The Intelligent Data Management Blog

The First Golden Record

In 1977, the NASA launched two space probes (the Voyager spacecrafts) to study the outer Solar System and eventually interstellar space.The two spacecrafts embarked, and still fly as of today away from us, with legendary items called the Golden Records.

The Golden Record - Image from NASA

Each Golden Record was a 12 inch gold-plated copper phonographic disc, created in the event that either spacecraft was ever found by extraterrestrials.
The content of these records was selected by a committee chaired by Dr. Carl Sagan of Cornell University. They included, among others:

  • Pictures, including a Solar Location Map, some Mathematical Definitions, a Fetus Diagram, a Monument Valley photo and a picture of a Man from Guatemala.
  • Greetings in several languages including ancient Akkadian and Aramaic.
  • Sounds of TrainsDogsmother and child kissing and a chimpazee (?).
  • Music samples, including 3 pieces from Bach, 2 from Beethoven, 1 from Mozart and Johnny B. Good by Chuck Berry.

This "bottle launched into the cosmic ocean" as Carl Sagan defined it, is a very touching thing as it reminds us how small we are in this big universe.
While reviewing the content of the golden records, few things came to my mind:

  • The responsibility of the committee members who made this selection.
  • The small volume of data allowed on the disk (Come one! Engraved analogic data!).
  • Then a question: What was the point?

Well, this golden record was intended to communicate a story of our world to extraterrestrials. The content, as well as the structure were carefully selected to tell a certain story of our world in a precise way.

Today, in the data management field, we hear that it is the Golden Record is not a finality and sometimes that it does not exist. We also hear that technology does not matter and that Data Management is closely tied to Data Governance.

What was true in 1977 is still true today in Data Management:

  • Governance is the root for Data Management and (eventually) golden records: The men who decided the content of this golden record were I believe the first Data Governance team. If voyager meets anyone out there, this record might decide our fate.
  • Technology matters: In 1977, there were no digital data, CD or DVDs. The phonographic disk format was not a random choice, just the best at hand.
  • A Golden record is not the truth, but A certain version of the truth: According to the NASA's Golden Records, our story includes science, sport, art, people, nature, animals and even "Rush hour traffic in India", but there is no obvious mention of "violence, weapons or war".
  • Golden Records are not a finality, but a very important medium to tell a story and reach the real goal.

Since 1977, we all hope that these Golden Records are just the beginning of a great adventure.