Apr 05, 2017 I Brett Tingley

Arctic ‘Doomsday Library’ Built to Protect World’s Knowledge

We can doomsday prep all we want, but if history - deep history - shows us anything, it’s that another mass extinction event is likely inevitable. It can be difficult to conceptualize time on a geological scale, so most of us never worry about what will happen to the human race in a few tens of thousands of years. However, the story of life on our planet is one of constant shake-ups of the Earth’s climate, ecosystems, and biological diversity. 

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"Noooo! GRRM was just getting close to finishing Winds of Winter!"

Of course, the world of men could end much sooner than that if certain trends continue. To that end, the Svalbard Global Seed Vault was constructed in 2008 in the icy expanses of Norway near the North Pole as a means of safeguarding the seeds of the world’s most vital fauna in the event of an environmental or man-made catastrophe. It is believed that if some natural or nuclear disaster wipes out life on Earth, what pitiful survivors remain could potentially rebuild ecosystems using the seeds. That is, if they can reach them in the middle of the arctic.

Good luck, piteous irradiated survivors. Some things are worse than death.

In what is surely a sign of our data-obsessed, information-driven times, a new doomsday vault is being constructed under the same mountain as the Global Seed Vault. Instead of plant life, however, this vault is designed to protect vast amounts of the world’s human knowledge. The vault has been named the Arctic World Archive and was designed by Norwegian tech firm Piql.

The location of the archive near Longyearbyen in Norway's Svalbard archipelago.

Piql has designed special photosensitive films which can store vast amounts of data for up to 500 years. Because this medium is analog, it can resist cyber espionage or the electromagnetic radiation from nuclear explosions or solar flares.

The photosensitive film is read similar to a QR code.

Piql founder Rune Bjerkestrand told Norwegian news outlet NRK that the governments of Brazil and Mexico have already deposited treasured documents in the doomsday vault:

In their case, [the deposit] is documents, different kinds of documents from their national histories, like, for example, the Brazilian Constitution. For Mexico, it's important documents, even from the Inca period, which is a very important historical memory.

Sure beats those weird (and creepy) Georgia Guidestones. Although - and this might be a cynical thought - I’m not sure the starving, ragtag bands of post-apocalyptic survivors will care much about Inca history when they’re faced with foraging for food and staying warm through a nuclear winter. Hopefully, those photosensitive films are flammable - or edible.

Brett Tingley

Brett Tingley is a writer and musician living in the ancient Appalachian mountains.

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