I have this morbid fascination with the extinction of the human race, and I’m actually kind of looking forward to it. I know it doesn’t make sense, but I still find myself entranced in apocalyptic thought experiments. Today I’m thinking about posthistory.
Prehistory is defined as any time before humans started keeping records. Therefore, posthistory would be anytime after we stop recording our history. Now, barring a Fahrenheit 451 situation, humanity probably isn’t going to experience a Dark Ages so severe that we keep no records of any kind. We’ll probably keep writing certificates of sale and love letters until we all die of Airborne Auto Immune Deficiency Syndrome.
However, consider the records we keep at this point in time. Right now we’re converting our music, movies and even our books to delicate, electronically powered gadgets that become obsolete 6 months after they hit the market. When our power goes out and our technology becomes obsolete, what do we leave future archaeologists to uncover? Picture future cockroach-derived creatures on the cusp of sentience, reenacting the opening of 2001: A Space Odyessy with a Zune poking out of the sand, its contents and purpose lost to the sands of time.
(Oh man, I guess we’ve already condemned future Cockroach Paleontologists to clean up and decipher one hell of a mess. How can they piece together the history of the earth when we went ahead, dug everything up, and scattered them in museums that expose them to the elements and will eventually crumble with us? You think creationism is bad in 21st Century America; imagine a future where all the evidence has been tampered with by unknown agents. Pat yourself on the back– you are the Intelligent Designer!)
So, in between the time of the Good Ol’ Days when you had physical books and music records, and the time when we hit Peak Everything and start retreating into the woods to live a feral life, there may be a huge gap of knowledge that is simply lost.
Actually, now that I think about it, paper books are just as useless as a laptop, since paper books simply can’t last a million years. Ditto our Jimi Hendrix vinyls, our huge skyscrapers, and our Whacky Waving Inflatable Arm Tube Men. Maybe our grand experiment of a species, aside from some scant pristine fossils, will leave little decipherable record of our lives and times.
Anyway, I hope you have a nice day!