The planet is doomed. People are heading to their bunkers, carrying tins of food, bottled water and every episode of Man vs. Wild. Unless you’re a dedicated Wikipedia editor, in which case you’ll be diligently printing out the article for Animal Husbandry — among others — in an effort to preserve a portion of humanity’s knowledge on non-electronic media.
Or so dictates Wikipedia’s “Terminal Event Management Policy”, a humorous (and completely fictitious) look at how the online encyclopaedia might be saved in the event of a global catastrophe.
The article begins with the disclaimer “This page is intended as humor. It is not, has never been, nor will ever be, a Wikipedia policy or guideline.”, though without this warning, it might take you a few paragraphs to come to the realisation that it’s, well, not serious.
In fact, it’s not until the section on “Data preservation techniques and procedures” that you get your first hint that not all is as it seems:
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.
Hmm… the world is exploding and your first duty is to… print out Wikipedia. As long as it’s safe, of course.
Even that’s not enough, however:
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.
Vellum? How romantic.
If you’re still under the impression it’s an official policy, then the following line towards the end of the article should blow that out of the water:
This data is compressed using the highly efficient Honda-Beech data compression method, which compresses the data by a ratio of up to 1,000,000:1.
Entropy called… it wants to have a few words.
And, finally, here’s the clincher:
The message will be accompanied by a short video message by Wikipedia co-founder Jimmy Wales, and images required for the re-creation of fundraiser banners.
What would a post-apocalyptic world be without Jimmy “Creepy Eyes” Wales?