Radio Lab Episode: Atomic Artifacts

Listening to the Radio Lab podcast a recent episode talked about artifacts from the cold war era. It discussed these bunkers the United States government had built and the plans they had made to ensure that the nation survived in the event of nuclear war.

There was a bunker that was built in the Blue Ridge mountains. It was outfitted with supplies, $2 billion in cash, and historical artifacts from the Civil War in an attempt to maintain some history. After hearing this story, they started asking people, if we had a similar situation today, what would go into the vault so that when we emerged we had artifacts that conveyed our history and our collective principles.

The amazing thing is that there was no real consensus. Most people they asked couldn’t put a clear answer to what they would put in there, and these were people who curated museums!

That leads me to think about what would I want to convey to future generations? Here are some thoughts:

  • Life, Liberty, and the Pursuit of Happiness. All of the things that our country and constitution were founded on.
  • Understanding your fellow man who disagrees with you is important. Respectful disagreement between opposing ideologies can save the world.
  • Humans need growth and progress. We can do that two ways, technologically or socially. Both need to be accomplished for a better world.

With that in mind, capturing the following items in a time capsule seems useful to me:

  • The Declaration of Independence and the Constitution. Not to be reused because the country went down the wrong path if it was annihilated by nuclear war, but to be understood where it went wrong. The principles listed in them are good, but the methods weren’t perfect. Learning from the past is the whole point.
  • Clips of different news programs giving broadly skewed coverage of the same events, which doesn’t allow Americans to see the facts. Ultimately leading to a polarized electorate. Examples of propaganda, targeted digital political campaigns, etc.
  • The moon landing artifacts. They capture humans technological need for growth.
  • The Emancipation Proclamation, video and history of the Civil Rights movement, History of the Suffrage Movement, and other disenfranchised groups becoming accepted in the United States as a view of social growth.

These isn’t an exhaustive list just some items that are important to reflect on even now.