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posted by n1 on Friday May 30 2014, @05:49PM   Printer-friendly
from the we-are-not-special dept.

As the world slowly moves towards a 100% digital existence, and increasingly consumes their information online, we run the risk of destroying our own legacy. Consider this hypothetical future narrative:

Historians are at a loss to explain the demise of the first pan-human civilisation, as although they agree that the populous dwindled and went almost extinct at around AD 3500, there seems to be no surviving written historical records that can be dated any later than circa AD 2000.

It can only be assumed that around this time, that there was a sudden uptake of illiteracy, maybe caused by a new religion or global-governmental policy. There are surviving references to an organization or group known as the Inter Nets. We can only guess at what this actually was, but the commonly accepted theory is that it was actually some type of wearable mesh harness that prevented humans of this era from actually writing anything down.

Sound ridiculous? I'm not so sure. As information is continually and fully migrated from the printed page and on to the Internet we lose the permanency that a book or ancient scroll brings. Paper and parchment when stored correctly can survive for thousands of years, and if not, the information held within can be transcribed in to replacement volumes when required. If it wasn't for the (well documented) fire that destroyed the Library of Alexandria we'd still have knowledge of the information that was contained there today.

I believe in freedom of information. It is just and correct that the common person has access to any fact or figure or historical data they require, and this access should be as easy as tapping or talking to a nearby terminal. However the downside of the digital age is that information storage has become transitory. What you were reading yesterday, may not be there today. Just try and search through the old news pages on many popular news websites and you will see how little of the actual news from previous days is preserved.

Ah, but the Internet will never die you say, it will be replaced by something bigger and better. This may be true but will all the information stored on Internet v1.0 be transferred to Internet v2.0? I doubt it. Cataclysmic events have wiped out civilisations many times before, and are sure to do so again. Without proper off-line information preservation everything we know could easily be lost to future civilisations.

Unmaintained, the infrastructure that supports and provides the Internet has a lifespan of less than 10 years, which means after the collapse of civilisation the data held on most of the web servers is unlikely to be accessible after a decade or so. Compare that to the many thousands of printed volumes in our great public libraries which will survive for many hundreds of years if stored under the right conditions. We need to keep adding to these physical archives if only to preserve the memory of who we were.

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  • (Score: 3, Insightful) by bob_super on Friday May 30 2014, @06:20PM

    by bob_super (1357) on Friday May 30 2014, @06:20PM (#49231)

    The fundamental problem we have is not about saving information. We do way too much of that.

    The problem is whether any future entity would ever be able to read it.
    We can make hard copies of some critical stuff (0.001% ?), which will last well over a thousand years. But the technological understanding to access it is higher than anyone had access to from the dinosaurs until ten or twenty years ago.
    And courtesy of IP and paranoia, you'd better find the stone tablet with the 4096-bit crypto key, too. I'm sorry but the tablet is in another castle.

    Feel free port all that information onto plain-language stone/parchement/archival paper, be called a nutjob, not afford the warehouse climate control bills, and get no return of your investment (therefore being defunded to make next quarter's targets)

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  • (Score: 0) by Anonymous Coward on Friday May 30 2014, @06:44PM

    by Anonymous Coward on Friday May 30 2014, @06:44PM (#49241)

    some critical stuff

    What we consider critical may be garbage to them. What our 'garbage' is they my find fascinating. For example we throw away every advert we can find. Yet maybe they will find it fascinating?

    What is critical?

    • (Score: 2) by egcagrac0 on Friday May 30 2014, @06:58PM

      by egcagrac0 (2705) on Friday May 30 2014, @06:58PM (#49248)

      We're trying to do them a favor.

      Yes, they'll find lolcats and doges fascinating, but I don't think that's how we want our generation to be remembered.

      • (Score: 1) by Joe Desertrat on Sunday June 01 2014, @02:32AM

        by Joe Desertrat (2454) on Sunday June 01 2014, @02:32AM (#49789)

        We're trying to do them a favor.

        Yes, they'll find lolcats and doges fascinating, but I don't think that's how we want our generation to be remembered.

        Sadly, that is probably more representative of our culture than the average viewer of this site would admit. We are garbage producers, garbage is our greatest cultural artifact. I believe the largest man made object on earth in cubic volume now is the Fresh Kills landfill on Staten Island.