Wed, Feb 24, 2010
Literature, newspapers or science use the internet, paper and written language for documenting their contents and trading it down to the readers. The time scale for this is typically a human generation or much less. Technically speaking, printed paper as such will not necessarily survive very much longer. The computerized modern world has gotten a boost towards storing and accessing much more information. However, this hasn’t improved the survival time scale.
Heart beat frequency, body size of the organism and time scales of reaction may correlate. We have developed a civilization which overcame these biological hurdles through, e.g., medicine and technology for self-protection. However, human thinking is mostly limited to short timescales, in its best case to 1-2 generations ahead. Long-term documentation has only occurred related to religion and the idea of “eternal life”, or purely by accident. Ancient cultures documented themselves on cave paintings, petroglyphs and rock carvings. Clay plates and large architectural objects have demonstrated lifetimes of thousands of years. At least, that is how it appears to be today. We simply have no evidence of other forms of communication, since most of that has disappeared with time. We can find that Homo erectus or Homo neandertalensis was able to prepare fire, because this is documented in inorganic traces. However, perhaps there was a scientific understanding or expression of art, which may have vanished over the years. How can we know?
What will remain of today’s efforts of the arts and sciences, not to speak about the many aspects of everyday life, in say 1,000,000 years?
It may be comparable to the remains we currently have of Homo erectus and his lifestyle. Computers will have corroded (except a few silicon chips), paper is all gone, houses disappeared and with it most other items we use in everyday life. Of course, we can hope for a community which trades down information as the medieval monasteries did in copying Aristoteles‘ books. However, we have no guarantee that there will be a smooth transition or continuous development in Homo sapiens, as we can observe in the last 1 million years. Historians speak of hundreds of years, archaeologists of 100,000s of years and astronomers or geologists handle the real time scales, which we currently believe play no role for Homo sapiens. That might be wrong. In a similar way as there was centuries of debate about geocentric vs. heliocentric viewpoint for astronomy, there could be a debate about relevant timescales... We may not have a (very geological) prehistory of much more than 1 million years, but we may have a future of intelligent life on this planet of much more! I am not saying that it will be Homo sapiens, it might as well be another humanoid species, another mammal or even social insects… Speculation of that kind is to be avoided, but I am sure you get my point...
(opinion, Andreas Manz, June 2009, updated February 2010)
Fri, Jul 16, 2010
The workshop has been a very nice experience for everyone attending, I believe. Particularly because
was coming, and was very active in the discussions, as expected. The attendees agreed to form a society which regularly communicates. The next workshop will be carried out at Stanford University in 2012 (chairman Prof. Steve Quake).
Thu, Dec 2, 2010
Master student experimental project.
Should you be part of a master course anywhere in the Universe, and feel attracted to experimenting within the Human Document Project in my lab, you could apply for a master project, duration 6-12 months, location: my lab in Saarbrucken Germany (next to France and Luxembourg), small bursary available. See also
Thu, Dec 2, 2010
Isn't there already a document/pictures/etc like that created many years ago? I forget its name.
Why would someone in the future choose to preserve your document if your project does not include preserving that older document?
For this to work, enough of the similar projects for the next million years would have to value older documents above the new documents they are writing for the same purpose.