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.

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.”