msb ~023 Technofossils, fuel for thought

Technofossils — fuel for thought

Technofossil, Jared Farmer

In his contribution to the fascinating Future Remains, historian and geohumanist Jared Farmer discusses ‘technofossils’. Our technological remains last far longer than our personal relationships with these relentlessly multiplying gadgets, structures and infrastructures. Will probably outlast current civilisations. Possibly our species. And technofossils will not be just our artificial constructions; our (re)engineering of the biosphere is also a technological feat that leaves its mark for future archaeology. So, while long-forgotten subway tunnels — “worm tracks of mammoth size — might become sedimentary molds for locomotion traces”, just as telling a marker will be the distinctive layer of fossilised bones of trillions of broiler chickens, a “proxy for the ‘Great Acceleration’ of postwar global change.”

As Farmer suggests, the “main communicative mode of the Anthropocene is speculative,” and this form of future archaeology is, of course, anticipatory. We look for ourselves in our own traces, talk about ourselves through them. Our Anthropocene conversations between art and science are an ambivalent dwelling on (and in) the human and non-human. As physical metaphors, he suggests, technofossils — whether real artefacts, artworks, or imaginary acts — can reach into our thinking in ways that abstractions such as ‘climate change’, ‘fossil fuel reserves’ or ‘carbon footprints’ rarely manage.


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