Tuesday, 11 September 2012

Printing Wikipedia

I have been thinking a lot about what kind of a legacy of our civilization will leave.  I’m not a cynical person but even I have to admit that this big party can’t last forever.  I like to think that one of the greatest qualities of human beings is our ambition to discover and know as much as we can.  And as destructive as some of our technologies and discoveries have been, I think science and technology is our greatest achievement and our most important legacy.    

I came up with an idea several months ago about what I would do with a shitload of money.  As far as we know, Wikipedia is the single largest collection of knowledge on the planet.  Sure, it’s not what to use when researching for academic papers but it has a good general overview of pretty much anything we need to know about.  And the amazing thing about Wikipedia is that it can be edited by anyone so it’s a good anonymous representation of our collective knowledge.
It is very much the modern day Library of Alexandria.  But the only catch about it is that it is all digital.  And just as the Library of Alexandria was written on flammable paper, Wikipedia could be just as easily be wiped out.  Say in some civilization ending disaster all the servers that Wikipedia is hosted crash.  Aside from all the people that die in this disaster, I think losing a thing like Wikipedia would be a great tragedy.  Yes, believe it or not this is what concerns me when I think of the end of the world.  

So if I were a billionaire I would look to find a way to preserve all this information so that future civilizations or possible alien civilizations are able to inherit as much of our knowledge of the universe and history of life on Earth.  Essentially this is passing on our civilization’s legacy.  I’m thinking of something similar to the Svalbard global seed vault in Norway.  This is a vault which holds and preserves over 750,000 different types of seeds from around the world in case of a global catastrophe.
entrance to the Svalbard global seed vault
My idea would be to print every single page on Wikipedia in every single language on some sort of permanent medium such as stone or concrete.  Then store these documents in an abandoned mine or inside of a mountain.  As a person who values knowledge over many things in the world, I think this would be a worthwhile investment.  

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