First of all, Congratulations. Not only did you, or your ancestors anyway, manage to survive the catastrophe that eradicated human civilization, but you also pulled yourselves up out of the muck of barbarism. You reading this inscription means that civilization’s rebirth is complete and scientific progress has advanced to the point of rediscovery of at least both scanning tunneling microscopy and pulsed inductive thrust. Since it is impossible to know from our perspective whether you are reading this days or centuries after it was retrieved, or whether it were robotic or human hands to pluck it out of its orbit, we will make no such presumptions and simply assume the reader is sitting comfortably in a soft chair with a warm cup of tea. If you are the scientist who is first to break the translation code accompanying this inscription, prepare to be astounded by the hidden history about to be revealed. If you are a student forced to read this as part of an overview of ancient historical texts, prepare to be equivalently bored.
Following this introductory inscription is the sum total of human knowledge. All the art, science, culture and history is contained in this quantum data construct. It is designed to be accessible to anyone with the knowledge and technology capable of accessing and reading this introduction, so do not be alarmed: you will have access to that trove of information. Of course, given the millenia that must have passed, it is likely to be little more than trivia to you and your civilization. Perhaps, though, hidden in all the esoterica of an age long in your past you can find some nugget of wisdom to make the mining worth the effort. At the very least, there are tens of thousands of recipes recorded herein. Something should satisfy.
Because all of that specific knowledge is found within, this introduction will not delve into the specifics of what came before the end. Instead, we decided to provide this introduction to prepare you in a more general sense for what you are about to discover. In short, it is this: humans are a messy, contradictory and ultimately fallible species that despite all our advances are still bound and limited by a collection of a few inescapable evolutionary adaptations. Equally, however, we are thoughtful and creative and loving and we are constantly striving to go beyond the limits with which we were created. Occasionally we overreach, though, which is of course how we got ourselves in our current predicament and why it is you are reading this at all. Don’t worry, we will not spoil the surprise here; you will have to read the entire story of our civilization to find out how it ends.
What we wish you — all of you, whoever reads this through the perpetuity of your own civilization — to know is the you were not the first. And what we — all of us here and now tasked with preparing this record — wish to believe is that we were not the last. Civilizations may rise and fall, brought to heel by cosmic impacts and man’s hubris, but unlike the previous masters of this Earth like the dinosaurs, we can see our doom and prepare in some small way to survive it. And if it should be that you, too, see the doom of your civilization coming, we ask you preserve this record along with your own.
The Council for the Preservation of the History of World Civilization
Council Chair-nations Atlantis, Lemuria and Mu
P.S. In the case that this record was discovered by a non-human civilization, please return it to its proper orbit after having copied the data.