Did anyone see the show “Life after people” when it was broadcast earlier this year? (It was on C4 in the UK in May and on the History Channel in the States in January) It was, to my mind, a fascinating speculative exploration of what might happen if humans suddenly disappeared from the face of the planet.
It talked about how long it would take buildings to collapse, nature to take over again and what might happen to the wildlife.
But to me, the most interesting thing was in the section “100 Years after people.” Here’s a quote from the C4 microsite about the show.
Books will absorb moisture from the humid conditions inside fallen-down buildings. Mould spores will thrive and grow on the books. The Dead Sea Scrolls survived for 2000 years in an arid environment without the damaging effects of sunlight, but most books will degrade along will celluloid acetate film and DVDs and CDs. The whole visual record of the human race will be gone, apart from a few special cases.
How scary is that thought? All the cultural evidence of our modern society could disappear after just one hundred years if we stopped reproducing it. In the past humans scratched art onto cave walls or chiseled it into marble tablets – and it survived for thousands of years. But paper, analogue and digital media would only last a tenth of that.
Shakespeare,, Hollywood, Harry Potter, Eastenders, Marc Nobbs – all gone. In the western world today, there are probably more people being creative and adding to the cultural wealth of our society than at any point in history – but it could all be for nothing. Surely it’s about time that our wonderful techno-bods got their heads together and came up with some media that could last forever. Well, maybe not forever, but at least as long as stone tablets and cave paintings.