Wikipedia’s Survival Plans

Note – smart survivalists have their own backup of Wikipedia – cheap, portable, batteries last a long time – it’s called WikiReader. I have several at my safe spot, because they only cost $12.


Unsurprisingly, the greatest repository of knowledge in history – Wikipedia – has a backup plan. Fortunately a single act of violence will not destroy it, like the Library of Alexandria.

Unlike most governments, Wikipedia takes extinction level events seriously:

An imminent extinction level event initiated by a full-scale global thermonuclear war, asteroid impact, stellar gamma ray burst, a drastic increase or decrease in the Sun’s power output, abrupt reorientation of the planet’s axis of rotation or other event that would likely lead to the termination of human biological activity.

Clearly the remedy isn’t to print the entire encyclopedia onto diamond disks (see below). The answer is plain paper:

Following the implementation of the level 2 warning, editors are expected to commence the transfer of the encyclopedia to other media. As an immediate measure, it is suggested that editors print as many articles as possible, with due regard to any personal safety concerns that may be faced in these extraordinary events.

However laborious this approach may seem, editors are asked to bear in mind that transfer to electronic media, such as CD, DVD or memory stick, while quicker, would defeat the purpose of this policy. It is probable that following an event of sufficient magnitude to cause these protocols to be activated, that it will be unlikely that electrical power supply will be maintained for long and once gone, it may be a matter of decades before power is restored. Moreover, if the technological level is substantially reduced, people may lack the ability to read current digital formats. Editors are urged to consider data storage techniques from a long-term perspective.

Attention should be paid to the manner of storage of articles once printed. Over the medium-term, copies of articles can be stored in suitable air-tight containers in a temperature controlled environment. However, over the longer term, even material stored in this manner will deteriorate so editors should consider a subsequent transcription to a medium such as vellum, which if prepared correctly, has an expected lifetime of centuries.

It is not expected that Wikipedia editors will manage to print all 4 million articles. Most editors will be attending to more personal matters, I presume. It is suggested that alongside practical articles of a survivalist nature, articles of high cultural significance should be saved first.

Meanwhile at a Wikimedia server facility a more sturdy physical backup will be made. Not diamond disks – alloy plates!

In parallel with the procedures outlines above, implementation of an alternative strategy will be undertaken at the Wikimedia server facility. On the implementation of the TEMP protocol, a laser etched version of Wikipedia will be created using plates of a resilient alloy to store miniaturized versions of every page.

This version will be stored in a vault in a geologically stable area. While this method precludes easy access to the encyclopedia, it will ensure that an accurate historical record of Wikipedia will exist for generations of the far-future once a sufficient level of technology is regained by the human race to access the information.

I would have thought the etching wouldn’t be achievable in just an hour or two…

And finally, if all of mankind is doomed, we will still attempt to send the data to our alien friends:

If it is deemed to be probable that an extinction level event will occur shortly, this data shall be transmitted from the world’s radio telescopes to the 300 nearest stars and to the centre of the galaxy for as long as possible.

I do have a criticism – these plans seem missing a more obvious solution. Have some high-speed printers set up at locations around the world, with software to co-ordinate the printing of every article. The world’s fastest laser printers can reach 200 pages per minute. That’s 12,000 pages in one hour. Perhaps two articles could be squeezed onto each page. That’s 1/160th of the entire encyclopedia.

Of course we don’t want or need all 4 million articles to be printed. Software could remove articles that are rarely visited, alongside those about people and businesses who aren’t well-known. You could determine that by how much cross-linking occurs within Wikipedia. Likewise geographical articles.

Alternatively, the task could be crowd-sourced – ask editors if an article is important enough to be preserved.

If they reduced the “must keep” articles to 500,000, then just 10 high-spreed printers at each location could print the lot in 2 hours.

Or, store one printer and computer in each location, within a Faraday cage, in a bunker. Have a backup generator, and then just set it to print at the push of a button, or even triggered remotely. And make sure there’s lots of space for the pages to pile up!

One comment

  1. I think they should start now and print a few articles a day and put in plastic storage containers in alphabetical order. Start with the most rare articles. This will be the cheapest and surest way to save the info.

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