What Would You Put in a Time Capsule?

The History of These is Fascinating


Why Do These Things?

They seem to have some popularity throughout the ages. One could even say they are… timeless.

Time capsules have been in the news lately. Not one, but two were found under a statue of Robert E. Lee that was recently removed in Virginia. Here in my hometown, one was unearthed a few months ago, also from a site that once hosted a statue of a civil war figure.

It is not hard to find news items and historical write ups around the world and through the ages of such capsules being implanted, although it does seem to be more a thing with Western civilizations.

I do not know, but I suspect it may be even more popular historically in America than elsewhere. Perhaps our status for so long as a new country inclined us to leave tracks for the future to follow and discern who “we” were in our time.

Where and Who?

One of the more interesting questions about such items is where they are emplaced. The people who bury them clearly intend for them to found, often with the hope that they will be opened on a specific date.

But from what we know, many are lost over time and only found by accident. How many more are out there, never to be found?

Related to that question is the one about who decides what goes into said capsule. This is a big deal, as we will discuss more shortly. It is not difficult to imagine the wrangling that likely takes place over who can decide what goes in a capsule and who contributes to the list of items to be considered.

About the Contents

What goes in and what is left out says volumes about the time in which a capsule was assembled. Is this about who “we” are or to what we aspire to be? What (or who) is left out is at least as important as what (and who) is included.

A space traveler who arrived here and examined any number of capsules could be forgiven for thinking minorities or women must not have been here for long, for they are woefully underrepresented in these things.

Perhaps the ultimate time capsule was not buried at all but hurled into deep space. This was the pair of vessels known as the Voyager I and II space craft. Both have been travelling for over 40 years, waiting to be discovered by another species of beings.

The golden records they carry, made famous by the design and content effort led by Carl Sagan, tell much of the human story.  Here, listen to Carl himself explain the records. It’s a fine use of 10 minutes or so, one of my very favorite Sagan sessions. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=UJBJ6VUzpRc
If we were to launch them again, what might we change on those records?

What’s Next?

I expect we will continue to launch or bury these things. We seem to have an innate desire to communicate with the future to let others know who we were, what we accomplished, and what we hoped.

Knowing that they are often lost, as are the civilizations that assembled them, what might we do to increase the odds our capsules may be found?

What new possibilities might technology bring to this endeavor? Assuming those who find the capsule, perhaps millennia later, can access the information contained, how shall we present it.

Will it be some form of digital device? Written words and images? Perhaps holograms. How about a bit of science fiction: artificially intelligent holograms that could interact and answer questions? Why not.

What Would Be in YOUR Time Capsule?

Think about it. What would you include if doing a capsule for your life, for your family, your country, our planet? If you were king for the day, what messages would you wish to transmit and why? It’s an interesting exercise in reflection and priorities. Could be fun to contemplate.

Let’s hope that eons in the future intelligent creatures do not decide that, based on what they find, that many of us must have worshipped at some church called “Starbucks” and that we spent most of our time watching cats ride Roombas on a thing called the Internet.

On the other hand, that might be preferable to some things that could be said about our species and our time. If we left a lot behind about our politics and related matters, they might conclude it was no surprise we went extinct. Time will tell.

          Bill Clontz

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1 reply to What Would You Put in a Time Capsule?

  1. Thank you for sharing Carl Sagan’s video. I never thought about this topic and It is fascinating.

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