For those of you who have never heard of them before, I should clarify that there are two kinds of future-archaeologists – antespective and postpective. It is, of course, naturally impossible to meet a postpective future-archaelogist, for the simple fact that they do not exist. And, in much the same way that it will never be tomorrow, no-one will ever actually be a postpective future-archaeologist, except in relative terms. Naturally, then, my meeting was with an antespective future-archaeologist.
Dr Gradden was kind enough to show me around his laboratory, and, as I am sure you can imagine, it is much like most archaeology labs; scrupulously clean workspaces littered with an array of peculiar tools and deceptively unremarkable artefacts. He presents one of these to me: a seemingly uninteresting lump of metal.
“This is a piece of titanium from a dig site in the Ukraine. Part of a fairly rich deposit, actually. Like all the artefacts, it will, naturally, be returned once we’ve finished studying it. This particular piece will become part of the SS Godwin’s Law, one of the medium-cruisers in the 3rd Battalion fleet that will be launched in the closing days of the Second Moon War. A rather interesting conflict, actually. One of the first to perhaps truly defy that old adage that ‘all wars are but wars of trade’…” Gradden continued for some time on a fairly dry academic exposition of the causes of the war, from which I will spare you, before I could steer him back to the business of future-archaeology. I ask him how one goes about finding out the fate of an artefact.
“Well, there was a time that it required a certain amount of speculation, and, frankly, guesswork. There were of course, some embarrassing misinterpretations – the Australian Uranium deposit that Artner was convinced would be ignited over half the cities of the world during World War III, but which we now know will be the principal power source for the sky-city of New Sydney – which, in a way, makes him not entirely wrong. Then, of course, there was the clay deposit that Hammerstein was convinced would become the ceramic uber-computer powering the New-Earth Life-Exchange, but which is currently a series of toilets at the Watford Junction tube station. However, these days, technology allows us to be far more accurate – inverse carbon dating is fantastically precise. And, of course, there’s that.” He points to a small, sleek looking computer terminal in the corner of his lab.
I ask him what it is, and he responds as though it were the most obvious thing in the world. “A Haecceitic spectrum analyser, of course. Most important tool in a future-archaeologist’s arsenal.”
I ask him to explain what it does. “The core idea comes from the 13th century philosopher, Duns Scotus – Haecceity is the essence of something, those bits of it which make it it, and not something else. As Leibniz subsequently surmised, an object’s Haecceity ‘includes once for all everything which can ever happen to it…‘ all the analyser does, then, is find those parts of the object in question’s Haecceity which include its future, as opposed to its past; which is what most people see when they look at something. If you imagine a paint tin, with a few spots of rust on it – most people would say it was just that; the Haecceitic analyser, however – if it could talk – would say that it saw rust, with a bit of paint-tin still stuck to it. The rust is the future of the paint-tin, and so, to the analyser, the principal object. Humans, on the other hand, see things in the reverse – to us, it is the past object which is the principal.” When I ask him how it works, however, he is less certain. He shrugs. “Something to do with quantum. No one really knows. I suppose we can ask the man who invented it – he’ll be born next spring.”