Best Long Term Info Storage Technology

And by long term here, I’m talking LONG term. If it could survive a couple ice ages, that would be super. The longer, the better. And I’m more interested in earth-based storage rather than space storage, unless there’s also a clear method of retrieval. Shooting a metal tablet into the void between the stars might preserve it a long time, but how would anyone ever find it again? Maybe a silly question, but I’d like it based on at least some practical concern for potential info retrieval. How long could we conceivably store information right now with the tech we have available to us? What storage technique would that be? Assume cost isn’t really a huge issue.

I got thinking about this because of the difference between the old Mesopotamian cuneiform tablets vs Egyptian papyrus. The cuneiform got baked and tended to last longer than decaying papyrus, which is why we have an interesting split in the kinds of records we have available to us. I’ve heard of SF stories where most information from a computer age is lost because almost none of it was stored in a permanent manner. But would, exactly, would such a permanent manner be anyway?

Take a look at the Rosetta Disk project; “a three-inch nickel disk upon which is etched 13 thousand microscopic pages of text.” On the outside of the disk, the text is large enough to read by the unaided eye, and then it gets smaller. The idea is that someone in the future will realize that they need to magnify the etching to read more.

Based on historical evidence, the 2 longest-preserved forms of writing are:

  • paint it on the walls of caves, then seal them up so the temp & humidity stay constant. (Or paint on walls of buildings, then have a volcano seal the whole city with volcanic ash.) But both of those have the disadvantage of ‘how/when will it be found again?’.
  • carve it in stone tablets. The disadvantages there are that someone eventually appropriates the carved stone tablets on the old temple walls for paving stones in their new house, or it becomes so old that even though the carving is still there, nobody can read that language anymore.

That part could probably be overcome by choosing a self-unpacking language, like the Cosmic Call

Ironically, from that page if you’re can’t figure out what the message means:

Oops, no it isn’t.


When I first found out about the Cosmic Call message, I made a point of avoiding the translations and worked to see if I could unpack the message with nothing more than the knowledge that it was a message. It’s quite easy, to begin with, but I fell down when it started talking about facts that I didn’t already know in detail, but a team of scientists would be able to understand them (it was atomic weights, bond strengths and stuff like that)

I had to use Google to figure out what the hell the last line line of that page meant. It’s a Mersenne Prime, (2^3021377) - 1, and thus “belongs” in the list of primes, but why would anyone use such a large prime like that in such a list? I really can’t imagine them using exponential notation like they did there without having it explained in simpler terms - yet they just showed how numbers would be represented on that very page. It’s not even clear that the last line fits with the previous lines, so I’m unsure of its purpose. It perhaps was the largest prime at the time, but since it should be “obvious” to any intelligence that primes are infinite in number I don’t see the point in including it.

Dunno - I’ve heard it mooted that prime numbers are one of the simplest recognisable things in mathematics - so I think that bit at the bottom is just to establish ‘hey! we know how to do maths’ (well, it also explains a bit more of the mathematical notation used in the message - introducing the symbol for subtraction and the way powers are written)

Great idea but why nickel. It is not impervious to acids for example. I would want it out of something like platinum. Gold is good but too soft. Even a platinum-iridium alloy is better yet. But what a great idea. I expect that sometime within the next 1000 years (and maybe a lot sooner), everything stored in computer files will be irretrievably lost. Rag paper will last that long, but I doubt that pulp paper would.

I wondered about nickel too, although it’s more corrosion-resistant than I first assumed, it’s still not the most durable thing.

How about diamond - what’s the biggest diamond wafer we can currently make?

The best method of long term storage is a society.

Your best bet is to form a small society to remember and preserve that information. The redundant storage, electronically and physically, would be ideal. A lot of it depends on how much and what kind of data you’re talking about preserving.

What’s your budget, a million dollars? Money may not be a big deal, but it still seriously effects what plans you can implement. You could build a sentient artificial intelligence programmed to maintain and repair itself, and put it in a cave a few miles under the surface of the moon, with the a series of probes it could launch at preprogrammed dates if money’s truly no object.

On the other hand, you could buy a dozen 4TB HDD’s for a few grand, along with plenty of printers and paper. Doing that, and then disseminating that information to as many listeners as possible (while continuing to preserve it yourself) is your best bet. On the other hand, that wont work if you’re trying to keep that information secret.

The best long term storage of information is in DNA. It is self-repairing to a degree, and has redundancy.

…hmm I wonder if we are just storage units in a matrix of some sort. If so, I hope it uses non-destructive Read technology…

Carve your message onto the summits of a dozen different mountain tops. Also carve your message on the moon for “off-site backup.”

Mountain tops are the first thing to erode.

I bet my mountain tops will last a lot longer than your small society.

I bet launching a platinum-engraved disk to the moon would last a lot longer than the mountain tops.
Edit to add: Also, I’ll take your bet.

Carve your message onto a flat plain. Then build a mountain on top. :slight_smile:

The moon’d still work, though.

I am also using the moon as off-site backup so we are in agreement there.

There are plenty of examples of carvings that have outlasted the societies that created them so I am not following your reasoning.

It would first have to occur to someone that there might be artificially encoded information in the DNA strands and then be able to decode it. That seems unlikely. I think you want the information to be immediately visible.

And another example of a way of displaying information meant to be read far into the future are the Georgia Guidestones.