I read in the paper the other day about how during the New York City World’s Fair in 1965, the planners made this time capsule, a long metal tube of stuff that got buried underground, not to be opened for five thousand years. Just think about that, five thousand years. It shows you how people living back in the sixties had such promising hopes for humanity, that confidence that we’d all still be around to open up a box of buried treasure five thousand years from now.
If you took a survey of people around today, asked them, “Hey, what do you think it’s going to be like five thousand years from now?” I’d guarantee you’d get stories about post-apocalypse, about burnt out nuclear wastelands, about water shortages and ozone shortages and sentient computer systems making human life unlivable. But the sixties weren’t that long ago. Maybe these national moods are cyclical, like we’re all just really jaded and cynical now, but maybe someday we’ll all snap out of it, start thinking towards the future again.
But five thousand years? Geez, I can’t even think forward in time five thousand second. Or five hundred even. All right, maybe I can picture five hundred seconds. I’m probably still sitting at this table eating snacks. But that’s not really important.
What is important is, what are the people five thousand years going to do with a bunch of junk from 1965? There are all sorts of lame stuff in there. A pack of Camel cigarettes, for example. Assuming that the whole pack hasn’t completely disintegrated, what are a bunch of future people going to do with a pack of cigarettes? Are they going to start smoking? I’m assuming that smoking won’t exist five thousand years from now, and the whole concept will seem really primitive.
But maybe some hotshot future archeologist will think he’s all cool and funny and he’ll light one up. And he’ll cough and everyone will laugh, but it’s just like all of our teachers told us growing up. All you have to do is smoke one cigarette and you’ll be hooked for life. So this scientist is going to be addicted. But cigarettes won’t exist anymore. So he’ll dedicate his life to scouring the planet for all of the other time capsules buried during the 20th century, hoping, praying that some other of his ancestors had the idea to bury more cigarettes.
And he’ll run into so much bureaucratic red tape. He’ll find time capsules that aren’t scheduled to be opened for another three hundred years or four hundred years. But he knows that there has to be another pack of cigarettes down there somewhere. And he’ll sneak onto the time capsule grounds late at night and spend hours digging, hacking away at all of the cement that his stupid ancestors used to bury it good and tight. And he’ll be ejected from the society of future archeologists when he gets caught, just looking for a smoke.
What would we put into a time capsule now? Back then they buried all of this microfilm and other obsolete mediums for transmitting information. When that gets discovered in the future, they’re all going to be like, “What’s all of this tape? What a bunch of garbage. What a bunch of idiots we all were back then.” So we should bury USB drives. Those things have to last forever, right?
What about the Internet? Maybe we should make a time capsule with an onboard computer and an Internet connection, that way we can make changes and update everything now and then, keep an eye on things. Maybe we could just make a virtual time capsule, some web site that we’ll make now but that’s password protected, programmed not to open itself up until five thousand years from now. Nah, that sounds pretty lame. Most virtual stuff is pretty lame. What would you rather have, a Big Mac or a virtual Big Mac?
One time I made a time capsule when I was a little kid. It was a shoebox, and I put some comics in there and some Starburst and five bucks. But I don’t think I buried it deep enough, and some raccoons must have smelled the Starburst and started digging, because the next day my little brother came in the house all happy that he found a five dollar bill in the middle of this pile of shredded garbage in the backyard. I was so pissed.