve satisfactory economies of scale) ( acknowledging that on demand production is

  • Microfiche lasts about 5x as long as paper and is 98x more efficient space wise. It can be read with a magnifying glass and a light source.

    That's going to be hard to beat.

    • I always loved microfiche... I thought it was cool. Back when my middle school wasn't very big on PC's we had loads and loads of microfiche that we could print out and stuff.

      But, it does have some disadvantages. Heat and humidity can distort the image, and eventually damage the film by either distortion or fungus.

      However I don't know what the threshold temperatures are.

    • it won't last at all in the scenario we're discussing here. depending on base, microfilm/microfiche must be kept form 15 to 40 percent (cellulose) or 30 to 40 percent humidity (polyester) or it will crack (too dry) or decompose (too wet). fumes from wood, particle board or paper will destroy it. sulfides, peroxides, and hydroxides like ammonia will destroy it Temperatures greater than 70 degrees F over time will destroy it. More than five percent temperature variation during the day will ruin it.

      too frag

      • by jbolden ( 176878 )

        Didn't realize 5 degrees. What about in a cave?

        • maybe a "lava cave" in inactive area would be a good place if cool.

          Not the kind of caves we have in central USA which are water formed in limestone. things will get buried in limestone as the stuff is dissolved and precipitates by rainwater.

  • by boristdog ( 133725 ) on Wednesday July 03, 2013 @05:11PM (#44181925)

    I regularly carve pictures and patterns into various rocks around my property. I often wonder what future scientists will think of them. And now I wonder if someone will try to construct something meaningful in the crap I leave around my ranch...

  • Durable, easy to read.

  • Tint printed letters old plates (Holy Joseph Smith!) or some ceramic. This presumes the technology of hand lenses will be remembered or reinvented. I've seen a number of essays on this topic, especially since the invention of computers. this was commonly suggested. we've learned to decode the lost scripts of forgotten languages, e.g. Egyption, cuneifomr, assuming we have enough text.
  • by peter303 ( 12292 ) on Wednesday July 03, 2013 @05:27PM (#44182139)
    Most of the books from classical times were passed down by copying them periodically. Very few original texts from that era, save on stone. Generally educational classic or important religious works were worth copying.
  • by Memophage ( 88273 ) on Wednesday July 03, 2013 @05:55PM (#44182477)

    If you're not familiar with The Long Now Foundation [] you should check them out. They have a project to build a clock that will last 10,000 years (about as long again as there's been civilization on earth), and are making progress constructing it in a cave in a mountain in Nevada [].

    Of course, the next questions are things like "well, who is going to be around to read it?" and "how will they read it?", and "how do we maintain a level of civilization where people can create replacement parts for it?"

    Neal Stephenson consulted with them for his book Anathem [], which I highly recommend, which is based around these sorts of questions.

  • Any novel "ultra durable" technology will not be ubiquitous. Pre-digital age technology (aka, paper books) will be everywhere. Even though they are slowly deteriorating, just 0.1% preservation of such material will preserve a lot of knowledge because it was so widely disseminated. That's just my guess though. You can't predict the outcome of a dark age any better than you can plan it.

  • These days a lot of information about engineering various things is possessed by companies with availability to a small group of people. When they abandon the product, the internal information may be just nuked instead of publishing it openly. Many inventions, which are useful to the humankind in general, are produced in proprietary manner. I think this is problematic.
  • In the George Pal version of H.G.Wells' "The Time Machine", the intrepid traveller comes upon a flat desk with a series of rings arrayed around. He spins a ring, and the story unfolds... a little hologram appears, with the message

    "Help me, Obi-Wan Kenobi, you're my only hope."

    Or words to that effect.

  • by 32771 ( 906153 ) on Wednesday July 03, 2013 @06:54PM (#44183181) Journal

    The optimists: []

    the pessimists: []

    the second kind doesn't need any storage of information I would think.
    Some might not even call them optimists or pessimists.

  • Most of the rest is cool and stuff, but way overrated. Man's quest for knowledge is the irony spelled out in the first few pages of a book despised by those described therein.
  • Since the NSA seems hell-bent on collecting every scrap of digital informaiton created, presumably they've worked out how to store and preserve it. I would assume their server room is well hardened.

    So all future archaeologists need to do is to get in there somehow, boot it all up and have the whole of the 21st century fall open at their feet. Of course they'll be horrified at the kind of world we made for ourselves, but at least the reason for the apocalypse will be obvious, so they can avoid making that
  • Convert to a Space Faring Culture. Because, what good is knowledge if no one exists to read it?

Veni, Vidi, VISA: I came, I saw, I did a little shopping.