sole artifact left to explain humanity March 30, 2020 9:59 AM   Subscribe

Regarding the recent one-man Godzilla film that was posted over on the blue, MCMikeNamara commented:
If this was the sole artifact left to explain humanity, it would be impossible to truly explain without the cultural context, but I honestly don't care and would happily nominate it to be the sole artifact to explain humanity.<>
Has me thinking what the rest of the community would choose, so let's open it up to debate. What would you choose as the sole artifact left to explain humanity? I'm thinking that MCMikeNamara is on the right track with this one-man Godzilla film. Stay safe everyone.
posted by Fizz to MetaFilter-Related at 9:59 AM (54 comments total) 6 users marked this as a favorite

Also, sending my thanks to MCMikeNamara for letting me open this up here on the grey.
posted by Fizz at 10:01 AM on March 30, 2020 [2 favorites]

”Ask him for his last name."


"I want a full name for my report. I'm not putting in my report that I lost a crew member on a deep-sat expedition to find an alien named "Jerry"."

-Movie 'Sphere'

or buzz aldrins shoe.
posted by clavdivs at 11:08 AM on March 30, 2020 [2 favorites]

One of those stress toys with a face on it where the eyes, ears, and tongue all pop out when you squeeze it.
posted by backseatpilot at 11:30 AM on March 30, 2020 [9 favorites]

All are pretty culturally specific, but I think I'm going with Komar, Melamid and Soldier's The Most Unwanted Song. I'm also tempted by snow globes and model train sets. More or less any of them.
posted by eotvos at 11:53 AM on March 30, 2020 [5 favorites]

A D&D Monster Manual.
posted by michaelh at 12:10 PM on March 30, 2020 [10 favorites]

The ICD-10 diagnostic code manual.
posted by paper chromatographologist at 12:12 PM on March 30, 2020 [9 favorites]

the instructions on a packet of toothpicks
posted by logicpunk at 12:14 PM on March 30, 2020 [7 favorites]

A copy of End of Evangelion that has ascended to godhood and been flung into deep space.
posted by J.K. Seazer at 12:41 PM on March 30, 2020 [4 favorites]

A single buttock
posted by aubilenon at 12:51 PM on March 30, 2020 [3 favorites]

posted by vrakatar at 1:20 PM on March 30, 2020 [12 favorites]

Jacque Torres hot chocolate mix.
posted by Splunge at 2:12 PM on March 30, 2020 [1 favorite]

An amphitheater. Shows approximate proportions of a person (via the sitting arrangements), and that we have a strong drive to watch each other. Shows that we build things. Shows that there are some things we want to see (on the stage) and some things we don't want to see (backstage, the bathrooms). Shows that we love being outside and being in the air, light, and weather, at least sometimes.
posted by amtho at 2:54 PM on March 30, 2020 [16 favorites]

My three top choices: Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy, the book; a video of a Weird Al concert; the last six episodes of Steven Universe Future (they're short: 66 minutes total).

Or if you wanted something to explain the fall of humanity, there's only one choice: The Art of the Deal.
posted by oneswellfoop at 4:40 PM on March 30, 2020 [4 favorites]

It should probably be something that represents Earth's leading civilization for the last two millennia, so I'd nominate Romance of the Three Kingdoms (三国演义).

If the aliens can't handle Earth languages, then throw in the anime version where all the main characters from the novel have been turned into young girls.
posted by zompist at 4:45 PM on March 30, 2020

The original “I can has cheezburger” lolcat or, failing that, L’Inferno.
posted by less of course at 6:25 PM on March 30, 2020 [1 favorite]

Our weirdest artifact: the Bible.
posted by justsomebodythatyouusedtoknow at 6:43 PM on March 30, 2020

Yeah I had other suggestions and then I actually watched the film and MCMikeNamara has it. That's the pinnacle of human achievement.
posted by brook horse at 6:47 PM on March 30, 2020 [3 favorites]

the "pwease mister obama" rp meme that ends with the "then perish" eyes
posted by poffin boffin at 7:46 PM on March 30, 2020 [3 favorites]

"Humanity" is a tall order. Perhaps "The Life of Brian."

The United States can be explained entirely by seasons 1-8 of The Simpsons.
posted by Slarty Bartfast at 8:57 PM on March 30, 2020 [7 favorites]

I remember seeing video of some college football game where the marching band comes out and forms up into a giant t-rex that marches itself across the field, and thinking, you know, if that somehow turned out to be all the aliens get of us, they could do a lot worse.
posted by jameaterblues at 9:59 PM on March 30, 2020 [3 favorites]

A landfill.
posted by Rob Rockets at 10:33 PM on March 30, 2020 [5 favorites]

Not an answer, maybe, and I apologize for the length. The question made me think of a part in the documentary Containment (2015), which looks at some of the work being done to warn humanity in the far future about the hazards of the nuclear waste we’re storing in the earth now. The speakers in this segment are part of the Waste Isolation Pilot Plant (WIPP) group of thinkers from all sorts of disciplines who are tasked with envisioning what the future could look like and creating warning markers to try to keep future site visitors safe (here in this previously, plus cats). I wasn’t able to identify one of the speakers when transcribing it:

Woody Sullivan (Astrophysicist, WIPP markers designer): When they asked me to be on this project, I was considering, "Do I really want to do this? Getting involved with nuclear waste and, you know, as a card-carrying Sierra Club member, is this something I should be doing?"

Jon Lomberg (Artist, WIPP markers designer): Maybe the right policy for our planet is to stop producing this stuff. By saying, "Here we've got a good site and we've come up with a marking system that'll warn everybody away from it,” were we in some way giving a green light to producing more nuclear waste?

Sullivan: And the answer I came up with is, the waste is there, we need to do something about it, and maybe I can help with that.

Michael Brill (Architect, WIPP markers designer): I was particularly touched by the fact that the government felt ethically responsible for 10,000 years into the future. We think of deep-space communication, we're sending probes all over the universe. This is the first time that we're trying to extend ourselves out in time.

???: The urgent issues that we face today I would say are more important than the well-being of people in the far future. But the future is important too, it's not an either/or. I think protecting either helps the other one.

Lomberg: Marking nuclear waste for 10,000 years was an unprecedented challenge. Nobody knew how to do it. I mean, we had everything from planetary geologists to cognitive psychologists and linguists and architects. And none of us could claim expertise 'cause it had never been done before. But arguably, the activity that was most analogous to it were projects involving communication with extra-terrestrials.

Sullivan: SETI, the Search for Extraterrestrial Intelligence, is one of the most abstruse enterprises you can think of. Looking for signals from aliens, I mean, it's really way out there. And when we purposefully send a message, like we did on the Voyager space craft, what do we send out? Well, we send out the best we have.

Frank Drake (Astrophysicist, WIPP markers designer): The extra-terrestrials will not understand our language. You could not use written text; it would be undecipherable. What does work: pictures work. At least we think they do. On the Voyager record, there's 115 pictures of earth, which I was in charge of, which to me is the heart of all that's on the Voyager because it's what describes us.

Lomberg: This was not just random pictures. There was a story that was told through the images, a portrait of our planet and of our species.

Drake: In the case of WIPP, the goal was just a very simple and very clear-cut one.

Brill: We have something horrible here, it's going to remain horrible for a long time, and we want you to know about it. There is a kind of time-capsule quality. We want you to know who we were and why we were here and what was important to us. And this project, at least, says what was important to us was you, 10,000 years away.

Lomberg: Space is so empty. The Voyager spacecraft will drift between the stars forever. It will outlive all of us, outlive our civilization, probably outlive our species. So we thought, "Let's put on the record, 'Earth on a good day.' Here's what human beings can do, here's some of the best of what human beings can do. This is how we'd like to be remembered." The WIPP marker contained a very different kind of message: it was a warning. We were warning the future. In fact, we were telling them about something that we should be the least proud of: our shortsightedness, our inability to always consider the consequences of our actions. We want to tell the extra-terrestrials the best of ourselves, but we need to tell our descendants something of what was worst about ourselves.

posted by vespertine at 11:09 PM on March 30, 2020 [13 favorites]

posted by bendy at 11:21 PM on March 30, 2020 [1 favorite]

With varying degrees of seriousness:

Don’t Hug Me I’m Scared

A coffee pot

The Immortal Game

The letters “CHA” carved into the moon
posted by Mister Moofoo at 2:13 AM on March 31, 2020 [4 favorites]

I'm becoming increasingly convinced that Donald Trump is a character from 1970s New York public access cable that just got out of control, like a low-rent Dame Edna Everage or Borat. It's possible that the person performing "Trump" doesn't even remember he's an actor any more. It's why "Trump" has so few human characteristics - can you imagine him reading a book, watching a movie, doing anything for pleasure except eating and desultory sexual congress? That's because he was invented in 1975 by an out-of-work actor to keep his friends entertained, declaiming nonsense while people giggle in a barely-suppressed way off-camera.

If I'm right, then "Donald Trump". If I'm not... something by Terry Pratchett. Small Gods, maybe.
posted by Grangousier at 6:06 AM on March 31, 2020 [6 favorites]

What would you choose as the sole artifact left to explain humanity? I'm thinking that MCMikeNamara is on the right track with this one-man Godzilla film.

Because I've been doing a Blue Oyster Cult deep dive of late, I'll opt for Godzilla the song -- this edit in particular.

because it has to be a monster movie
posted by philip-random at 11:03 AM on March 31, 2020 [2 favorites]

Sticking with my old answer to this, Spellbound (the documentary, not the Hitchcock).

But also I would like to see an ICD-10 Diagnostic Manual with D&D Monster Manual illustrations please
posted by miles per flower at 11:10 AM on March 31, 2020

One of those stress toys

Now called Panic Pete. It's not like the one I had as a kid; the pop-out parts are now hard.
posted by Kirth Gerson at 11:36 AM on March 31, 2020 [1 favorite]

18 pounds of cheese.
posted by Wordshore at 1:17 PM on March 31, 2020 [8 favorites]

in time-lapse.
posted by clavdivs at 1:49 PM on March 31, 2020 [1 favorite]

Building on amtho's answer, a video of an opera performed in an amphitheater. It shows the singers go to unusual lengths for their craft; what one of our stories was occupied with; and if it's a popular opera (I'm thinking The Barber of Seville) how our art was structured in terms of individual songs and acts.
posted by solarion at 2:04 PM on March 31, 2020

A seed bank. With everything from full-on GMO to tiny weird little heirloom landrace projects.
posted by aniola at 2:18 PM on March 31, 2020 [2 favorites]

Tbh I'm fine with that Godzilla film representing humanity. It's the best of us.
posted by betweenthebars at 2:48 PM on March 31, 2020 [2 favorites]

I'm thinking The Barber of Seville

Might I suggest the Bugs Bunny cartoon short "Rabbit of Seville" as a replacement. :-)
posted by Fizz at 3:12 PM on March 31, 2020 [2 favorites]

Angkor Wat.
posted by The Last Sockpuppet at 5:29 PM on March 31, 2020 [2 favorites]

posted by The Ardship of Cambry at 5:44 PM on March 31, 2020 [2 favorites]

posted by clavdivs at 6:52 PM on March 31, 2020 [1 favorite]

METAFILTER: A landfill.
posted by philip-random at 7:04 PM on March 31, 2020

A flint hand axe
posted by haemanu at 7:32 PM on March 31, 2020

A group statue, with a three year old standing by, while her mom gives birth, the new baby evident, set in a landfill.
posted by Oyéah at 8:45 PM on March 31, 2020

A cobalt warhead rigged with a proximity fuse.
posted by aramaic at 10:16 PM on March 31, 2020 [4 favorites]

A temple and its bell - you know, a purpose made structure to hold and shelter an enormous bell, and a suspended log for use as a clapper. The size and proportions would tell a lot about humans, and the bell could be tuned to a specific frequency to impart even more information. Similarly, the proportions of the building could also be designed to convey a secondary set of information (something noble and wise like, say, 'Get bent, fore-nurs!')
posted by From Bklyn at 1:31 AM on April 1, 2020 [2 favorites]

posted by Chairboy at 3:23 AM on April 1, 2020

I think this was actually answered once, back in the late 1970's. Might be hard to track down a compatible record player nowadays, though.
posted by jenkinsEar at 9:36 AM on April 1, 2020

I would think a smartphone, full of pictures and videos, silly games, a calendar, apps for doing daily chores. 15% charge left, laying next to a charging cord that doesn't match, and of course, zero bars.
posted by OHenryPacey at 10:31 AM on April 2, 2020 [1 favorite]

A movie—almost any movie—would be a good candidate. It shows that stories are important to us. That art is important. And that we can marshal a huge number of people and get them to work together in coordination to achieve a goal. Most movies also depict us in our environments, doing stuff.

What movie? I'm not sure, but my first impulse is to go with Singing in the Rain.
posted by adamrice at 6:56 PM on April 5, 2020

Update on Panic Pete. He's not durable. After about a week of normal use, his butt developed a tear, and now his pop-out function is entirely gone.
posted by Kirth Gerson at 4:54 AM on April 7, 2020

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