The Information Age Decline and Collapse

The following appears on floor 90, as part of the “Crisis of the Ancient World” exhibit. Many of the pieces on display here were discovered, studied, and collected by the Ari Horzel expeditions and donated by the Horzel family on the event of the professor’s death. We have held these objects for approximately 3000 years and happily display Professor Horzel’s research and conclusions with amendments as new research into the period is completed and verified.

“Our world has never been in such peril.”

“In the Bronze Age, we faced destruction from overreliance on single points of empire: charioteers, trust in the concept of holding war as if a game, a lack of statecraft or cooperation outside immediate and economic. Later, mankind formed its tribes around religions to the detriment of its people; rules by secrecy and decadence, not permitted to speak out for fear of one’s soul, and even one’s body. And lately, we built our society around mechanization and exploitation. An all too recent history of slavery and disenfranchisement of almost all people not of imperial European stock, and even some thereof. Much of human thought controlled through simple media, a lack of free thought bred through easy to digest bites and manipulated group opinion. A world beset by the accelerating climate shift we ourselves brought on by inefficient agriculture techniques and a slobbering dedication to petroleum. And the growing anti-intellectual movement wherein people of education and knowledge are set aside for fabulists and merrymakers without a strand of brain between them, so that populists may once again, as in the waning days of the Roman republic, make of us what they will to obtain status and power most true.”

“We have wrought the tools of our destruction; and I need not even mention atomic weapons or the culture of proxy warfare that has propagated in the world these last hundred years to illustrate the magnitude of the issues facing the modern human being.”

Our Museum strives to bring all corners of human civilization to the forum and integrate them into our collective understanding of history and the universe. This includes some of the more pessimistic outlooks at history as it unfolded. 

Towards the end of the Information Age, many people, particularly the young and disillusioned of more developed nations of the time, saw the world in a spiraling decline similar to collapse events of their past. In the twenty-first century, this was often derided as being fatalistic and childish. However, as the century came to an end, and humanity’s fossil fuels, quite literally, dried up, this view was taken more seriously.

Humanity is always in decline for one reason or another. But it’s also experiencing a new renaissance after every fall. Our species picks itself up despite our best efforts to destroy ourselves from the inside.

In the following century, as nations fell from over reliance on coal and oil, and other nations rose and took their place on the world stage by sharing cheaper, cleaner energy, this view fell out of the public ideal except as a page in every secondary school general history book.

Then it happened about once every thousand years or so. But each time, the collapse was less pronounced, less apocalyptic, and more just a routine “changing of the guards” in world supremacy, technological ideology, or wide spectrum human thought. 

Today, we at the Roberts Foundation and the Smith Museum seek to mitigate our current crisis, that of overextended humanity, and keep the lights on, so to speak, for when the Earth’s children come home. We will be right here, guarding their ancient legacy, remembering their past so they might rediscover it. Someday.

Early Space Exploration Preservation Efforts

Every once in a while, the museum gets the questionable honor of becoming a part of history as it unfolds. The Roberts Foundation, in its capacity as a cross-temporal agency, isn’t in the business of interfering in the timeline directly. However, the Foundation has and will act on solid, verifiable information concerning itself, events in the past, and temporal incursion. To be sure, we don’t employ agents to change events, but rather to view events and verify the otherwise lost bits of data in historical record.

Since 11969 HE, a NASA landing platform has sat, untouched, on the lunar surface at Mare Tranquillitatis bearing a message from humanity. “Here men from the planet Earth first set foot upon the moon. July 1969 A. D. We came in peace for all mankind.”

Those words inspired humans for tens of thousands of years to reach ever upwards, culminating in the empire we have today, stretching out from Earth in all directions to the edges of explored space. But it is entirely possible that the physical reminder of what our forebears did would have been lost forever but for the actions of certain members of the Foundation. 

Around 12300 HE, about one hundred years after humanity began to seriously settle the bodies of our home star system, a group of grave robbers attempted to steal artifacts from a number of lunar archaeological sites. The sites of several Apollo and Luna missions were targeted, as well as other, later, rovers and vehicles set to collect data ad infinitum. This list included the unfortunate sites of the Sino-American Selene 5 impact and the first privately owned spacecraft to crash on the moon, Chernobog; of particular note because of the loss of life in both incidents. 

These would-be thieves never made it within 50 meters of any human artifact on Luna in any axis, including underground. A fact recorded once an official inquiry began, but only verified by the museum some fifty years ago, is that there are invisible, undetectable (for the technology level of early spaceflight Earth), unbreachable shields around each site where humans set foot or metal on that body before the flight of the first Earth-Luna commercial shuttle (and thereby, the first landing on the site that would become Luna City). Anything after that would be of little historical credit, but before our nearest neighbor became half a day’s trip… those sites are priceless. 

To this day, those sites remain untouched. Granted, they were built up and around over the last 40000 years, and those fifty meter bubbles around each are surrounded by construction, but they’re intact today. The Foundation even owns the buildings immediately surrounding the sites so as to maintain interdiction when the shields fail in 82450 HE. 

Oh, didn’t I say? The shields are entangled with a black hole in our objective future for the sheer amount of energy they take to maintain. After all, when the energy required is more than the output of a star, where else can be look but to something bigger, even supermassive? We received information from an agent working for the Foundation in the far future that we should buy up Lunar construction around those sites before the shield fails. 

“But, Lex, what about the timeline? Doesn’t the Foundation have a duty to uphold the timeline and integrity of history?” This is why temporal policy is best left to professionals and not to armchair lawyer/politicians sitting comfortably in the Senate half a million lightyears away. There is no paradox, nor any looping involved. We only know that we know nothing, nor do we pretend to. Plato and Socrates did not live and die in vain.

Long term investments, right? Besides, all of this was internally classified until the purchases were made and the sites were set for extreme long-term preservation. History is important, and the Roberts Foundation seeks to uphold the sites of our species’ legacy as long as humanly possible; even if it means cheating retroactively.

We’re not even half done

MuHuE has gotten some well-placed criticism from our visitors over the years about our choice of location. “Why Earth,” some ask. At first blush, the Roberts Foundation chose Earth because of the intent of the museum: to showcase human achievements throughout our species’ vast 50000 year history on humanity’s planet of origin.

But there’s another point often cited as a detractor for our choice of planet: Earth is currently about a third of the way through a minor ice age.

Based on the best data Foundation climatologists could bring us, the current cooling event is due to peak about 15000 years from now, around 65000 HE, and slowly warm until the subsequent warming event peaks around 105000 HE, 55000 years from now. This differs from the last major ice age, which lasted approximately two million years and ended at the beginning of the Holocene Era, for which our dating system is named, in part due to the rise of H. sapiens as a dominate animal, but also partly for the beginning of a new era for the planet.

Why even bring that up, one might ask? According to extensive research into the media history of our species, our team has found that there was, during no fewer than three separate points in history spread across about four thousand years, a large percentage of humans who either did not believe that the world climate could change due to human activity, or took no action to mitigate what damage they’d done through participation in their society. Obviously, through thousands of years of observation and experimentation, species’ do have impacts on their ecology, but this idea seems lost on the humans of the early and middle information age.

This brings us to today, to an all but deserted world full of archaeological treasures and serving little more than as a tourist destination for humans seeking to rediscover their ancestral home. The Roberts Foundation and the Smith Museum of Human Experience chose Earth for its rich history and proximity to almost the entire pageant of the human experience. Whether our visitors come to the main museum in the Damascus Arcology, or take part of our global tours, or just stop off while on route to destinations unknown, MuHuE is here to glorify and study our shared history.

Miniature Acceleration Reactor

Particle accelerators work is a fairly straight-forward way: push particles through magnetic fields to speed them up, usually with the intention of recording what they do under different conditions and how those particles change into other, less common, particles.

The miniature accelerator on display on floor 355 in our ‘Weapons of the Spacefaring Universe’ exhibit is the last example of the the smallest particle accelerators ever built in or out of times of war.

The specifications and yield of such a weapon is further documented by contributor Alexis Wells in his work, “Spacetime Travels and the Wonders Therein” published first in the 13th millennium HE. Given the age of this work, and the scholarship attributed to its author, the work is taken as first hand evidence and a primary source barring actual counter-evidence or other primary sources.

The unit, measuring just .8 centimetres cubed, was one of sixty-four units that lined up in paired series to fire superluminal particles as Creation-level1 energy at a target.

To summarize Wells’ own account, the fully primed and powered weapon could emit a power equal to, and even surpassing on certain settings, a supernova. Unlike a supernova, the weapon does not emit gravitational waves nor does it cause significant effects on spacetime more than three lightyears outside the firing beam.

This unit, as of the Museum’s acquisition, had been inert and nonfunctional for an estimated twenty thousand years following the destruction of the as of yet unnamed weapon utilizing it. Wells’ account names the weapon after the storyteller in the ancient ‘One Thousand and One Nights,” Scheherazade. However, this name has never been corroborated as per the above proviso on Wells’ work. Other authors, all writing after the discovery of the unit, have named the unit everything from Prometheus to Al-Zahir and even attributed extrasolar monikers from the Marstarian Empire and the Zanuis Confederacy, though these haven’t been widely adopted by Solaian humans.

  1. Creation-level energy refers to energy sources on the scale of that noted as being at the beginning of the universe.

Smile Tee

As the museum grew through the 50th millennium and into the 51st, we began to acquire more culturally interesting items from ancient Earth history. This is a natural side effect of taking up residence on a planet few humans choose to live on despite its rich ties to the origin of their species; that is to say, no one justifiably complains when the Foundation treats an entire classical Earth city as an archaeological dig site. 

This garment was in a locked trunk found in Pacifica, and was taken out only after extensive non-destructive scans indicated the trunk and its contents would not be harmed by breaking the seals (which, incidentally, turned out to be an adhesive polymer invented several thousand years after the construction of the trunk itself; which implies the two are either contemporaneous and the trunk was forged to seem like one from an earlier era, or it belonged to a member of the House; see our ‘Temporal Manipulation Artifacts’ exhibit on floor 142 for more on the House and its members). 

Inside the trunk, a faded yellow upper garment with a black design placed using a process called “screen printing” was laid prominently atop other items. Our team believes the garment had been used to protect other, more fragile, objects in the trunk, noted elsewhere and placed in the appropriate exhibits inside the museum.

The “Smile Tee,” so named for the design’s vague resemblance to a human smile and the shirt’s shape to that of the Latin T, dates back to at least the 13th millennium HE and had been culturally ubiquitous for thousands of years until it all but vanished from the record. 

In fact, the only reason we know how the garment was designed is because we have an indexical, if slightly fictionalized, account in the form of an entertainment medium from post-industrial, pre-Second Renaissance Terran history. The clip can be viewed in the ‘Smile Tee’ exhibit on floor 37, along with other examples of the design throughout history, and depicts a man rubbing his dirty face into a yellow shirt, creating the inspiration for the design itself. 

For information on the contents of the trunk, index “Wells Trunk” and specify ‘contents’ for a complete list and locations.

NanoTitanium Alloy Containment Unit

There is a certain irony in a piece of conservation equipment being a part of the museum proper. Normally, as conservators, we seek to be as invisible as possible to preserve the intent of the artist’s work. However, this containment unit is, as tools go, almost as important as what was once held inside.

The scholarship is sketchy at best on how Le Peintre de Tournesois (The Painter of Sunflowers, Paul Gauguin, 1888 AD) came to be stored inside this unit. The best narrative our team has been able to put together is that sometime between the beginning of Solarian colonization of the inner planets (~2200 AD) and the first days of the New Wars of the Roses (~2700-2870 AD), the painting was stolen and preserved for transport to be sold illegally.

What happened next is a mystery, but the unit remained buried in the Netherlands for several thousand years. The nation was rebuilt, governments came and went, and the box remained buried until the Roberts Foundation recovered it in 50,118 during an excavation of the ruins at Aam on the Eurasian supercontinent (approx. 52.66°N, 5.09°E).

Even today, long term conservation of fine art is done with techniques reflected in this unit. Made of a copper and titanium alloy, reinforced at the molecular level with semi-biological crystalline nanomachines that fill and maintain cohesion between metal panels even without additional energy input, this box was built to last at least a thousand years. That it survived more than 37000 years unattended is not only astonishing, but would be laughable if our team hadn’t been the one to open it in our specially built cleanroom.

Inside the containment unit, our team found the painting set in materials designed not to harm wood, canvas, or the paints of the traditional era. Most interesting in such an old unit was the presence of an internal atmosphere of almost 100% argon. Argon is an inert, non-toxic gas that has been used in modern conservation for hundreds of years; but that we found actual evidence that this process was used, even if only once, on ancient Earth, is of historical importance in understanding how art was revered before our time.

At times, our team finds that the task of preserving our shared heritage is a daunting one. There are tens of thousands of years of history, thousands of years of relative Dark Ages, and no end for the raw, unsorted date rolling into our databases. However, once in a while, when the stars are aligned just right, we get a present from our ancestors telling us “Have that one on me. You earned this.”

Damascus Arcology

How can I even start to describe the monumental effort it must have taken to construct our fine museum? To put in perspective the scale of our collection, following the purchase of the then defunct Damascus Arcology, it took the Roberts Foundation twenty years and in excess of 40,000 laborers, technicians, and curators to complete.

The Human Colonization Project began construction on the Arcology in 36,900 (26,900 AD) as part of their efforts to conserve land mass on the planet Earth while maintaining the steadily rising population at a time when off-world travel was heavily restricted. Perhaps their building efforts worked all too well, as the Foundation bought the superstructure solely because it had proven to be able to withstand everything nature could throw at it for thousands of years.

The scholarship of the era leaves events unclear. However, sometime between 39,000 and 42,000 the Arcology was emptied of humans and abandoned. In 42,780, the government of Nova La’Ropa took on responsibility for the Arcology, but did not reinstate its original purpose, but rather used it as a staging and storage area throughout their nation-state’s history.

In the late 49,000’s, the museum’s founder, Mister James Smith, bought the Arcology and the surrounding land from the empire and donated it to the Roberts Foundation in a trust meant to hold assets for the as yet unnamed museum.

To date, none of our team has been able to estimate accurately how long the structure of our former Arcology will last. Conservative guesses place our lifespan at six thousand years. Realistic expectations imply an extinction event might be necessary to demolish the building.