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Monday, 14 December 2015

How the World Ends - Not with a Bang but a Whisper

Fascinated listening to this morning's Start the Week - including a discussion about the possibilities for preserving and maybe re-creating extinct and dying languages.

It draws analogies, as it probably should, with seed storage facilities (I'm talking plant seed here, you understand, not... oh, don't worry) or places for keeping animal DNA safe for future generations. But it leaves me wondering what life will be like for those future generations. Why are we saving this stuff up for them?

After the global-warming-induced flood/ice age, or the great ISIS v Time Lord War, what will life be like for our descendants, for whom we are keeping the Guernsey-French dialect and the DNA of the lesser-spotted ringworm safe?

We must be assuming they are going to be long-lived. Nobody with a normal life span is going to be wasting their time teaching themselves Patagonian Welsh.

And there will be fewer of them than us. If they're going to be releasing dodoes, great auks, Siberian tigers and jabberwocks about the place, they're going to be needing to believe that there's enough space to let them into the wild, so some farmer doesn't immediately shoot them.

And they'll need to be confident of peace. Which again implies not many people - so no race movements, no fights over scarce resources.

In this world where everyone lives peacefully for ever, people will be able to record the mating practices of woolly mammoths in the Frisk language, confident that their potential readers will have the time to learn Frisk in their unlimited spare time, to gain the essential mammothy knowledge for themselves.

Basically, this future for which we are saving things is just another eschatology - a happy world of quiet, immortal seekers after obscure truth and knowledge-based excitement. The future is a library.

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