Thursday, October 28, 2004

the continued need for catacombs

I can't think of a single artistic medium that holds up well over time. Even stone sculptures and headstones show their age after only a few centuries. As I pondered the question of preservation earlier this evening, it occurred to me that human artifacts are increasingly being made of fragile, disposable materials. I have no doubt, for example, that the Egyptian pyramids will outlast the Empire State Building, whose internal structure probably isn't anywhere near as robust as the low-tech edifices at Giza. And look at computers-- if you're planning to preserve computers for posterity, you've got your work cut out for you: computers are composed of all sorts of delicate materials.

This brings me to catacombs-- not for people so much as for objects. I suspect that museums of the future will be supermodern versions of catacombs-- great halls lined with chambers that are, perhaps, hermetically sealed, and filled with some inert gas that'll preserve whatever's stored inside them. As long as we keep moving toward nanotech (imagine trying to preserve a sopping wet, brain-shaped neural net), the need for extravagant preservative methods will only increase. The fortified ossuaries of the future will contain the delicate bones of our technological past.


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