GitHub stored its code in an arctic vault it hopes will last 1,000 years

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Picture: Heiko Junge / AFP ((Getty Images)

If you published a project on GitHub before February 2, the fruits of your labor are now probably buried for a millennium in a frozen ark. Yesterday, the world’s largest source code repository ad that on July 8, she enshrined her archives under hundreds of meters of permafrost in an arctic vault, inside a chamber inside an abandoned mine inside a mountain, on the Norwegian archipelago of Svalbard, inhabited by a few thousand people and polar bears. In other words, immune to the strengths of real estate developers and influencers for the foreseeable future.

GitHub says that a snapshot of every active public repository and all dormant “significant” repositories, taken on February 2, 2020, was printed on 186 reels of 3,500-foot digital archival film, which are expected to last 1,000 years. (They even have look somewhat sacred.) GitHub ultimately plans to laser engrave all active deposits on quartz glass platters, to last over 10,000 years.

If this sounds familiar to you, it’s probably because GitHub has partnered with the Long Now Foundation, which is known for its Eternal Preservation projects such as its 10,000 year clock, still under construction, which is designed to tick for 10,000 years inside a mountain (on Owned by Jeff Bezos, after an investment of $ 42 million).

GitHub, an archive and living hive for open-source projects, contains plans to reconstruct and expand a digital landscape. A technologically equipped alien could theoretically hone their human programming skills using boot camp software hosted on GitHub and use GitHub data create a machine learning model to train a robot to write in the style of Shakespeare and maybe even transform the result into an animation. They can study our Programming languages, our arcane Operating systems, our application development frameworks, and our cryptographic libraries. Given the time and will, they could describe their findings on a WordPress Blog. If aliens never arrive, this could still prove useful for digital currency speculators, who stay calm knowing that the code for Bitcoin is immune to almost any disaster imaginable.

The aliens will have to read the instructions. The 21TB of data in the repository has been bundled into TAR files and will be QR encoded, so it may need to refer to GitHub’s human readable manual for “QR decoding, file formats, encodings from characters and other critical metadata ”.

The presumption and the hope, however, is that whoever finds this will have a computer; GitHub also listed each reel with a guide, like a readingme, defining the principles of the software. Before continuing to explain the context of the projects, GitHub adds a disclaimer on the technological universe required for conservation GitHub projects to work:

Reading, decoding, and decompressing this data will itself require considerable computation. In theory, this could be done without a computer, but it would be very tedious and difficult.

We expect you won’t need our definitions of software, computer, and other terms. We imagine you have your own computers, probably much more advanced than ours, and perhaps of a fundamentally different architecture. Once you understand the overview and guide below, you can easily access all the data.

However, it is possible that you have computers inferior to ours, or even no computers at all. In the case of this eventuality, we have prepared an uncompressed, uncoded, human-readable data reel that we call the Tech Tree. The Tech Tree contains information about our foundational technologies, computers and software, in the hope that over time you can use this knowledge to recreate computers that can use the open source software in this archive.

“The Tech Tree”, which GitHub described as “Rosetta Stone” for computing and software development, was printed on a separate human readable spool.

At this point, a post-apocalyptic letter to a future race does not sound scary at all. In the event of an immediate but non-apocalyptic disaster, GitHub is also archived by the Internet Archive, the Software Heritage Foundation, and the Bodleian Library.

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