"I suspect that religion is a necessary evil in the childhood of our particular species. And that's one of the interesting things about contact with other intelligences: we could see what role, if any, religion plays in their development."
This item is a data storage device, capable of storing all of the information in a planetary datasphere in just a very small (cubic inch) space. This item reminds me of the small USB data devices that plug into PCs for quick download and storage - this is basically how the device is used in the novel.
In the novel, the device is implanted in one of the characters as a storage device; the character cannot access the data.
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