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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, Interesting) by Covalent on Friday May 30 2014, @06:21PM

    by Covalent (43) on Friday May 30 2014, @06:21PM (#49232) Journal

    I do IT (unofficially) for my wife's small business. I always insist on having 3 copies of everything, including 1 offsite. For the first time (yesterday) one of my wife's onsite external hard drives died (click click goes the bad drive). She was worried...but I was able to quickly swap out a new drive and have her back to very safe operation in about 5 minutes.

    The answer here is exactly the same. Storage (even the massive amount required to backup the Internet with a capital I) is very cheap. Set up a foundation to archive this stuff, or better yet, just make another copy of the NSA's copy. :)

    As technology improves and changes, use software to update the old formats. This will never be perfect, but then our translations of ancient Greek, Latin, etc. aren't perfect either. Some data loss is inevitable, but minimizing it is relatively cheap and easy. I suspect this could be done for less than the budget of the NSA (ok ok, I'll stop).

    You can't rationally argue somebody out of a position they didn't rationally get into.
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  • (Score: 0) by Anonymous Coward on Friday May 30 2014, @06:48PM

    by Anonymous Coward on Friday May 30 2014, @06:48PM (#49243)
    • (Score: 2, Informative) by WillAdams on Friday May 30 2014, @06:52PM

      by WillAdams (1424) on Friday May 30 2014, @06:52PM (#49246)

      For a more personal version of this there's Archive Today: []

    • (Score: 1, Informative) by Anonymous Coward on Saturday May 31 2014, @12:53AM

      by Anonymous Coward on Saturday May 31 2014, @12:53AM (#49374)

      If a website has financial or other organizational problems and the domain is subsequently purchased by a competitor|enemy|lien-holder, that new owner can take the content offline or just use robots.txt to block access. religiously respects robots.txt.

      -- gewg_