How Will We be Remembered?
We, The Ancestors
On this very day at this very time the Earth consists of billions of people who live and breath and eat and sleep. Yet none of them, not one, even existed just a short time ago. Well, except for the really lucky ones who are genetically predisposed to defy mother nature by living beyond the century mark. These few, however, and many others would no doubt have very interesting life stories to tell of times that we only know about through our television sets or one or more of the many other forms of media. So how do we know what we know about this strange and diverse planet if it isn't coming at us by these means? The simple answer is this - stone.
No, not just one stone, but many of them. The kind of stone that displays our history for all to see in the interiors of caves or on the brickwork of ancient buildings surviving century after century. And yet for all of our modern wonders of technology we still couldn't keep a record of what happened yesterday for more than a hundred years or so. The hard disk that we recorded it on would fail or we might lose the stamp sized memory card that held all of those precious family holiday photos down the back of the sofa. This is really where stone comes into its own as the ultimate record keeping medium.
So does this mean that our early ancestors were infinitely smarter than us and were in no real hurry to invent the personal computer or the printed word? It was obvious to them that you could just draw what was happening on the side of a cliff or carve it out on a piece of discarded animal bone. In the past there was no shortage of these resources and amazingly these tools were so much more reliable, robust and versatile than all of our fancy electronic gadgets put together. But how can this be? Surely we humans are so much more enlightened and technologically advanced than our cave dwelling hunter gatherer ancestors? This all depends on ones perspective. You see, stone lasts a very, very long time. It can take a beating from the elements. It can crumble and collapse during an earthquake. It can even end up altogether out of sight when the sea level rises. But amazingly those little carvings and paintings of hunters chasing wild boars and deer can still be visible for tens of thousands of years after its unknown creator has long since perished. This is why all those scruffy looking bearded men called archaeologists devote their lives in search of it.
They know it survives.
So what does this mean for the human race as it stands today? When this generation has expired and a new generation takes its place will our literary and artistic achievements be written in stone? The short answer is, no, they wont. Instead they will be put into a digital format and when that digital format becomes redundant it will be put onto a new type of digital media device and so on and so on. Each time this happens a little bit is lost or accidentally formatted or travels down the back of your sofa or accidentally swallowed by your two year old child who has just taken apart your prized 12 mega pixel digital camera. So when our impressive, yet non-age resistant marvels disappear how will we ever know they where there in the first place?
Will the people who live in the year 4000 think that nothing was built and nothing was written for a couple of thousand years after the ancient Egyptians are still boasting their ability to educate the masses with their long standing wonders of the world millennia after millennia? How will we convey our story through the ages? And if anything does survive will those remnants build an incomplete picture? The chances are that a lot of stuff will survive, but a lot of other stuff will be lost forever on a redundant server that was forgotten about whe Encyclopedia Britannica moved to bigger premises. Will anyone in the year 2750 know the name of the scientist who discovered Penicillin? Will we have a garbled historical document about when the Wright brothers first took flight on a bike, not a plane, at Catty Eagle instead of Kitty Hawk.
Who knows? Hopefully someone will.