Earth is getting a black box, and the hope is that just like in the aviation industry, it’ll one day be used to help determine what went wrong. The monolith will measure roughly 32’ x 13’ x 9’ when complete, or about the size of a city bus, with walls of steel measuring nearly three inches thick. But is this a genuine preservation effort, or just a marketing stunt?
It’ll be “built to outlive us all,” said Jonathan Kneebone, co-founder of artistic collective the Glue Society.
Inside the box will be an array of storage drives with Internet connectivity – all solar powered – with battery backups. Sensors will collect data about land and sea temperatures, ocean acidification (the reduction in the pH of the ocean over time), land-use changes and atmospheric CO2. It’ll also store data on human population, energy consumption and even military spending.
Contextual data like newspaper headlines, social media posts and news from events like climate change meetings will also be archived.
Jim Curtis from marketing communications company Clemenger BBDO said the idea is that if Earth does crash as a result of climate change, “this indestructible recording device will be there for whoever’s left to learn from that.”
If you’re a bit suspicious, well, you aren’t alone.
With a marketing company leading the way, it’s easy to dismiss this as little more than a PR stunt. That conclusion is even easier to settle upon once learning that the device will only have the capacity to store data for the next 30 to 50 years. The team did say they are investigating how to expand capacity, and looking at more long-term methods like inscribing data on steel plates.
Assuming this thing is locked away and left to its own devices, even for 50 years, it seems unlikely it would have much historical value. Traditional hard drives have high failure rates, as do solid-state drives. What’s more, if we’re talking hundreds or even thousands of years into the future, it’s plausible this thing ends up being buried and lost for far longer.
If the group behind this effort were serious about long-term storage, perhaps they should look into something more robust, like storing data within DNA.