Dear people of the future: we’re sorry for whatever horrible thing we did that caused the apocalypse (was it nukes? climate change? killer robots? idiots who wouldn’t wear masks during a pandemic?). But the good news is, if you’re reading this you must have found GitHub’s buried data archive containing everything you need to reboot society — pun intended.
GitHub inc, a Microsoft subsidiary, recently archived some 21 terabytes of data in long-term storage in hopes that an advanced future society will one day use it for historical purposes. Maybe they’ll want to know what kind of clumsy computers 21st century humans used. Maybe they’ll just want to play Doom. Either way, the archive contains as much information about human computing as GitHub could squeeze into it, including all the open-source AI code a future retroist could ever want to toy with.
The GitHub Arctic Code Vault is a data repository preserved in the Arctic World Archive (AWA), a very-long-term archival facility 250 meters deep in the permafrost of an Arctic mountain. The archive is located in a decommissioned coal mine in the Svalbard archipelago, closer to the North Pole than the Arctic Circle. GitHub will capture a snapshot of every active public repository on 02/02/2020 and preserve that data in the Arctic Code Vault.
Assuming nothing goes wrong, future generations should be able to figure out a way to run our old data archives on their fancy brain computers (or whatever they use in the 3000s). But GitHub isn’t taking any chances. If things go bad for humans — and let’s face it we’re not exactly trending well right now – the archive contains a human-readable “tech tree” including a Rosetta stone and everything our poor post-apocalyptic progeny will need to rebuild society in our image.
The Tech Tree will serve as a quickstart manual on software development and computing, bundled with a user guide for the archive. It will describe how to work backwards from raw data to source code and extract projects, directories, files, and data formats.
Inspired by (and including elements of) the Long Now’s Manual for Civilization, the archive will also include information and guidance for applying open source, with context for how we use it today, in case future readers need to rebuild technologies from scratch.
For more information about the archive and what’s included in it, check out the program’s page here on GitHub.