What Will Future Anthropologists Do?

Anthropologists are forever finding evidence on some tablet or inside some godforsaken cave, telling us all about life in the era. I mean when we see caves full of paintings showing tigers being strung with a sleek bow and arrow, we know that the cavemen weren’t launching supersonic jets, followed by rockets to the moon and just dumbing themselves down in the paintings. They really were slaying tigers with sophisticated weapons of their time such as bows and arrows. Then, as time went on, people discovered the funny thing that starts with an ‘h’, that essentially is between drawing and script writing, and used that to depict what was going on. Mythology grew from a combination of bad paintings and imaginative minds. There was some record-keeping albeit one left more to imagination than to facts, but something.

The clay tablets yielded slowly to the tree bark, and the cryptic grew more descriptive. The three barks became parchment rolls and then the Chinese saved the day by coming up with paper. So far so good – you see paper, you can figure out what is written there. You see a tree bark with a sign engraved
Z *big heart sign* X, and can figure out that Z loves or loved X, and was daft enough to proclaim love on a tree bark, after probably getting his or her hand chiseled a couple of times with the rough stone used to engrave their undying love. But, we still know what happened, so long as the bark survives, we know that Z and X were in love at some point.

The printing press and full blown books were a blessing. Suddenly, everything you needed to know about any nook and corner of the world was available in some book somewhere. Then, you did not even need books to get information, all you needed was access to the net. E-reading became cool. Now as we move on towards paperless functioning, a most disturbing thought just struck me, and I do not wish to be taken frivolously here. I am as serious as a rabbit running from a fox on a wintry night can be.

What if future historians are like me? It could very well happen that one gene triumphs in the coming generations and that gene is my technology retarded gene, couldn’t it? It is not that I can’t operate technology – I just can’t keep pace. By the time, I figure out how to use the remote to change the setting on one contraption, the remote changes, or worse the contraption is gone. Let me think of some gramophone records that my father prided himself on – in fact, I reluctantly got him to get rid of the foghorn after decades, knowing that we could never listen to another gramophone record again, and the space is better used in conserving the tape recorder for the next 2 decades, before it too meets the same fate.

So, some songs that were only there in the gramophone records no longer exists, same for some songs on tape too. You get the picture. Now, with the internet, and the blogosphere, most news and creative writing as moved to the e-medium. What if future generations are unable to retrieve these great gems of the era- voltages may change, servers change, the electronic medium destroys just as soon as it creates.

Well, I suppose the graffiti on the world heritage sites would still tell us who loves who, but what if future archaeologists only get the Harry Potter books, and believe life was that – they have no method of knowing it was a fantasy world.

I haven’t even started on the Modern Art phenomenon yet. If those were the paintings left for interpretation, I can barely imagine what it would come out as.
Pray tell me what you can make out of this?http://www.milesmodernart.com/wp-content/uploads/2008/04/modern-art-41108-24×48-w.jpg

I can almost hear you sigh that if these are the kind of gems of writing the future is missing, they are better off without it. But I stand by my notion that 50 years from now, when there is no paper, record retrieval will be all the more difficult, and a blip in Earth’s history – 500 years later, that era might well be a dark one

PS: Ahhhh..hieroglyphics that is the “h-word”
PS1: How curious it is that I typed this blog out, and then couldn’t connect to the net to publish it, and had to snuggle up to the husband to help me?

See what I mean and what I fear for?

4 thoughts on “What Will Future Anthropologists Do?”

  1. Very different blog from you..
    (sprayed sense of humor is still there)

    When I was taking back-up I wondered about the same.. what if the back-up drive is not accessible when I really want it (30 years from now?)

    There will be information loss.. and the sad part is (as you mentioned), the information carried forward depends on the person (or group) who decides which information to be worthy enough to keep it.
    If modern art is all we store, then next generation may think we are very advanced or it may think we don’t know how to draw 🙂

  2. Yep…agree.

    We took a backup of Kee’s photos and deleted more than 1/2 of the photos, and I realised, I had taken backups of some photos 7-8 years ago on those little black square floppy disks. I might as well use them as tea coasters now, for all they are worth!

  3. Very nice post … thoughtful as well as somewhat funny…I also wonder about such things often … would we always have a technology era from now on?What if one day everything is destroyed and finally we start life all over again…

  4. Not to worry- in every era there would be ancient blokes like me who prints everything she reads!! I am expected 400-page manuals for all the software I work on and simply cannot read them on a screen!! Even though I know I am cutting down a tree somewhere on Earth, I still print 400 pages, bind it and then start reading!!! So I think print mediums can never be wiped off!!!

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