Good Luck in the Year 52,000

June 28, 2007 at 3:54 am Leave a comment

Something interesting I just found out about:

In a few years the European Space Agency plans to launch a satellite/time-capsule into space. The capsule will circle the Earth for 50,000 years, come crashing down in a vivid display of light and colour, and reveal to the coming civilization as much as it can about life in our times. Everyone on Earth is invited to contribute a message to the capsule; it has enough data storage space to hold a four-page letter from every single person on Earth

Fifty-thousand years is an almost unimaginable length of time. The oldest cave drawings are 40,000 years old. The oldest human empires began 5,000 years ago. Just a little over 100 years ago we were still trying to master flight. Look how far we’ve come since then, and think how incredible the world of 50,000 years later would be.

Assuming we’re not wiped out between now and then (let’s face it, there’s a lot of ways we could screw up), this future society would be almost entirely incomprehensible. Language would be difficult. Think about how quickly we devise new words and dispose of old ones, how the “Old English” of just a thousand years ago is entirely incomprehensible to modern speakers. Even if the time capsule arrives, would anyone be able to read it? Societal changes are something to think about, too. Look at the debates we’re having today about cloning and cybernetics and AI with our 20th century technology. The kind of moral quandaries another 500 centuries of technology would create are astounding to think about. We might be able to traverse the universe, create new life whole-cloth, snuff out stars; what would we possibly do with our knowledge?

Even the term “we” is something that deserves great thought. If you asked most people today, they’d hardly regard the cavemen of 50,000 as being part of the same society. In that span of time we’ve grown impossibly taller, fitter, faster, smarter. And that’s just through good old-fashion evolution, combined with some highly improved diets. Imagine when people start augmenting their bodies with technology- it’s already happening in small ways, and could start occurring on a large scale as soon as fifty years from now. Genetic engineering, too, may become ubiquitous. The people of the future might be nothing like us biologically, and even then be further modified with complex blends of technology. Could we really call such a society ‘human’ as we use the term now?

Would we really have something worth saying to them?

Here we are, given the opportunity to put a message in a bottle and cast it out on the cosmic waves, with the hope that 50,000 years hence it will be uncorked and read. But we can’t really be sure we have anything worth saying. What sort of message can shed light not just on how we lived, but on what life in the future should be? What can we say that will matter as much 50,000 years from now as it does today? Is there really a message so universal that it could be understood by anyone, anywhere, at anytime, a message that would be as true today as it would be five-hundred centuries in the past or future?

I assure you, dear readers, that there is such a message. And here it is:

Dear People of The Future;


~Your Pal,

No matter what the age, there shall always be idiots and spammers. I can’t wait to start loading that satellite with the things I have in my Junk Mail.


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Beware of Over-the-top, Exaggerated Bragging Party at My Place

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