Our history is full of doomsday prophecies. Statistics show that they are wrong to about 100%, and that seems to be accurate as we still are here. 🙂 Vint Cerf is not that pessimistic when predicting a digital dark age. His doomsday only affects our data, but that’s scary too. So what is this all about and how does it affect us ordinary mortals?
Mr. Cerf is reminding us about one of the fundamental challenges in electronic data processing. The technology is still very young and sometimes unreliable. A special problem is the longevity of storage media. A traditional photographic print can last several hundreds of years and the oldest preserved writings are thousands of years old, but electronic data media longevity is measured in tens of years. And on top of that comes the rapid technology development that can make media incompatible before it breaks. Digital storage may become a black hole, you put things there but get nothing out. This could lead to a dark era from which we have almost no digital memories, according to him. But how realistic is this horror scenario? Let’s fill in some points that Mr. Cerf left out.
So to wrap up. Yes, the digital revolution brings new challenges that we need to be aware of. But luckily also good tools to deal with them. Digital storage will no doubt lead to personal data loss for many persons. Disks crash every day and data is lost. So there is a true risk that digital storage leads to a personal dark age for you, unless you handle your data right.
But there’s absolutely no need to talk about a digital dark age in a broader sense. Historians will easily get enough information about our society. It doesn’t matter if some of us have lost our files, there’s still plenty to work on. Actually, data overload will be a more likely problem for them.
Good news. The sky is not falling after all!
(* This is assuming that you keep your files on the computer. These problems will become real if you archive files on external media, store it away for later use and remember them some 20 years later.
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