On a plain dotted with granite, surrounded by gnarled mountains, stands a gigantic steel box.
Incongruously in the landscape, much like Kubrick’s black monolith from 2001: A Space Odyssey, its alien presence suggests it was placed there with intent.
And if those who find it can decipher the messages it contains, they might get a glimpse of what caused the downfall of the civilization that was there before.
It is the black box of the Earth.
“It is above all a tool”
When a plane crashes, it’s up to investigators to sift through the wreckage to retrieve the black box.
It is hoped that the recorded content can be used to help others avoid the same fate.
And so it is with Earth’s Black Box: a 10 meter by 4 meter by 3 meter steel monolith that is about to be built on an isolated outcrop on the west coast of Tasmania.
Chosen for its geopolitical and geological stability, ahead of other candidates such as Malta, Norway and Qatar, the idea is that the Tasmanian site can rock the black box for the benefit of a future civilization, in case of climate change. catastrophic would bring about the downfall of ours.
If that sounds out of balance, it’s worth remembering that we are currently on track for 2.7 Â° C warming in this century.
Ask any climatologist what happens when the warming exceeds 2C, and they’ll almost invariably tell you it’s not worth thinking about.
Many civilizations and empires of the past have collapsed in the face of less.
So what is this black box? Artistic installation? Academic experience? Or something else?
The project is entirely non-commercial and the guiding principle of design is functionality, according to Jim Curtis of Clemenger BBDO.
âObviously, it’s a really powerful concept when you say to someone, ‘Earth has a black box.’ Researchers from Tasmania, among others.
“But it is above all a tool.”
It is designed to record our actions
The box will be made steel 7.5 centimeters thick, cantilevered on granite, according to Jonathan Kneebone, co-founder of the artistic collective the Glue Society, who is also involved.
âIt is built to outlast us all,â he said.
The box will be filled with a mass of storage disks and will have Internet connectivity, all powered by solar panels on the roof of the structure.
The batteries will provide backup energy storage.
When the sun shines, the black box will download scientific data and an algorithm will glean climate change-related material from the Internet.
Basically, it will collect two types of data:
- It will collect measurements of land and sea temperatures, ocean acidification, atmospheric CO2, species extinction, land use changes, as well as such things as human population, military spending and energy consumption.
- And it will collect contextual data such as newspaper headlines, social media posts and news from key events such as climate change from the Conference of the Parties (COP) meetings.
âThe idea is that if the Earth crashes because of climate change, this indestructible recording device will be there for anyone who learns from it, âsaid Curtis.
Recordings have already started
The black box will record back and forth in time, to document how we got to where we are – removing all available historical data on climate change on the internet.
And although construction of the housing structure itself will not begin until the middle of next year, hard drives have already started recording, starting with the COP26 climate conference in Glasgow in November this year. .
Using compression and archiving, developers estimate that there will be enough capacity to store data for the next 30 to 50 years.
In the meantime, they are exploring ways to expand this capacity and longer-term storage methods, including writing on “steel plates”.
âThis will allow us to be much more efficient with how each tier of storage is used and will allow data to be stored for hundreds if not thousands of years,â they said.
The worst has happened. Now what?
So let’s say we go all the way into Mad Max; climate change is causing harvests to fail year after year; oceanic food webs collapse; it becomes impossible to feed eight, nine, 10 (?) billion people; hundreds of millions of people are displaced by rising sea levels; economies are shrinking and society as we know it is collapsing.
Those who discovered the black box – now the color of rust, its long-dead solar panels – have no frame of reference for what they find inside or how to decipher it.
“It’s a [question] that we are still working on ourselves, âsay the developers.
“But it can be assumed that it will be of no use unless it is discovered by someone or something … with the ability to understand and interpret basic symbolism.”
Accessing the inside of the box through its three-inch-thick steel case will already require some ingenuity.
The developers assume that anyone who can do this will also be able to interpret basic symbols.
âLike the Rosetta Stone, we would be looking to use multiple encoding formats,â they said.
“We are exploring the possibility of including an electronic reader which remains in the box and will be activated upon exposure to the sun, also reactivating the box if it has entered a state of long-term dormancy following a disaster. . “
I can’t wait for the apocalypse, what’s the use of it now?
Once the black box is operational, the growing database will be accessible via a digital platform, and it is expected that people will also be able to connect to it wirelessly if they have to visit the site.
âThere are other features that we are playing with, such as sending summary statistics at longer intervals in space, and having [a] “Heartbeat” which indicates the box is on and actively recording to on-site visitors, “the developers said.
The location, between Strahan and Queenstown, is remote enough to provide some isolation from sabotage, but accessible enough for those who want to see it.
“It takes a good four hours from Hobart, [but] it’s something you could stop your car and go see, âMr. Kneebone said.
And while it is intended as a model for a post-apocalyptic society of what not to do, it is also hoped that a full recording of the actions of political and business leaders on climate change could have an impact on climate change. this moment.
“When people know they are registered, it influences what they do and say,” Kneebone said.
It is tempting to view this project as a complacency to climate alarmism.
But if most people don’t get on a plane thinking it’s going to crash, that’s no reason to forgo a black box.