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Physicist and science fiction author Gregory Benford says there are two main impulses behind human efforts to communicate with future societies. The first, "High Church," shouts beauty, ego, and awe across the millennia: See how amazing our pyramid-building skills were? The Seven Wonders of the World would fall into this category--if they had lasted. Monuments, cathedrals, tombs, anything that says, "This great object meant something to us." On a much more mundane (and human) level is the "Kilroy" impulse: I lived! You needn't look hard to find evidence of this temporal communication: graffiti is as old as humanity, and latter-day taggers are following in the footsteps of Greek mercenaries (who left their names all over Egyptian monuments, Lord Byron (who carved his name into the Temple of Poseidon), and legions of anonymous ancient scribblers.
So, humans want and are able to communicate (wordlessly and otherwise) over thousands of years. But, asks Benford, can we accurately convey information over millions of years, or longer? We may need to do just that in order to responsibly protect future beings from our current, long-reaching messages--nuclear waste, climate change, extinction of species. Benford was part of a team of artists and scientists trying to come up with ways of saying "WARNING" to humans (or other beings) in the distant future. Deep Time is a fascinating look at the nature of communication and the future implications of things we do today. It's a terrifically intelligent, detailed, and comprehensive long view, with a message sorely needed by short-lived, but brainy, humans. --Therese Littleton [via]