Leon Abelmann - University of Twente
A data disk that will last for 1 million years: it works!

The MESA Research Institute has developed an optical information carrier that can store information for extremely long periods of time, with each bit being written using etching techniques. The chosen information carrier is a wafer consisting of tungsten encapsulated by silicon nitride. Tungsten was chosen because it can withstand extreme temperatures. A QR code is etched into the tungsten and is protected by the nitride. Each pixel of the large QR code contains a smaller QR code that in turn stores different information. In order to ensure the stability of the data, an energy barrier that separates the information from the non-information is required.

In order to prove that the data is still legible after millions of years, an ageing test is required to see if the energy barriers are high enough to prevent data loss. According to the Arrhenius model, the medium should keep working for at least 1 million years if it is heated to a temperature of 473 Kelvin (200 degrees Celsius) and kept in the oven for an hour. After this test there was no visible degradation of the tungsten, and it was still easy to read the information. The disc could even be heated up to 713 Kelvin (440 degrees), and still be partly readable.

Duuk Baten - University of Twente
How will humanity change in the next 1 million years?

"What will happen in the next 1 million years" is an immensely complex questions which is impossible to answer. However there are some 'certainties' and probable scenarios around which we can construct a framework of possible futures. Darwin's theory of evolution has shown its significance so far, climate change and ice ages will almost definitly leave their marks and mankind itself will surely influence its near or distant future aswell. 

There either is or isn't intelligent life in one million years and if there is, will it be ours? We will look into the general evolution process of human beings; the influences of natural disasters. Maybe humanity is just a steppingstone in nature's evolution resulting in a non-anthropocentric future. Will technological superintelligence supersede mankind or will another sentient being turn up? Or it could just be we screw up some way and there won't be anything to open this timecapsule in the future..

Mark Bentum - University of Twente
The extraterrestrial Facebook
Anne Dijkstra - University of Twente
A possible guide to a readable document

David Green - New School University
Ideas from the Ozymandias Project:
coding, decoding and physical survival

The Ozymandias Project was conceived in 1992 as a plan to make a time capsule which would contain all the literature, art, and science of our civilization, and be fully retrievable over time spans of hundreds of thousands to millions of years. Given that civilization would probably fall and re-rise during that span, the challenges were:

How to ensure its physical survival, how to ensure that a technologically advanced civilization could both find and decipher it, how to hide it from any barbaric intermediate groups, how to communicate with far-future decedents when all current languages would be gone.

My talk will cover my proposed solutions to each of these formidable obstacles.

Peter Kazansky - University of Southampton
Eternal 5D storage in quartz glass

Femtosecond laser writing in transparent materials has attracted considerable interest due to new science and a wide range of applications from laser surgery, 3D integrated optics and optofluidics to optical data storage. A decade ago it has been discovered that under certain irradiation conditions self-organized subwavelength structures with record small features of 20 nm, can be created in the volume of fused quartz, which is renowned for its high chemical stability.  On the macroscopic scale the self-assembled nanostructure behaves as a uniaxial optical crystal with negative birefringence. The optical anisotropy, which results from the alignment of nano-platelets, referred to as form birefringence, is of the same order of magnitude as positive birefringence in crystalline quartz. The two independent parameters describing birefringence, the slow axis orientation (4th dimension) and the strength of retardance (5th dimension), are explored for the optical encoding of information in addition to three spatial coordinates. The slow axis orientation and the retardance are independently manipulated by the polarization and intensity of the femtosecond laser beam. The storage allows unprecedented parameters including hundreds of terabytes per disc data capacity and thermal stability up to 1000°. Even at elevated temperatures of 160 oC, the extrapolated decay time of nanogratings is comparable with the age of the Universe - 13.8 billion years. The demonstrated recording of the first digital document, which will survive the human race, is a vital step towards an eternal archive. 

Bas Lansdorp - Mars One
The colonisation of Mars

Andreas Manz - KIST Europe
Time scales and the future

Related to scaling laws in mechanical or chemical engineering, time scales also play an essential role. Phenomena at a large scale need longer time than at a small scale. This is relevant for their efficiency, for example chemical reactions or separations of molecules. A scaling of 10x in a linear dimension (e.g., length) demands for a scaling 100x in time. This has been shown to yield similar behaviour in terms of laminarity of flow, mass transport vs. convection, molecular wall interactions or numbers equivalent to theoretical plates. 

As we also know, the walking rhythm of an elephant is slower than the wing beat of a hummingbird.

As for the future, we can hardly predict human history or evolutionary biology. However, some aspects of physics and chemistry may follow laws which can be predicted for the longer foreseeable future. In case of materials, corrosion and climate possibly thousands of years, and in case of astronomical events, maybe even millions of years.

Ant Miller
Packing for Pandora

René Munnik - Tilburg University
A human legacy, bound to get lost in translation?

I will argue that the concept of the Human Document Project – as far as it is not meant to become part of our own historiography – implies that it is the final document: a record of the ‘last man’… a freeze frame of the ultimate human station before its abyss. And its addressee, if any, is supposed to be intelligent, though not human anymore – at least not sharing the same history. By the same token, it forces humanity (i.e. its representatives, or rather those who claim to be entitled to represent it) to reflect on what its ultimate legacy should include. Whatever ‘we’ decide to become part of the legacy (our genome? our technology? our art works? our literature? our philosophies?…) will be chosen for the sake of the (scientific, cultural, aesthetical, ethical) importance or value ‘we’ attribute to it.

Just making unarticulated fossilized life signs that may last for millions of years, isn’t very hard to do. Translating human characteristics or artifacts into encoded information that can be stored and deciphered by some alien intelligent agent in the distant future, may be a lot harder but is probably not impossible to do. But the expectation that whatever ‘we’ try to communicate as ‘our’ ultimate legacy will be understood, acknowledged or recognized as such, implies an unsolvable hermeneutic problem. It seems very improbable that the human document when it is discovered and perhaps appreciated, will be appreciated for the same reasons as ‘we’ tried to communicate it. From our perspective, it will always be ‘misunderstood’. Perhaps there is one exception: the purely aesthetic in the form of (nonfigurative) art or (absolute) music – because it is ‘us’ telling, but not about ‘us’.

So, what is the point of the HDP? It is a fascinating thought experiment in which all kinds of human interests – scientific, technological, cultural, political – converge into what may be called a ‘permanent metaphysical reflection’ concerning what ‘being human’ is about in the face of its collective and absolute finitude.

Ruud Priem - Dutch Art & Heritage
Preservation of fine arts and cultural heritage:
a matter of sense and sensitivity
Rob Simpson - NASA
The SALT Project: human document on Mars

Tais Teng
Workshop: Futureproofing our civilization

This workshop is hands-on, a mixture of drawing, writing and talking, with everybody participating. So please take pen and paper to the workshop. The given: in the Fifth millennium our barbaric descendants find a cache containing all knowledge of the twenty-first century.


  • How will they locate the cache?
  • What icons should we use to indicate treasure and what signs that mean the opposite: KEEP AWAY! These signs would be handy to warn for radioactive waste, dumped containers with sarin. Most discoverers of time-capsules dying of radiation poisoning could give our knowledge-caches a bad name.
  • What form did we use to transmit the knowledge?
  • How do we make sure that the offered knowledge isn't premature? Vikings with machine-guns isn't a good idea, Genghis Khan with an H-bomb is even worse.

I used that idea myself in THE GIFTS OF ZEMLYA, where it was used by humans as a weapon to kill off developing alien civilisations.

This workshop is also an overview of the Cache of Knowledge as used in the SF by for instance Larry Niven, Greg Bear. Robers Silverberg and William Hope Hodgson. And perhaps we'll come up ourselves with even better ideas during this workshop, standing on the shoulders of giants?

Chris Verhoeven - Delft University of Technology
The extraterrestrial Facebook
Peter Paul Verbeek - University of Twente
Transcending humanity

Friso Visser - MUSEON
Human Document Project in a museum

Museum collections illustrate our common history and safeguard our heritage… at least so we like to think.  We do know what others in past centuries have kept for us, but not what they thought was of no importance. Also, we might miss some great civilisations that preceded that of the Egyptians, Maya’s, what have you. Systematic collecting started not long ago when enlightenment became fashion.

Collecting our common heritage is by no means objective. Cherry-picking, sheer coincidence, overloaded by legacies and donations, dominated by a Western (Christian) view of the world are all aspects that influence(d) the collecting done. Collecting today for tomorrow is an approach that brings problems of its own. Do we keep everything? How do we know what will be seen as key to our culture and history tomorrow, the day after, the year after.

Browsing through the collections of one typical museum, Museon, we look at what illustrates a certain past and what deliberately has been kept as signs of a time. Picking form 5 domains, Geology, Biology, History and Archaeology, Ethnography and Physics, Museon (re)presents a view of the world. Until recently the museum could be ‘read’ as a life-size encyclopaedia and tried to raise questions by its visitors about Earth, our home. What would anyone make of this, not being able to view the collections in their context as presented today?