Messages to, from the future

Feature story - 13 December, 2009
Over the past month, thousands of people have posted messages to our Love Letters to the Future web site. They have voted for each other's love letters and shared their favourites with friends on Facebook.

A schematic drawing of the time capsule.

Now, the top 100 letters are being sealed in a time capsule, along with a selection of objects related to climate change.

The time capsule will be sealed at the Store Vega nightclub in Copenhagen by Danish actor Thure Lindhardt.

A 'climate hero' will bring a special message of support from the people of China. Live music will be provided by Nabiha, plus DJs Flow Job and Dokkedal/Dixon - if you're in Copenhagen, doors open at 8PM.

You can see all the messages in the time capsule at the Love Letters to the Future website.

Some of the best messages so far...

" Is my city still there?", Hanna, Australia

" Alien Landscapes", Cory Doctorow, Canada

" It took a long time to understand", Carla, Brazil

" Love and tranquillity", Ana-Maria, Romania

" Sorry for the mess", Mark, United Kingdom

" Forest berries", Marie, Sweden

The time capsule

The time capsule is shockproof, waterproof and designed to last above ground for 500 years.

Messages selected for the time capsule will be encoded using Monolith™ card technology, that transforms data into a two-dimensional barcode that is burnt into the card. Besides the digital barcode, the film also holds preview images and metadata containing technical, self-explaining information about the read-back procedure. So even if language or technology changes the data will be recoverable.

There is no additional software or hardware necessary to read the cards, which makes this form of data storage independent of technological changes. Each card (10x15cm) can support a resolution of up to 300 pairs of lines per millimeter, carrying up to 120MB worth of data.

The base of the time capsule is made out of an oil barrel that contains two sections inside: the bottom part is the 'hard core' preservation area, where we store the love letters for the future.

We picked our own favorite messages and engraved them on the outside.

A sample love letter.

Objects in the time capsule

The objects in the time capsule are vacuumed packed, and individually sealed to aid in their preservation.   Each was chosen for its connection to climate change, and personal value.

They include:

  • A medal from a Netherlands canal ice skating race.
  • A warm hat worn by youth activists as they stood vigil in Copenhagen, and made wake up calls to political delegates.  
  • A bottle of champagne - because if we've averted catastrophic climate change, they'll want to celebrate.  And if we haven't, then the wine growing region of France will have suffered, and it might be hard to get a decent bottle of the stuff.
  • A hand painted statue of an Asian Elephant, created by Dutch artist Wilma Veen for the Elephant Parade.
  • An energy efficient lightbulb - so people in the future will know we had the solutions to climate change, and it was only a matter of having the will to use them.

Technical problems or something more?

Many thanks to all the people who have reported the strange messages, and odd behaviour of the Love Letters to the Future site.  Apparently, certain search terms, such as "me 2109" trigger unexpected behaviour.  

Xenophile media, our partner in this project, is investigating.  Most of the site works fine though, and we think there may be something we can learn from these strange messages.

There is still time

The clock can still be turned back on catastrophic climate change, and you still have a chance to get your message to the future in a time capsule.   We've been so touched by the love letters sent so far that we're going to keep collecting messages, and will add them to a time capsule in 2010.

Send your own message

Send your own message to the future.

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