So if we are writing for 2506, what must we conclude from the picture that we drew of that age?
- Language: Write in English. Nine out of ten of your words should be words that Shakespeare used which are still in use in 2006.
- Knowledge of History: Assume a general knowledge of history, but not one that is necessarily true and complete.
- General Knowledge: Assume a knowledge of any person, place or thing that existed in both 1506 and 2006 in the West. Do not assume a knowledge of other things.
- Modesty: Do not write anything that could not be read aloud in the presence of children.
- Form: Do not assume that blogs will still exist. Write something that could be put in the form of a book.
First, we cannot predict which language we ought to write in. No one in 1506 would have known that English would have been best for 2006. The same goes for us and 2506. But English will still be around, even if it is no longer a world language. So it is a safe choice.
We can apply the Abagond Principle not just to history but even to words. We can assume that words that existed in 1506 and still exist in 2006 will still be known in 2506. We can use other words, but their meaning must be made clear somehow. I think that if we stick to words that Shakespeare used we will be on very safe ground: he wrote in 1600 not 1506, true, but even if English became a dead language, there would be someone somewhere who would know the English of Shakespeare — if only to translate him into Tamil, Urdu or whatever the imperial tongue turns out to be.
For a reader to make sense of what he is reading, he has to already know at least nine words out of ten. So if at least nine out of ten of our words are from Shakespeare, then we are safe. This was true, by the way, for most of what was written in English up until about 1950. After that the level of education rose in the English-speaking world and people started writing in a style that included a lot more Greek and Latin words. Most of these words entered English after Shakespeare — chiefly in the seventeenth and twentieth centuries.
Knowledge of History
They will know the history of our time, at least in outline, but, given the way history is written, they will be ignorant on many points and lied to about others. So assume a general knowledge of history, but one that will have truths, half-truths, lies and outright holes in it.
Also: There is absolutely no way anyone living in 2506 can match your knowledge of 2006. True, they know how it all turned out, but they are not breathing it and living it.
We can assume that they will know about anything that existed in both 1506 and 2006 since these things will probably still exist in their time: falling in love, living in cities, war, empire, Paris, China, Islam, Christianity, the Bible, Cicero and so on.
For the same reason we cannot assume that they will be familiar with what has arisen since 1506, such as political freedom, the rights of man, television and pizza. They will know little about our food, drink, dress or music. Or care.
There is no way to know which current authors (if any) that they will be familiar with, so stick with the tried and true. Even though Shakespeare came after 1506, I think it is safe to say they will know him. But I would not put my money on any other author who wrote since 1506.
Science and invention: This will not interest them, outside of a handful of professors: whatever they have will be so much better, not to mention that they will probably find religion more interesting.
It is safe to say their modesty in dress, manners and words will be greater than ours. Not only because they will be more religious, but also because our modesty is very low from the point of view of history. So it is unlikely they will be worse.
But that means that we must be careful: while we must always speak the truth, we must not let the immodesty of our own times corrupt the way we express it.
Last of all, do not assume that blogs will still exist. Blogs do not pass the Abagond Test for 2506. Books do. So write something that could take the form of a book. Adding pictures and links is fine, but what you write should be able to stand on its own without them. Text is easier to copy and store than pictures. Links are even worse: unless they link to your own content, they are unlikely to be good for more than a year, if that.
– Abagond, 2006.