World Store

There was an article last year in the New York Times about a California start-up called Inversion that wants to “speed delivery of important items by storing them in orbit.”

[Image: Collage by BLDGBLOG.]

Their goal is to build “earth-orbiting capsules”—“hundreds or thousands of containers”—that could “deliver goods anywhere in the world from outer space.”

The company’s founders imagine the capsules could store artificial organs that are delivered to an operating room within a few hours or serve as mobile field hospitals floating in orbit that would be dispatched to remote areas of the planet.

Purely in terms of this logistical vision, I’m reminded of a DARPA proposal called the “Upward Falling Payloads” program. For that, critical goods, including weapons and war-fighting materiel—but, why not, perhaps also emergency organs for frontline surgery—could be stored underwater, in the middle of the ocean, using “deployable, unmanned, distributed systems that lie on the deep-ocean floor in special containers for years at a time. These deep-sea nodes would then be woken up remotely when needed and recalled to the surface. In other words, they ‘fall upward.’”

Whether or not either one of these plans is technically feasible is less interesting to me than the underlying idea of caching valuable objects in remote locations for later recovery. The world would become a series of hiding spots for artifacts and tools of potential future importance, the Earth reengineered for its archival utility.

Perhaps the Anthropocene is really just a world denuded of its ecological functions, all life other than human vacuously replaced by landscape-scale storage facilities housing just-in-time detritus—the psychosis of a species surrounded only by things it can store and retrieve at will.

6 thoughts on “World Store”

  1. From Lost in the Barrens, by Farley Mowat, published in 1956:

    “In a sheltered hollow by the riverbank below them was the unmistakable debris of a campsite. Wild with excitement, the boys scrambled down to what had been Denikazi’s first camp on the river during his journey north. The boys found many signs to indicate that the camp was not very old, but what really filled them with joy was the discovery of a little cache containing some dry fish, some tea, and a little bag of flour. Obviously this food had been intended for the homeward journey, and the fact that it was still untouched seemed to prove that Denikazi was still somewhere to the north.”

  2. I once went on a wine tour in Provence. The vintner explained that any wine they can’t sell is stored in their cellar to try to sell it in later years. It’s not a sign of quality, it’s not their real intention, it’s just old unsold stock.

    Yet people pay to build wine cellars, to keep their own fine wines at the perfect temperature for just the right amount of decay! They store their wines like they’re precious and will increase in value. Investments not beverages. There are actual companies that make actual wine cellars and actual wine fridges because people have been sold on the idea that unsold stock is fine aged luxury!

    I think Inversion would be better making “Pringle fridges”, that can store uneaten Pringles to create vintage chips, complete with complex flavors of decay and moulds. “Here’s a 2012 Sour Cream, its considered one of the finest Pringle years, a real taste of luxury, but only for the discerning palate!”

    People eat old MRE’s for the experience, perhaps they’ll eat old Pringles.

    Oh and welcome back.

    1. As a kid in the 80’s I somehow ended up with a couple cases of Vietnam era C-rations. They made playing soldiers in the field behind my house very realistic.

  3. You have to love the “we’re serving humanity” rhetoric.
    “We’ll be dropping artificial organs where they’re desperately needed, we swear! And also Boston Dynamics murderbots. Actually, only those. Please give us the defense contract we’re asking for here.”

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