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Time inflation: A 100 years is a snap

Tomorrow, a 100-year-old Norwegian time capsule is going to be opened. (Here’s the Norwegian link, or, see Reddit.) It could be interesting, but my main reaction is: Just a hundred years?

My time scale has shifted.

This may simply be because I’m almost two-thirds of the way through a hundred years. But maybe not.

We’ve got good enough at preservation that it’s hard for me to imagine that there’s anything in that time capsule that will teach us something new, other than what Norwegians in 1912 thought would be interesting to preserve. And for time capsules created these days, I assume our future fellows will just look up the contemporaneous posts about the content. The past becomes less distant when you can just google its wave front.

It may also have something to with the 10,000 year clock project (known officially as the Clock of the Long Now). This is such a powerful idea that it may have reprogrammed my inner clock. How would you build a timepiece that will last for 10,000 years? What a great question! And here’s The Long Now‘s answer:

Designed by Danny Hillis, the Clock is designed to run for ten millennia with minimal maintenance and interruption. The Clock is powered by mechanical energy harvested from sunlight as well as the people that visit it. The primary materials used in the Clock are marine grade 316 stainless steel, titanium and dry running ceramic ball bearings. The entire mechanism will be installed in an underground facility in west Texas.

I know about link rot, and I’ve lived through enough technological change to see how quickly data becomes inaccessible because its required hardware is in the scrap heaps. I know that in a hundred years we may have killed ourselves off, and we may have continued with policies that turn the Internet into nothing but cable tv. So, I’m not making a prediction about the future. What I’m saying is that living on an open Net with indefinite capacity has changed my time scale. The Net can do a hundred years in a gulp. Ten thousand years is the new century.

3 Responses to “Time inflation: A 100 years is a snap”

  1. On the other hand, today is the 100th anniversary of Gene Kelly’s birth, a date worth noting because of what he gave us.

  2. Don’t confuse “things on screen” with “physical object”. I imagine any decent pundit would be able to go on for, err, ages, on the assumptions behind what writings and images get preserved through big media intermediaries (e.g. Google) is “the past”.

    Maybe when we get 3-D printing and scanning, we’ll have to worry less about the preservation of artifacts.

  3. […] pages to real-time streams, a la Twitter and Facebook. My friend and Harvard geek David Weinberger recently wrote that the Net has altered his personal time scale, and I feel that, too. “The Net can do a hundred […]

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