In the world of Dinotopia, writer and artist James Gurney has ornithomimid dinosaurs act as scribes. These fleet-footed dinosaurs write down in sandboxes what other dinosaurs are saying by using their feet as stamps.
When I first read this, I found this odd. I wondered what type of culture endures when the items that are written down can be so quickly discarded. When the writings from any collection of individuals can be wiped away in an instant and therfore becomes unrecoverable by those who come after, what type of history and culture is shared by the next generation.
It was an interesting thought experiment to mull over when I first read Gurney’s work in 1998, but nothing more of it crossed my mind until recently.
Since the advent of email and Twitter, we do now live in an age of Gurney’s dinosaurs where the thoughts, feelings, and general musings of a whole collection of individuals can be discarded rather quickly. While those electronic ramblings may have been stored on servers and recoverable at one point, we are now in the age of Vanish, a software program that will make even those fleeting bits and bytes of recorded knowledge unobtainable by those who come after.
While my projected future above may not come true and we indeed do not become a culture writing in sand, I can forsee a future where the archivists, librarians, and historians of a later time will not have the thrill of discovery that this team had because there will be nothing to find.