Wednesday, March 05, 2008

What would YOU leave behind?

An interesting thought experiment:

If there was some sort of cataclysmic event that involved fire and earthquakes, and everything you know was tossed around and burnt to a crisp and covered in 20 feet of ash, what would future archeologists find among the ruins, and what would they conclude from it?

Since plastics and rubbers burn and ceramics are fragile, the only stuff that would survive the fire and the years would be mostly metal. I have some furniture frames that are metal, and even though a lot of them would be bent out of recognition, the future wanderers could probably conclude that we liked to build frames for things, a sure sign of intelligence.

A lot of silverware and cookware would survive, but precious few dishes or glasses. Nailclippers would make it, but not toothbrushes. Clothes would be gone, but some pins and buttons and zippers would survive.

A particularly interesting one would be locks and keys. All you have to do is stop by the local hardware store to see that there would be a huge number of different specimens for the future to evaluate and study and draw conclusions from. It's actually quite fascinating if you step back and think about it. We, as a species, have invented literally millions of ways to keep our possessions away from everybody else and there are billions, possibly trillions, of instances in existence. Pull out your keyring and look. There's probably one or two house keys, one or two car keys, maybe a padlock or luggage key, the key to a parent or friend's house, the key to a business, etc. There are combination locks and deadbolts and slidekeys and safes and vaults. Would an alien race or future evolution of species look at these, and believe that humanity had a fundamentally distrusting nature? For that matter, do we have a fundamentally distrusting nature? Some would say we're cautious or that we prepare for risks, but caution and risks rely on not knowing the outcome, which means we can't be sure of the outcome, which means we don't trust it. Have we fallen into a self-reinforcing pattern of distrust?

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