Discovering the Anthropocene

Final Year Design Project

A man finds the toy he buried in his parents’ back yard 37 years later, and in pretty good condition: Advertisements

Larry Summers Asks “How Will Future Historians See Us?” 150 years ago, slavery was taken for granted as normal, but now seems barbaric. What do we do currently that will be seen as barbaric to those in the future? Can we ever say we’ve reached the pinnacle of civilisation?

28,800 rubber ducks (and frogs and turtles) went overboard a transport ship in the middle of the Pacific Ocean in 1992 during a storm. They are still washing ashore all over the world, and tracking them teaches a lot about the ocean currents, how long plastic can last in the ocean, and how far it […]

Talk about how they are attempting to decode a language from 4,000 years ago with only what little artifacts they’ve uncovered. Interesting to see how experts attempt to unravel a language from a culture so old that they can’t even agree that it definitely is a language and not a system of signs. By looking at truly ancient cultures or truly isolated sites one can learn how little we can definitively say about a culture if we don’t have information about it from another better known source to use as a starting point.

“Cynics say that people like me are foolish idealists, because we’re fighting according to our values and not according to what seems possible. But these cynics are the real idealists, so fixated on the ideal of “success” that they become paralyzed, unable to act without the appearance of likely success. And anyone who controls the appearance of what is possible and what is impossible controls these people utterly. That’s how a lion “tamer” is able to abuse and humiliate an animal that could kill him in seconds, by giving it the illusion that it can’t win. And people who have been given the illusion that they are powerless in what they really care about, like the lion, become depressed and lethargic, and stop caring, and just go through the motions waiting to die.” Ran Prieur

Laser-etched quartz will store data for hundreds of millions of years (Wired UK)

“Hitachi says it’s about to solve our data problems, with the announcement that information could potentially be preserved for hundreds of millions of years if it’s laser encoded onto slabs of quartz glass”

Okay, it will last a long time but.. you need an optical microscope to read it. How long will that last?

Laser-etched quartz will store data for hundreds of millions of years (Wired UK)

The Long Now Foundation

This foundation is working on a variety of projects relating to preservation of knowledge and thinking long term. Aside from the Rosetta Project and a 10,000 year clock, they are interested in preserving DNA from diverse species so that they could potentially be brought back, and making a file format conversion project so that important information doesn’t get lost due to format becoming obsolete. They frame the “long now” in relation to the next 10,000 years, inspired by the amount of time in the past that agriculture and the resulting shifts of civilisation have taken place.

I would like to know more about what sort of events they are planning this preservation against. There is something a bit catastrophic in their feeling this is necessary – there is an aknowledgement that despite our fast paced technological development, we may still be vulnerable to the same events that past societies were vulnerable to. Much information has been lost already that could have conceivably been saved if there had been more forethought. Yet, I have found that many of their talks are quite optimistically technotopian in their vision.

The Long Now Foundation

The Rosetta Project is trying to build an archive of all documented world languages. It is currently a disc that contains over 13,000 pages of information, microscopically etched into nickel in very small text that can be read through a microscope. They are continuing to add to their collection, with the idea being that the […]

Svalbard Global Seed Vault – protecting plant diversity for the future. The ultimate “insurance policy”. It is run like a bank, in that people around the world send their deposits (samples of seed strains they don’t want to lose) to the vault, and rent out a box that preserves them in case the strain is […]

Learning how to die in the Anthropocene

“From the point of view of policy experts, climate scientists and national security officials, the question is no longer whether global warming exists or how we might stop it, but how we are going to deal with it.”

Learning how to die in the Anthropocene