When I was eight years old, I had a very unusual dream in which I saw many lifetimes of my future. In this dream I saw a very clear picture of what the world would go through for perhaps a century or two into the future.
I don’t know what to think of this dream – whether it is true or not – what to make of it? However this dream had many unusual bits of information that I could not possibly have known at the time: I was only an eight year old child.
I remember this dream perfectly – every detail – I can see it clearly still, and it is full of scientific and technical details. I remember it more clearly than most of my other actual memories, or any other dream. That’s a bit odd. So again, I don’t know what to make of these facts.
This dream has been in the background for most of my life and I haven’t thought about it often – but from time to time I notice echoes of it in what is taking place in the world today.
I also noticed that some of things I ended up working on seem reminiscent of some of the themes in the dream.
I have resisted sharing the details for a long time. I am afraid that by sharing this information, some people will think I am more “fringe” than I really I am. On the other hand, there is information in the dream that might be useful to some to know. It’s also an interesting case study in unusual dreams.
Preamble and Disclaimer
I have a very open mind, but also a very skeptical one. I like to think I’m science-oriented and data-driven when possible. At the same time, I have so much direct personal experience of phenomena that go beyond our present scientific paradigms — experiences that may in fact reveal other facets of reality, yet which are beyond our scientific understanding today.
Rather than discount such phenomena, I think it is “most scientific” to be willing to consider all evidence, hypothesis, reports of experiences, and ideas, on their merits – without preconceptions.
But keeping an open mind doesn’t mean one should just blindly believe anything at all without rational analysis, and I am not asking anyone to do that.
Whether this type of phenomena is simply the imagination of a child at work, or something that is not imaginary, is not answerable today, but could be a subject of scientific study in years to come.
So with that in mind, I will share this dream, for what it’s worth. Take it as a data point, or just as an interesting story. That is up to you. I make no claims about it other than simply recounting accurately what occurred.
The Setting: The Big Green Book
The year was 1978. I was eight years old. We lived in a large historic house in a small town in the Boston area. The house was old and wooden – and very well made.
It was cold in the winter and I could hear the wind causing wood to creak at night. The old metal steam radiators would tick at night – the house seemed to be breathing. The winter nights were long and dark.
For Christmas, a month or two earlier than this particular night, someone had given me an amazing present. A large Oxford Dictionary or Encyclopedia sized book – hardbound with a dark green canvas covering – the way great books used to be made.
The book was completely blank.
I loved this gift. I used to spend hours imagining what I would fill those pages with. But I was afraid to write anything in it, or draw pictures in it, for fear of messing it up. So I used to do tests of what I would put in it, by writing things out on other sheets of paper, for consideration. Yet, I hadn’t written anything in the book yet: Nothing I had come up with was good enough.
But one night – this particular winter night – perhaps in February – I had a dream about this book, in which I saw what the pages contained…
Early Signs of The Event
The dream begins vividly clear.
I was an adult male, living in California. I was working in an industry where I interacted with technical and scientific, and academic and government people all the time.
I had achieved some small measure of recognition from my peers, as a thinker, but I was not famous or super rich.
I remember very clearly in the dream that “the Event” began with a trickle of news media and other reports about something going wrong with the environment.
Global temperatures were starting to change in unusual ways. At first there was a lot of debate about what this meant. People didn’t know what to think. I remember that in the dream I noticed this but also was puzzled by what the data meant – what conclusions to draw from it.
This went on for some time – years – but there was a trend that began to become clear. And at a certain point, it began to inflect. Temperature shifts, and extreme weather and other natural disasters became more frequent and severe. The environment become more volatile.
At that time, governments around the world began to make concerted efforts to prepare civil defense contingency plans to protect their populations – or at least the people they could protect, or wanted to protect.
It was determined that although temperature appeared to be increasing, it was actually a prelude to a coming severe drop in temperature – a mini ice-age.
Secret Civil Defense Preparations
Governments were able to project the acceleration of the coming “Event” and based on those projections they could determine that within a few years in the future, from that time, life on Earth would enter a period of great environmental challenges that would touch every living thing.
Our government, in the dream, had secretly already been making preparations for decades. They had known about this long in advance of telling the public.
The main preparations were measures to protect some of the population – by constructing a system of very large underground shelters. These were large cylindrical, multi-level habitats built into the ground. They were huge – each one could accommodate hundreds of families – thousands of residents.
These shelters were built into areas that were presumed to be good locations for surviving the coming ice-age and eventually re-emerging to rebuild. They selected wide open areas far from oceans or continental plate boundaries, near mountainous areas and water sources, but where the temperature was already cool.
In particular, they for some reason chose locations where the ground was frozen with permafrost – very northern places. It may have been that they believed that these currently cold places would in the future become warm places. (Today I wonder whether this might have been due to a coming pole-shift they knew about and were trying to mitigate.)
A number of these large underground cities were built by our government – a huge black-budget process that had started many years ago – maybe even a decade or two – before I and the public became aware of this.
Then as the environment began to get worse and a kind of self-amplifying spiral of disasters began, there came a day when there was a catalyzing sudden “Event” that brought things to a crisis point.
Something happened in the world – I don’t know what – that caused a sudden and major environmental change that everyone could see.
As a result of what happened, the sky became overcast. The sunlight was dimmed – as in a cloudy winter. It became colder and colder, everywhere. The drop in temperature was large. It suddenly became winter all over the world within the span of just a few weeks.
But that was just the beginning of what turned out to be a cascade of falling dominoes that made the situation progressively worse, at increasing speed.
I don’t know which industrial system was the one that caused the air to then become toxic – but in the dream I knew it was some industrial accident. Something finally broke so badly as a result of what was happening, that it made the air we all breathe, unsafe.
First as the temperature and air quality changed it affected weather and daily life, and billions of people didn’t have enough heat and became ill from the air.
Then the crops started to fail. And the power grids were over-taxed trying to enable everyone to heat everything and they started failing. When that happened more large industrial and economic systems started to break.
Governments couldn’t cope with it and there was social unrest. The environment also became increasingly hostile and many people around the world suffered.
Then something terrible happened, somewhere else in the world, that changed the air quality all over the world. As a result of this disaster, the air became increasingly toxic to breathe.
Reflecting back on that part of the dream, I surmise that the “disaster” might have been some kind of nuclear power plant meltdown somewhere, or maybe a volcanic eruption, or a meteor or comet impact — or something equally severe.
Whatever it was, in the dream, it caused the atmosphere of the entire world to get cloudy and dark and cold, and toxic, and it made everyone afraid to breathe the air on the surface of the Earth. And people started dying.
Now keep in mind, the person having this dream and seeing all this, was an eight year old kid and it was 1978 — we didn’t even think about “global warming” or “nuclear winter” – these were not in the zeitgeist yet, and I hadn’t heard of anything like that back then.
I also didn’t know anything about power plants, geoscience, environmental science, the tech industry. As an adult in the dream, I understood this all, but as the child having the dream — after I woke up — I was not able to integrate or make sense of these details. However I remember them all quite clearly. And today, as an adult, I can understand them.
As the situation on the surface of the Earth began to deteriorate people around the world began to panic and governments stepped in to try to manage the growing crisis. Martial law was declared in most places.
Life in an Underground City
In response to the increasingly dire situation on Earth, our government then activated the secret civil defense plan that they had been working on for decades. They started moving key people to the underground cities they had built in the frozen north.
There were not enough spaces in these underground civil defense shelters that to accommodate everyone. Many spots were already reserved for continuity of government — leaders and their families – and for civil defense and military teams. For the spaces that remained, they selected people who were “important” — financial and business leaders, for example. For the spaces that remained after that, it was decided that there would be some kind of a lottery.
Somehow I, and my family at that time, made the cut and were given a slot in one of the underground cities up north somewhere. They flew us by military transport and we were only allowed to bring what we could carry.
It was a huge crisis. It was panic and disruption. But we felt we were among the lucky ones. The majority of the population was left to fend for themselves on the surface, in a world suddenly plunged into a harsh and unforgiving extinction-level event (“ELE”) – a mini ice age.
And so our new life began, in a hermetically sealed underground city, in a system of a few dozen similar locations, in one large area in the frozen north – to wait out the crisis and to simply survive.
Years passed in the dream and I watched my life in the underground city develop. For the most part it was boring and claustrophobic and all anyone could think about was getting back to the surface and seeing the blue sky and breathing full lungs of fresh sweet natural air. But that was out of reach.
Instead, daily life was mainly just routine, lit by full spectrum indoor lighting with natural light, to simulate sunlight. There were a few plants here and there but it was spare – mostly grey and institutional the way one would imagine a large government civil defense shelter to look.
There was no variation of any kind – just routine. Keeping order and keeping everyone from fighting with each other in tight quarters over a long time was the primary concern of the authorities in charge.
Maintaining social stability, so that we could all remain underground for as long as necessary – decades, centuries — nobody knew how long — was the primary goal of the whole society. It was not democratic, it was top-down command and control – the way FEMA would run a city if it was in charge.
Because of my former profession on the surface, I had an interest and connections in the scientific and technical field, and so I made friends with the other scientific and technical people who were also underground with us.
My life underground was one of routine, just like everyone else. Day after boring day, living in an artificially lit, hermetically sealed, tin can – deep underground.
We began to wonder if we really were the lucky ones, or not.
The Scientific Study Begins
At a certain point, years into the underground portion of the dream, we (the scientific and technical community within the general population underground) decided that it might be possible to determine if and when it would be safe to return to the surface of the Earth.
We decided to start a scientific study to see if we could project when conditions might improve enough to sustain human life on the surface again.
It turned out that these giant underground cities – metal cylinders really – had been built into permafrost. They only extended above the permafrost a few stories high. At the top of each cylinder there was a complicated air filtration system.
Using a system of large vents attached to HVAC units with filters, the freezing and toxic air from the surface was sucked in, scrubbed of toxins, piped down into the cylindrical habitats, warmed sufficiently with geothermal energy, and then pumped throughout the AC systems of the cities to supply fresh air. At the same time, “waste air” was pumped back up to the surface and out. By continually circulating the air this way, these underground cities could essentially “breathe.”
We decided that we should begin a long-term study of the surface air quality at the top of the air intakes, outside the filtration systems, in order to see if we could detect any projectible environmental trends that might provide a clue as to when and if the surface would become habitable again.
To access the air intakes, you had to go into the upper floors of the underground cities – an area that was forbidden and highly secured and could only be accessed with government permission. Once in this special area, one could climb ladders and eventually exit to the surface, through a kind of submarine like series of airlocks at the very top of a kind of underground tower that reached out to the top of the unit above the surface – as if on the top of the conning tower of a submarine.
The reason this area was forbidden and highly secured with all kinds of biometric security keys was that the leadership didn’t want people going out to the surface and getting harmed, or letting in toxic air, or potentially doing anything to damage the complex air filtration “lungs” that the entire system relied on to survive. But we got official permission to access these areas for our study.
The study consisted of placing a box of sensors at the top of the tower to measure temperature, pressure, wind, humidity, and other harmful gasses or substances in the surface air, before it entered the filtration system. We placed several of these sensor units at the top of several of the underground cities – by communicating with the other teams in other nearby cylinders.
I remember very clearly what it was like to climb up from the innards of the city many levels below, into the painfully sharp and windy air of the surface — after what may have been years underground, it was my first experience of the surface and it was much worse than I had imagined.
We still could not breathe the air directly – we worse some kind of suit with a breather, but it was cold and windy out there. I realized there was little chance anyone on the surface was left alive.
Our study then went on for a few years. Gradually data came in month by month. We plotted the data and waited to see what it would show.
Gradually we did start seeing a trend. But it was a double-edged blessing.
On the positive, we could see a definite gradual improvement in outside temperatures and air quality, from which we could project that within some number of years in the future, the surface would become habitable again – although it would take a long time before it became like it once was. The main improvement we saw was that the level of toxins in the air was falling over time. Another thing we noticed was that the temperature was warming up slowly.
But we also noticed something else that was an unexpected concern. As the temperature was improving the permafrost that these cylinders were built into was also warming and we were able to project that at a certain point it would melt. In fact, the area we were in was projected to become warmer than it was before the Event took place.
We also were able to project that as it melted there was a slow correlated loss of elevation of the tower. In other words, the cities were sinking in the mud so to speak, as the ground they were buried in was warming up and releasing all the frozen water it contained.
Based on this we were able to determine that at around the time when it would be safe enough to go back out to surface and breathe the air without breathing equipment, the underground cities would have sunk enough to endanger the air intakes and waste system.
But if those intakes sunk below the snow on the surface, or below the earth beneath, air supply would be cut off and everyone inside the cities would suffocate.
We informed the authorities of our findings and they were not happy to hear this information. Their immediate reaction was that it was just a hypothesis and we could not be sure that that circumstances on the surface wouldn’t change – how could we know if past patterns would hold a decade into the future?
They wanted us to gather more data before they would take any action. Above all, they did not want us to raise the alarm, and so the information we found was classified and we were not allowed to discuss it with the rest of the population.
Our study continued and we gathered more evidence and at a certain point we were scientifically certain that indeed there was a period of time in the future when we knew it would be possible to move back to the surface. We also knew that if we did not, we would not be able to remain underground due to the sinking of the air intakes.
We again told the authorities. We presented the data. They told us not to worry anyone and they would consider it. They wanted to wait and see. They were absolutely against doing anything to prepare or move back to the surface since it was still many years in the future and they didn’t want to cause a panic. More importantly, they wanted to stay in control.
We had no communication with the rest of the world — radios were silent or there was too much interference. All telecommunications and global and national power grids had long gone out. We didn’t know if there was anyone else out there and so we could not corroborate our information with other locations around the world. There was no satellite data available either. The only government was our local government — there was no national government to speak to.
The local authorities had forbidden us from sharing the conclusions of our air quality study — conclusions that implied within a few years a major disruption would occur. What could we do?
We debated how to proceed. We had many meetings about this. Eventually we decided that those of us who were aware of and convinced by the data from our study – had a moral responsibility to make preparations for everyone else, on our own, secretly.
So we began to plan out how to move everyone back to the surface in time to get established there, before the cities sank under the permafrost.
The plan was that we first had to scout for a new place to live, where everyone could move. Using our access to the secure airlocks on the surface, with our air quality study as a cover, we found a way to sneak people in and out of the habitat to survey the landscape around it.
A few of us volunteered to sneak out of the towers of the underground cities, wearing essentially arctic space suits, to scout the surrounding surface for areas with geological features that might support life in the harsh environment above, for a future migration back to the surface.
I was on one of these survey missions and we walked for days and days in windswept snowscapes. It was harsh and inhospitable. It really seemed like “Forty Days and Forty Nights” of wandering, but eventually we found an area with rolling hills and cliffs and many natural caves as well. We decided this would be a suitable base camp in the future.
The plan then moved to stage 2: Logistics. We made lists of supplies and equipment, tools, medical gear, medicines, etc. — that we would need to exfiltrate from the underground cities and move to the new basecamp. We worked on the logistics of moving all this stuff on foot, from our underground locations to the new location on the surface, many kilometers away, in the still harsh conditions up there.
We also began to quietly recruit more people to our team.
Then we moved to stage 3: Migration. The plan was that at a certain time, a group of us would leave permanently – to set up the base camp. Another group would remain to convince others to join us in a migration that would follow after that, in which people and all the gear would be moved back to the surface.
I was on the advance team, and we set up a basecamp in the hills and caves and waited. On the appointed date, those who remained broke the story to everyone underground. The populace was shocked. Most were afraid and wouldn’t believe it. The authorities cautioned people not to leave, claiming it was too dangerous on the surface and disputing our data. Nonetheless, were able to convince a few hundred people and families to leave with us, but thousands remained underground across the several locations in the area our shelters were in.
Those who took the leap with us helped us to carry more of the essential items on our lists. I don’t remember exactly how they managed to escape with all that stuff – but somehow they did bring quite a bit with them, without getting arrested, by leaving at night.
The dream then shifted to a phase in which we were setting up the basecamp and moving everyone in. That process took a while. Conditions were very primitive. No electricity. No plumbing. But we had firewood from dead forests around us. We lived in caves and tried to stay warm.
Gradually conditions on the surface improved – year by year – and our basecamp became more sustainable.
Then there came a time when the cities had sunk enough – as we predicted – that people who remained underground would all surely suffocate unless they escaped to our camp on the surface.
We sent a group back to petition the majority of the population still remaining there to leave and come live with us. A few more joined us but the majority refused. They didn’t want to live in the harsh conditions on the surface.
We took whatever remaining supplies we could get, and the last group of settlers joined us.
Sure enough, as our model predicted, the cities sank eventually. The air systems went under the surface. Everyone who remained inside suffocated.
The Next Civilization
Life on the surface was rustic – like the Wild West, in Alaska. But our community of hundreds of people was able to make ends meet. Gradually we built shelters and as the environment improved we were able to start to generate energy from the sun and grow certain types of crops and livestock.
We had no contact with anyone anywhere else in the world – for all we knew were the only survivors. Travel over long distances by foot was still difficult and dangerous, and in our surveys we had found no evidence of anyone anywhere with hundreds of kilometers around us.
The surface of the Earth had been “wiped clean” — nothing of the former world was detectable in our area. As the snow and ice melted, plant life began to appear and bloom again. It was a wild place, a world dominated not by man, but by nature.
Our fledgling settlement entered a new phase in which our basic survival needs were met and we could begin to think more proactively about our future.
We had many community meetings to determine the plan for the future of our community and how to survive, and perhaps even find other survivors around the world, if there were any.
One of the key things we also realized was that the Elders among us, in our 80’s and 90’s, who had lived in the previous civilization before “The Event,” might be the last living people on Earth with first-hand memories and direct knowledge from the previous world. They had gone to colleges and universities, they had worked in corporations, they were experts in their fields.
We had no libraries, no records — all computers, electronic data, stored media, and paper archives from the previous world had been lost. We had only the knowledge and memories in their brains. The Elders were a precious resource, perhaps the most precious resource – other than children.
We determined that our first task as a new civilization would be to record the memories of the Elders, along with their knowledge and wisdom, for the benefit of our future generations.
We wanted to capture their learnings, the mistakes that were made, the achievements that were made, and everything they knew that could help our civilization survive.
The Keeper of the Book
To record the memories of the Elders we needed to design a process to extract what they knew and write it down for posterity.
This led us to come up with the idea to make an encyclopedia of everything the Elders knew: How to build a well, how to cultivate agriculture, how to raise animals, how to deliver babies and cure diseases, how to make machines, how to build societies. It would include science, medicine, engineering, architecture, history, law, economics, culture, psychology, languages, spirituality, the arts — everything we remembered.
To capture this knowledge we designed a process in which a designated person would interview all the Elders and capture their wisdom for future generations. This wisdom would be recorded, by hand, in a set of large green empty hardbound books we had.
I was elected to be the scribe — and I was given the title, “Keeper of the Book.”
I was already an old man – and for the remaining decade of my life I spent all my time interviewing the surviving Elders and recording their wisdom in The Book. I then started interviewing the next generation and adding their more current experiences and insights as well.
And then I died.
But the dream did not end.
A Firehose of Lives
I woke up from death, still in the dream, in my next life – the life of my next descendant.
I saw that life transpire and when they came of age, they became the second Keeper of the Book.
I saw that life flicker past rapidly – a series of moments and turning points and life events. Moments of joy, grief, love, struggle, breakthrough and self-actualization.
And then I died again.
Then I awoke into the following life – the life of my grandchild, and I lived that life as the third Keeper of the Book, and then I died again, and I woke into the following life – and then it sped up — I went through the next generation, and the next and the next.
The images came fast and dense – too much to absorb – a firehose of lifetimes poured through me.
In each generation I saw that my family maintained the lineage of “Keepers of the Book.” One member of each generation was selected for the role and that was their solemn duty throughout their life.
This process of collecting and recording everyone’s memories and wisdom – throughout their entire lives – into a communal record of our collective experience became a central cornerstone of the culture of the new civilization. Eventually there were many Keepers, as the family tree spread out over time.
The role of the Keeper the Book was not a priest, not a leader, but rather as a curious learner and memory function – a receiver and transmitter of wisdom.
Creating and continuing to update the Book became a kind of ritual that everyone participated in.
There was a way that we would interview people for their contributions, and there were ceremonies about reading or sharing these experiences, and remembering our ancestors through their entries in the Book.
These community experiences were enjoyed and honored as sacred activities, as a way to connect with each other within and across the generations.
The Book became a record of the very soul of our society. It was us and were were it. We became a wisdom-centric civilization, intent on learning from the past and becoming more intelligent, evolved, and sustainable as a society over time.
Then the generations began to move faster – I saw at least a hundred or more lifetime flash by – in their entirety, but too fast to catch all the details or individual scenes.
It was as if each life was a deck of cards that had been fanned out into space towards me at high speed – each card, a scene – falling past me so fast I couldn’t catch them.
Although the details were and now are a blur – I do remember very clearly that in the dream I noticed that as these lives flickered past in the darkness of the dreamscape, there was a noticeable change in the environment across them, as time went forward. In each lifetime the scenes in which the life took place were in a world that was increasingly nice to live in.
Eventually – perhaps a hundreds of lifetimes in the future, the world was a sunny, verdant, natural paradise with small spiritually aware and sustainable communities scattered around the landscape – even better than before The Event.
The Light in the Cave
Then the dream reached a point in the future where the procession of lifetimes slowed down and suddenly stopped in a particular life again.
There, instead of watching the lives go by I was suddenly floating along the forest floor as if some disembodied camera.
It was dusk.
I noticed the ground was covered with dry reddish pine needles. Pine trees, with green needles.
It reminded me a bit of the Redwood forests in northern California, as they are today: Nice and rich with a delicious scent of trees and moss and fresh streams, clear air, and the occasional sound of a woodpecker in the distance.
I slowly glided along the forest floor – about a foot above the thick carpet of pine needles and mulch – heading towards something ahead in the distance.
I noticed the colors of sunset filtering through the branches. I noticed and remember feeling pleased at the healthy foliage and forest – and particularly the total absence of any snow or ice.
And then ahead I saw a light glowing through the trees.
I glided towards it and the trees parted. I found myself in a clearing at the edge of the forest.
Ahead of me I recognized some hills with cliffs on one side – those same rolling hills we had found and lived in – lifetimes ago – in the first scouting mission before the cities sank.
I recognized those natural caves. They had a distinct layout on the side of the hills and cliffs. I knew this place like my own home.
And then I saw that the glowing light I had seen was coming from a cave — that same cave where I once lived, when I was the first Keeper of the Book.
I floated closer and could see that in that cave, illuminated by the warm glowing light of a candle on a table, was a wise old man who looked like he could be a distant descendant of mine – writing in a large green book. In the background I could see his wife moving about as well.
I glided closer. I could see his face. His beard. The ink and what he was writing.
I went closer to him.
Closer and closer, and closer.
And then the dream ended.
After the Dream
When I woke up from the dream – again in the body and mind of an eight-year old child with no experiences to integrate all this into – I didn’t know what to do with all the information.
I remember feeling distinctly amazed by what had happened and trying to explain it to my mother. But I couldn’t.
In the dream years had passed, lifetimes had gone by. Yet it was only perhaps a few hours of sleep in my “real life.”
But I also didn’t think it was impossible to have a dream like that – because as eight-year old, I wasn’t conditioned to think there were any limits to what could happen in a dream.
I remember I thought about this dream a lot and pondered the big green blank book I had.
Eventually I began to draw Star Wars pictures – and pictures for my own movie idea, which I called, “Space Alerts,” in the book. It wasn’t the best use of that book. But I was only eight!
And at some point I volunteered as a child, in our town library – in the children’s section – and became a bookworm. I developed a real and enduring lifelong love of books.
And then I grew up and became interested in many other things, and soon the dream was just a distant memory. An unusual experience I once had.
Yet, unlike most of my other dreams, I still remember this dream in its entirety, in perfect clear detail, just as if I dreamed it last night.
Back to the Present
As I grew up I later became a tech entrepreneur, I worked with many scientists, and I moved from Boston to California and started a family.
I worked on a number of early technology projects and ventures around AI, semantics data, knowledge management, big data, trend detection, and also the development of a commercial space industry.
My whole life revolved around knowledge extraction, knowledge sharing, collective intelligence, innovation, futurism, and space.
Eventually – in my 30’s and 40’s I began to think about the idea of whether or not it might be possible to backup civilization in a safe place, where it couldn’t be destroyed, even in millions of years and no matter what happened on Earth.
I had this thought because I was interested in ancient civilizations and what happened to them.
I was concerned because much of the knowledge of the ancient world was lost without a trace – and in my work on big data I had come to recognize that almost all of our civilization’s knowledge was sitting on perishable media that could not survive even a few decades if anything seriously went wrong.
As I looked into this issue I came to the understanding that although our civilization is seemingly so advanced in many ways, our memory, our knowledge, the way we store data, is more ephemeral than many of the ancient civilizations we view as more primitive. They at least stored their data in something permanent – stone and metal. We store our records in plastic and paper!
All of the knowledge of our civilization is at risk. Almost nothing would survive if we experienced a serious worldwide civilization-ending event. While these events are rare, they do happen.
In fact there have been thousands of civilizations before ours and they all ended. The average lifetime of a civilization turns out to be only around 300 years. We are overdue for collapse by that metric.
As I looked at all the data about the risks we face as a planet I also saw that unlike previous civilizations, we are the first civilization that could be destroyed by one bad decision by just one person. Never before has so much destructive power rested in the hands of so few.
And I also realized that we face many new risks from our own industrialization, war machines, and the damage to the environment caused by our own greed and short-sightedness.
What could I do to change this? I began to think about how to solve this.
Wikipedia, To the Moon!
Years later, I hatched what at the time seemed like a totally crazy idea: to create a backup strategy for Planet Earth.
As I thought through the scenarios around this, I realized that to make this archive indestructible it had to exist in many places, it had to be redundant, like a library system, not just one library.
There would need to be locations on Earth as well as off of Earth, designed for different levels of technically advanced recipients at different stages of future civilizations.
It would need to be something that pre-industrial, post-industrial, or space-age level recipients would be able to find, recognize as important, and learn from.
There would need to be known locations, containing maps to the other locations, and there would need to be secret locations that nobody knew about to ensure that some future party who found a location could not hoard or destroy all the other archives.
I then turned to the question of where to start this archive? Where to put the first instance of the backup? And one day I had the thought, “Why not the Moon?”
What better place to put the first offsite backup of Earth, than the Moon?
I discussed this with a few friends. The Moon, we realized, would be a high-profile way to launch this idea, that could capture the imagination of the public and bring attention to this cause.
But beyond the PR value of landing a library on the Moon, it is actually a good location for an offsite backup of Earth.
Anything stored on the Moon could potentially remain there, undisturbed, for millions or even billions of years, if suitably protected — no matter what happens on Earth.
And if there ever is a future advanced civilization on Earth, or anywhere in our solar system, long after we are gone, we reasoned they would likely find their way back to the Moon and rediscover our ancient “Hall of Records” there.
We conceived of this as a gift to future generations, the ultimate expression of the long-term altruism that is key to what makes humans different from all other animals we know of.
The question was then, what to put in this archive? Should we make the content ourselves, or could we get it from others? Did it already exist?
The first and most obvious answer was to try to leverage existing open data sets, starting with the Wikipedia.
The Wikipedia, for all its flaws, is the largest community-built repository of humanity’s knowledge, and it contains input from millions of people. What’s more it’s licensed to the public.
At that time, summing this up, I wrote this blog post: Let’s Land the Wikipedia on the Moon!
However, this idea raised a host of new technical challenges. How could we store the Wikipedia in a form that could actually last in a place like the Moon? And how could we make this small enough to actually deliver to the Moon economically?
And so began years of searching for new storage media and technologies for delivering the Wikipedia to the Moon – something that could archive big data not just for decades or millennia, but millions to billions of years, in outer space.
I started meeting with scientists around the world who had candidate technologies for ultra-long-term archival storage of data, scouting for “perpetual data storage” solutions.
And thus, as this effort gained momentum and a few collaborators joined to help, the Arch Mission Foundation was born.
The Arch Mission Foundation was started by a small group of like-minded volunteers as a non-profit initiative to build an indestructible distributed, billion-year durability, backup of Earth’s knowledge and history.
We wanted to do this for the benefit of future generations, or whoever might eventually inhabit our solar system in the distant future.
Who Needs a Planetary Backup?
How can we be so sure that a planetary backup is needed?
On geological time-scales it is certain that there will be periodic extinction-level events on Earth. We see these in the geological record on the 50 to 100 million year scale.
Something eventually happens and there is a major upheaval on Earth. But each time the record shows that life finds a way – life begins again, and it evolves over millions of years into something greater.
Since we can see that this process has happened several times in Earth’s geological history, we can surmise that this natural process of destruction will happen again in millions of years – at least if we don’t destroy ourselves much sooner.
So it is not a question of “if” but rather “when” life on Earth will be wiped out — it happens on a regular basis on cosmic timescales. Therefore, we reasoned, why not start building the archives as soon as we can?
What’s the sense in delaying a backup strategy? If you are certain you need a backup, then risk only increases with time if you don’t make it. The sooner you start, the more likely you will complete it and succeed before it’s needed.
The Billion Year Archive Initiative
In 2015 we began work in earnest on writing our first experimental space archives.
We eventually named this backup strategy, the “Billion Year Archive.”
We began by writing into quartz crystals using a femtosecond laser – with the help of Dr. Peter Kazansky, the inventor of 5D “Superman Memory.”
Eventually this led us to meet Elon Musk through a series of interesting coincidences, and we were able to convince him to carry our first Archive — containing a copy of the Isaac Asimov Foundation Trilogy etched into a 14 Billion-Year durability disc of quartz, in the glove compartment of his red Tesla orbiter. Our Solar Library, is now orbiting the sun for at least 30 million years: The first library in space!
Next, we were able to work with Israel’s SpaceIL to deliver a much larger, 30 million page, Lunar Library, to the surface of the Moon in 2019, containing the Wikipedia and much more.
The Lunar Library was etched onto 25 nickel discs, using both analog and digital nanotechnology with the help of scientist, Bruce Ha, who developed a technology called “nanofiche” that was perfectly suited to this task.
The Lunar Library was sent to the Moon inside of Beresheet, by SpaceIL, in 2019.
Unfortunately, Beresheet crashed, yet we have good reason to believe that the Lunar Library survived the crash and is still there, intact, but lost on the Moon.
The Lunar Library is on the Moon – at the very least in some form – but our work has only just begun. We must ensure that it is there in a retrievable form.
The only way to do that is to send it again again and again, to more and more locations – each time with more content.
We are going back to the Moon in coming years, and we hope to deliver a much larger Lunar Library 2.0 on that mission.
But beyond the Moon, we also have plans to send copies of our Earth Backup into other locations around the solar system, and to place them in locations on Earth, such as deep caves on every continent.
This is a story that is not over as I am still living out my present life.
As it happens, the dream I recounted above is the most amazing dream I ever had, but not the only one.
It is actually one of hundreds of “unusual” dreams that I have had, and documented privately, throughout my life, about many topics of interest.
Many of these dreams were about spiritual topics, but a few were about the future – including how exactly humanity will colonize Mars and what it will actually be like in the early stages of that grand evolutionary leap across a series of the first generations to do so.
Interesting stuff – but who knows if it will come true? What I can say, at least, is that I learned a lot from these dreams, and I still do.
I learned that there is a whole universe of experience beyond the waking state, where we can have experiences and develop as people. Perhaps we can learn or even receive information there as well. These dreams can even inform and guide our waking lives.
Who knows whether the world of the waking state is “all there is” — we spend half our lives asleep and a good portion of that is spent dreaming. A huge amount of our time alive takes place in something that is akin to another world – the world of dreams.
Consciousness is uncharted territory, and our civilization today is quite primitive when it comes to understanding how consciousness works and what it actually is. But if we look to the ancients for guidance, they viewed consciousness with reverence, and they experienced dreams as not merely illusions but as another layer of reality, one with just as much legitimacy as the waking state, or even more. It’s at least worth keeping an open mind and studying this phenomena scientifically.
Today, now at age 50, I look back on the first half of my life and what I’ve done, and where the world is today, and I see many parallels to my childhood dream:
- Strangely, I did end up working in science and technology in California.
- I also eventually started working on backing up civilization so it could survive some future apocalypse.
- And today we do see worrying environmental decline taking place around the world. It feels eerily familiar.
Were these predicted by my dream, or influenced by it? Could this be a self-fulfilling prophecy, or just the mind finding patterns in chaos where actually there really aren’t any?
Was my childhood dream prophetic, and will the things I saw come to pass? I hope not. I hope for a much easier transition from the civilization of today to that of the future – and I still believe that is possible.
I also take some comfort from my dreams of the future — not because of what happens in them, but because no matter what, in those dreams, humanity prevails.
There IS a future in which we survive to build a better world.
Difficulties can be seen as obstacles, or they can be seen as opportunities to grow, learn and evolve. The evolution of life on Earth advances not only through successes, but equally through failures.
A crash on the Moon is not merely a crash. It’s the start of the first treasure hunt on the Moon – an adventure! A future environmental collapse would be a tragedy we must work to prevent at all costs — but it may also be an unavoidable catalyst for evolutionary change that must happen for longer-term sustainability of something greater that we cannot imagine yet.
Nothing lasts forever. Lives end. Civilizations end. Worlds end. But after each ending, there is a beginning. There will be a new era of life on Earth, and another one after that – and perhaps they will each be better than what came before.
I know that in one lifetime or another, we will find our way.