Will anybody give a damn about your burnt DVDs 1000 years in the future?


A Utah company claims to have developed a DVD that will last 1,000 years under normal, everyday conditions. (You don’t have to be a professional archivist [PDF alert!], in other words.) And while that’s an impressive achievement, if it is indeed true, there’s one small problem: what are the odds that, 1,000 years from now, Future People will derive any value at all from said discs?

I’d do a full-on rant, but this comment from Slashdot pretty much sums everything up:

And this assumes that in 1000 years there will be:

1. a player to play the damn thing
2. the resources to build a player to play the damn thing.
3. a screen to view it on
4. the resources to build a screen to view it on
5. the cultural interest in such behaviour (sitting and watching a screen)
6. the cultural capacity to decode and understand what the hell they’re watching even if they do decide to watch it, assuming they have the ability to do so. For an extreme example, there is a non-zero probability that in 1000 years, the notion of “fiction” may well not exist, in which case an episode of “Friends” or “Seinfeld” become biographical portraits of stupid foolish people, as one needs to have the fictive distance to decode what is happening.
7. that anyone will give a rat’s ass about us in a 1000 years. They may well be pissing on our graves for having ruined the planet, and these disks may simply be destroyed as examples of the evil Evil EVIL petroleum age.
8. Reverse engineering NTSC (SD or HD – just getting 29.97fps with rectangular pixels is fucked up enough) from a disc filled with microscopic pits strikes me as impossible and or pointless.

I can list many more reasons why a 1000 year disk is a waste of time, those are just a few off the top of my head.

Frankly, I think we are the civilisation that in 1000 years will be a great and tantalizing mystery. Their world will be filled with our garbage, telling them how we lived (like wasteful pigs at the trough) but they won’t really know that much about what we think (because it was all digital and the technology disappeared in the die-off).


And there you have it. My personal favorite is number seven, that Future People will give a rat’s ass about what we burned onto DVD in the year 2009. You can never judge a culture based entirely on its frivolities—Future People won’t necessarily condemn us for having more votes in American Idol than in a presidential election, though they’d have every right to—but there’s really not too much going on right now that would warrant 1,000 year long appreciation. Perhaps if scientists cured a pesky disease, but that’s about all I can think of.

Will the iPhone be a big deal in the year 3009? (Will it be a big in the year 2010? Who knows.) Will Future People be impressed that your Chevy Cruze got a whopping 30 miles to the gallon? (Will Future People even know what a “gallon” is?) Will Twitter be seen as Man’s Salvation and the “pulse of the planet”? (Will Future People even speak English, or Spanish, or German, or Japanese, to be able to read your Tweets?)

That’s provided we don’t all kill each other by then.