Researchers Are Building a Black Box to Record the Collapse of Society

Too soon?
Ameya Paleja
An artist's rendition of how the box will appearEarth Black Box

Early next year, researchers will complete the setup of the steel monolith on the west coast of Tasmania, an island about 150 miles (240 km) from the continent of Australia. Sitting away from civilization, the monolith will have internet connectivity and record all major events about climate change — which, at this rate, is likely to spell doom for most of humanity. This would be Earth's Black Box

Even as countries make pledges to reduce their carbon emissions to Net Zero by 2050, as a whole, the Earth is set to overshoot its climate targets, ABC reports. Presuming that we continue on this path, sea levels are likely to rise and crops will fail, feeding billions of people will be impossible and we might enter a Mad Max kind of post-apocalyptic world where oil is in excess but water is scarce. If following generations wanted to know what went wrong, Earth's Black Box would offer the history of humanity and what it did or did not do to avert the calamity. 

The monolith is being built with almost three inches (7.5 cm) thick steel that will easily outlast us. However, beneath the tough exterior would be a mass of storage drives that record streams of data about land and sea temperatures, ocean acidification levels, humanity's energy consumption, and carbon dioxide levels. Supplementing this information would be news headlines, social media posts as well as key outcomes from important meetings like the Conference of the Parties (COP) that recently concluded in Glasgow to provide context on what humanity did while the climate worsened. 

Powered by sunlight, the Black Box will use its internet connection to scan the world wide web for climate change-related information, CNET reports. A battery pack will provide power backup when the sun isn't around. The researchers estimate that using compression and archiving technologies, the Black Box will be able to store data for the next 30-50 years. During this time, they will further research new ways of storing information that can last for hundreds of years, if not longer. 

The team is also working on other features like a "heartbeat" that can signal that the device is working fine while also intermittently transmitting a summary of the data it has collected to outer space. 

The project, although non-commercial, is a partnership between researchers at the University of Tasmania and Clemenger BBDO, Australia's leading marketing communications company. The team is hopeful that recording the actions of current politicians and businesses in mitigating climate change will make them more accountable now. 

The structure will be constructed by next year, however, data recording has also begun, the project's website claims. In addition to recording forward, it will also go back to identify key events in the history of climate change. 

How will future generations know what the monolith contains and how to access information on it is a puzzle the researchers are yet to solve. 

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