What Item Would You Put in a Time Capsule to Help the Next Century Understand Our Current Moment?

A big question

Graham Roumieu

Yrsa Daley-Ward, poet, model, and author, The Terrible

An app-heavy iPhone: I’d have open Tinder, Instagram, Grindr, a WhatsApp group conversation about inclusivity and representation in the media, Trump’s Twitter page, and an Uber Eats order of some vegan sushi.

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Mitch Landrieu, New Orleans mayor and author, In the Shadow of Statues

A smartphone—they’ve revolutionized the way we communicate, and made life easier in many ways. But because they have made communicating about news and pop culture easier, we’ve forgotten how to have civil discussions.

Justin Baldoni, actor, Jane the Virgin, and co-founder, Wayfarer Entertainment

An iPhone, because it represents the best and worst of humanity. We’ve seen how amazing and how destructive these phones—and all that come with them, like social media—can be. I’d also include a few signs or photos from the recent marches, as unifying symbols in such polarizing times.

Jasmin Darznik, author, The Good Daughter and Song of a Captive Bird

This is a time of reckoning and redemption for women worldwide. The veil represents both our plight and our progress—a simple cloth with complex meanings in such a complicated time. Whether we cast it aside in defiance of autocratic regimes or wear it to free ourselves from sexual objectification, the veil speaks to women’s insistence on civil liberties and human rights.

Debra Lee, chairman and CEO of BET Networks

I would put in a “Time’s Up” pin to reflect this pivotal time where women have found their voice to speak out against harassment, abuse, and inequality. I would also include a copy of Black Panther, not only to represent Hollywood’s treating an African story with grace and care, but also to celebrate the film’s dispelling the long-held myth that black movies don’t attract a global audience.

Graham Roumieu

Randi Zuckerberg, author, Pick Three

A handy-dandy 2018 toolbox—complete with a voter-registration card, a hammer for smashing glass ceilings, a thesaurus for soldering better words and phrases than literally and I can’t even, a shovel for digging out of the mess we’re leaving, and the Hamilton soundtrack for fixing bad moods!

Reader Responses

Graham Roumieu

Hillary Raphael, Montreal, Quebec

A fidget spinner. The emblem of our distracted minds and sedentary bodies will likely appear uncommonly tactile to our screen-integrated descendants.

Michael Martin Mills, Philadelphia, Pa.

Ten full tax returns, each representative of a decile of income in the United States.

Dan Fredricks, Janesville, Wis.

An AK-47 assault weapon, the international symbol for the current rampant military and civilian violence and death.

Howard Gardner, Cambridge, Mass.

I’d insert an illustration of crispr, which allows the editing of stretches of DNA. This confluence of biological and computer code could usher in a new chapter of Homo sapiens.

Sara Walker, Cedar Rapids, Iowa

I would put in hospital bills for typical ER visits, along with paycheck stubs for the people who incurred the bills. I’d like the future to know how much health care costs as a percentage of our income in 2018. I hope that in 100 years, bankruptcies from health care will be a forgotten relic.

Peter Delametter, Colorado Springs, Colo.

Our current political and cultural environment of inequality, hate, and inaction is best forgotten. An empty time capsule would represent the quality of ideas we are passing on to the next century.

Want to see your name on this page? Email bigquestion@theatlantic.com with your response to the question for our July/August issue: What book or article would you make required reading for everyone on Earth?