Thursday, September 06, 2007

Armageddon Insurance

A recent article in the German newsmagazine Spiegel Online discussed the proposal by a group of scientists to create a "backup Earth" on the moon, a warehouse-library of human scientific and cultural achievements that would survive us in the event of nuclear war, plague, or some other natural or man-made disaster that wiped out much of humanity. This is an interesting concept, and it raises more than the usual level of interest for me because it comes on the heels of my finishing of the book The World Without Us, which I mentioned in a previous asks the question: what will happen to all our works once we're gone?

It's disheartening that we need to think about things like this, but it's important. We humans have a long and tortured history of violence which by itself has destroyed much of our history in terms of burned libraries, destroyed artworks, and so on. And, of course, nature plays its part as well: how many things worth preserving are lost each year in floods, wildfires, tornadoes and hurricanes, etc? The idea of a storage place beyond the earth is a compelling one, even if it's unfortunate that we have to even consider such a thing.

I love good science fiction stories, and the idea of how mankind would recover from a world-shattering disaster is a staple of science fiction. Steven King's novel The Stand is a great, if hugely overwritten, example, as is the classic sci-fi story A Canticle for Leibowitz, by Walter Miller. It makes for great "what-if" reading, even if it's a frightening concept.

So here's the question: if we were to create a "Space-Age Noah's Ark" on the moon, what should it contain? If you had the opportunity to select five things to go into the ark, what would they be?

I'll give you my list tomorrow. In the meantime, it might be a good idea to start working together to make sure that if we ever need such a distant repository, it's because of something nature did, and not something we did to ourselves.

Have a good day. More thoughts tomorrow.


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