Elon Musk’s car might not survive the billions of years that the tech mogul imagines it to be cruising through the cosmos, but there is something riding on it that will survive the ravages of zero-G and radiation blasts even if the car ends up as space junk.
Arch (think “ark” as in “archive”) is an inch-long quartz crystal disk with an inscription on the face that might read like hieroglyphics to some hypothetical alien civilization out there. These “data crystals that can last billions of years,” according to Arch Mission Foundation co-founder Nova Spivack in a recent news release, uses 5D optical storage developed to hold an unearthly amount of information without putting it at risk of degrading like something on a CD or DVD. Nobody even uses CDs anymore. Of course, the one in the glove compartment—or wherever else it is—of Musk’s Tesla Roadster just had to be encoded with the Isaac Asimov Foundation trilogy.
Musk was only too happy to put it on board, as you can see in this Twitter convo.
As the Tesla orbits the sun with Starman in the driver’s seat, so will the Arch Solar Library. Spivak (along with most of the world) believes that the car is going to be the weirdest thing floating around the solar system. If aliens looking for signs of intelligent life around here are going to notice anything, they probably won’t let a blazing red vehicle or even a melted and warped hunk of metal vaguely shaped like a car just pass them by. They will send feelers out to investigate. What they will find will be a crash dummy or at least the remnants of one, a copy of The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy and a strange quartz disc that tells them they are not alone.
This Arch is second in a sci-fi inspired series of five. There is a reason why curious extraterrestrials may end up reading Asimov without even knowing it.
“Asimov’s Foundation Series was the inspiration for the Arch Mission Foundation, many years ago when we first conceived of this project,” said Spivak. “It is a metaphor for what we hope this can become, and it is the perfect cornerstone as our mission begins.”
Foundation, Foundation and Empire and Second Foundation imagine seeing the future through bizarre math. That future is pretty grim, with the so-called Galactic Empire of the Milky way collapsing into a dark age that lasts tens of thousands of years until the emergence of a new empire. Now here is where the story connects to Arch. The mathematician who used numbers as his crystal ball creates a foundation charged with preserving and expanding on the collective knowledge of humanity. Do you have your digital files backed up on the internet somewhere? This is kind of like backing up our very existence.
Spivak eventually wants to spread Arch libraries all across the solar system and eventually the universe, making the human species immortal through information. He also plans to keep adding to the Solar Library for as long as possible. No rush, because it will be traversing space for billions of years.
“Think of it as a ring of knowledge around the sun,” he said. “This is only the first step of an epic human project to curate, encode, and distribute our data across the Solar system, and beyond.”