on May 21, 2009
Civilization is about to undergo some calamity. You can see it coming, but you can’t avert it. (Perhaps it’s unavoidable.) Sometime before the end of this century, civilization is going to be blasted back to the stone age, but projections suggest that things will calm down again in 100-200 years. During that time it’s expected that humans will lose nearly everything, technology-wise. We’ll be back to spears and animal skins.
A clever scientist has come up with a very sturdy time capsule. She’s confident that it will:
- Survive the apocalypse.
- Remain hidden, safe, and airtight until things blow over.
- Be found by any surviving humans once the planet returns to normal.
- Those that find it will be reasonably interested in using whatever they find inside to better their understanding and aren’t going to ignore it or waste it. (They won’t burn textbooks to keep warm, even if they can’t understand them.)
Let’s assume we’ll retain the abstract “technologies”, like phonetic alphabet. If we have to nail things down, assume that the people who find the capsule will be reasonably intelligent adults with a second-grade education and almost no understanding of what the world was like, pre-disaster. (I’m not going to specify what the disaster is, or people will begin gaming the system and suggesting ways to avert or survive the disaster instead of tackling the proposed question.) Note that while you can be sure a group of literate humans will find this, you can’t be sure they will be able to read and understand your textbook on quantum physics.
You’ve been given the job of filling the time capsule. Assuming the goal of jump-starting technology, what do you put in?
EDIT: Oh. I forgot to give a volume limit, just to keep some smartass from stuffing the entire library of congress inside of a power plant inside of an aircraft carrier and putting it in the “capsule”. The capsule is one cubic meter.
Shamus Young is an old-school OpenGL programmer, author, and composer. He runs this site and if anything is broken you should probably blame him.