On 99% Invisible, Roman Mars looks at the Waste Isolation Pilot Plant, a place designed to store "radioactive byproducts from nuclear weapons manufacturing and nuclear power plants." The problem with radioactivity is that it takes a very, very long time before it's safe again. How do you tell people from the future not to go digging around the area?
Eventually, WIPP will be sealed up and left alone. Years will pass and those years will become decades. Those decades will become centuries and those centuries will roll into millennia. People above ground will come and go. Cultures will rise and fall. And all the while, below the surface, that cave full of waste will get smaller and smaller, until the salt swallows up all those oil drums and entombs them. Then, all the old radioactive gloves and tools and little bits from bombs –all still radioactive– will be solidified in the earth’s crust for more than 200,000 years. Basically forever.
Storing something safely forever is a huge design problem; in fact, the jury’s still out on whether WIPP has solved the basics of the storage problem at all. In February of 2014, a leak was detected at WIPP which exposed several workers to radiation and WIPP has been closed since. The Department of Energy now predicts that it could be up to three years before WIPP is fully operational again.
We know these facts because we can look them up and read the news in a shared language. The problem that the aforementioned panel was convened to address was how to communicate this information to people 10,000 years in the future.
|"Ta’u is not a postcard from the future, it’s a snapshot of what is possible right now."|
|“To pass a day without encountering some form of plastic is nearly impossible.”|
|“Sub-zero cost of electricity is becoming a reality for hundreds of hours in many markets.”|
|"The historical land of windmills is leading the charge in wind energy development."|
|"Why fertilising the ocean with iron is not such a crazy idea."|
|“Buying a new smartphone every two years is taking a toll on the planet.”|
|“Google and Facebook figured out how to commodify 'reality' itself by tracking what people do.”|
|“New York Central trains in the Hudson River valley in 1928 and 1929”|
|“The latest warning sign for cities who are considering signing over public spaces to major tech companies.”|
|“Scientific evidence that digital distraction is damaging our minds.”|
|The (Very Scary) People of Public Transit|
|How to Avoid Jury Duty|
|CaptchaTweet: Write Tweets in Captcha Form|
|“We need to make algorithms transparent, regulated, and forgiving of the flawed creatures that converse with them.”|
|"Waymo is reportedly planning to take the next step towards offering a commercial driverless car service in early December."|
|“Bias, error, and misuse of Artificial Intelligence technologies.”|
|“Forget reading the book of life—we’re now learning how to write it.”|