Exploring longevity of digital data, and formats, and how future generations would perceive us
Vinton Cerf, one of the founders of the internet, is echoing something that I have been concerned about for a long time: We are going backwards.
Over the millenia, humans have collected and catalogued the accumulated knowledge of civilization in libraries. These knowledge depots are of the utmost importance for us to learn about the preceding generations. How they lived, what they ate, why did they go to war, and against whom, what poetry, songs and music did they have, what did they wear, what their dwellings looked like, and much more.
Matt Owen has a good article on Importance of Information Preservation. I agree with the article, and the risk of severe information and knowledge loss is real. See my comment on the article.
Like I have said before, digital media and file formats will be a serious challenge in the future.
Dr. Jerome P. McDonough of the University of Illinois Urbana-Champagne (UIUC) warns of a digital dark age because of digital media not being as resilient as physical media. He teaches graduate studies on Library and Information Science.
A very good article indeed.
The CBC is reporting on how digital media is unstable compared to older media. This is also discussed on Slashdot.
Popular Mechanics has an extensive article titled The Digital Ice Age. It discussed how present information can be lost for future generations.Also discussed on Slashdot.
Here is another worrying statistic with implications on the distant future.As many as one third of users of digital cameras do not back up their photos. If the ancient Egyptians or Greeks did not build their temples of stone, and used perishable materials, what would our extent of knowledge of them be? At least we have the other two thirds ...
Regarding the Indian Ocean Tsunami of December 2004, one has to notice that the level of detail that the rest of the world had of this crisis is amazing compared to other natural disasters.One reason in my opinion is that many "normal" people own gadgets such as digital cameras and video camcorders. The people on the scene were able to take photos and footage of the disaster as it was happening.
This page lists some successful digital archeology "digs" or "excavations", where old software or hardware, or both were revived
In my Introduction to Digital Archeology article, I discussed how our present state of society and civilization would be perceived by future generations of digital archeologists.In this article, you will find a collection of links on how best to preserve digital information in its various forms.