Wednesday, January 25, 2017

Warning the Future


Back in the early days of this blog, on September 1st, 2007, I wrote a post titled Don't Dig Here!, which looked at the crucial problem of disposing of nuclear waste from a linguistic standpoint: because much of our nuclear waste will be deadly for tens, if not hundreds of thousands of years, how can we communicate an understandable warning across such a span of time? What languages will they speak? Will the symbols that have meaning for us today mean the same thing in the year 20,000 CE? What if this symbol, which symbolizes death and terror to us in 2017 ...


... means nothing to our great-great-great-great-great-great-great-etc grandchildren? Or, worse, what if it then has a positive meaning?

How do we send a warning to people living thousands of years after you and I are dust?

Lots of people smarter than I have worried about this problem, too. Containment, a short film by Peter Gallison and Robb Moss, is utterly fascinating, not too long (about an hour and ten minutes), and well worth your time to watch and ponder. It can be streamed online at the link above until February 9th, and I encourage you to watch it before it goes away.

We have a new President and a new Secretary of Energy who are focused on present day business and economic concerns. Somebody needs to worry about warning the future ... communicating our deadly legacy to people we will never know.

Have a good day. More thoughts tomorrow.

Bilbo

7 comments:

eViL pOp TaRt said...

We may have the same thing going on now with respect to human remains of old plague or pandemics from the past. Symbolism, at least, does tend to be enduring for the most part. But not always. I wonder, though, about the Danse Macabre transi art from the Medieval Period. Can they be misinterpreted as well. Or the pirate motif from the 20th Century. Arrr!

Clarissa said...

We wont be around to know for sure.

Mike said...

Interesting video.

Captain said...

Did any senators ask Rick Perry about this during his confirmation hearing?

allenwoodhaven said...

Communicating across time and/or cultures is a fascinating topic. Might still be easier than convincing this administration that there are better policies to help its citizens and the world.

Chuck Bear said...

Has anyone offered a suggestion as to how to solve this possible dilemma.

Mike said...

I saw a show recently on PBS similar to that video. It was about a uranium rich area in Australia that was on indigenous lands. The local people won't let anyone mine there. But what the ancients did was leave warnings painted on the rocks letting future people know not to go into that area because you will die.

I couldn't find the show today.