Wednesday, January 23, 2013

Doomsday: Through the valley of the shadow

So all the brouhaha about the 'doomsday' recorded in the Mayan Calendar for the month of December 2012 got me thinking.

To the best of our knowledge we do not go back much more than a few millenia - not even a score of them. The thinking goes that if there had been an older civilization there would be signs of it - as there is proof of the ancient Egyptian, Sumerian, Mesopotamian, and Eblan civilizations. Ergo, we are the first modern scientifically advanced civilization since Homo Sapiens evolved 4.5 million years ago or so.

Assume now our civilization were to be utterly destroyed - with a few thousands of survivors out of the present population of more than 6 billion. In the absence of the ability to communicate, these survivors might (within a few generations) return to living off the land. In a pinch, even the many libraries may not survive the new savage.

The knowledge of several millenia of nearly uninterrupted progress might be lost!!

One solution would be to store this knowledge - perhaps the equivalent of the Encylopedia Brittanica in a 'stasis'. This stasis field would preserve until such time as the survivors would again acquire the minimum scientific knowledge to reach into the stasis field. But what kind of stasis field could possibly maintain power for an unforeseeable duration? Sooner or later even a plutonium power-supply would wind down.

The question had me flummoxed until it occurred to me that there is atleast one means to make knowledge available to future generations after maintaining it in stasis for an indefinite period.

Although organic we are creatures of electricity. Our nervous system, our bodies are susceptible to electricity & magnetism - which makes it possible to perform EKG, EEG, etc. From the amoeba up this applies to other animals too. Of course, our bodies use electricity in the microvolt range -
perhaps even a lower order of magnitude. But a human body wouldn't last even if provided with nutrition. Yet there are additional paths on this track of thought. So - why not store the information in such a manner that it would last as long as life itself did? This way, whatever the life-form, any information would be stored and maintained as long as the life-form continued to exist.

Use the genome of several species to record data and act as your repository. Choose lower animals rather than higher for they are more likely to survive - the trade-off being that they may have a shorter life-span, and faster mutation rate.

Now as long as the species ; your repository, survives - your data may be retrieved; subject to the ability of that later new civilization to follow your train of thought.