What if most everything we are writing now in this information age is lost, forever? What will peoples centuries from now know about us? Those are the questions raised by Vint Cerf in a Newsweek article by Grant Burningham this week.
Vint Cerf is considered one of the fathers of the Internet and was a manager with the United States’ Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency (DARPA) in the late 1970s that developed the foundation for the Internet. Today he works at Google as its “chief internet evangelist” and is really a futurist, using his wide experience to help frame the future of Internet technology.
In the Newsweek article Cerf is quoted as saying, “I’m very concerned that digital content will be less and less accessible, not because we can’t find the bits, but because we don’t know what the bits mean.” In the upcoming decades, unless there are people consciously upgrading software and refreshing or converting the data on the web, valuable historical information will just disappear.
I think it also applies to our own personal and family histories. No one writes letters anymore and few people keep written diaries or written calendars. Photographs are digital. Photos and records on CDs degrade and eventually there will not even be software that can read that information. And, if the only family pictures are on Facebook, what happens to those photos in a few generations when no one has access to grandma’s account?
Cert also notes how we understand some periods of history because we discovered clay tablets. This makes me wonder what future peoples will know about us if a natural disaster hits earth and everything stored electronically is lost.
History in Granite. This made me think of Jacques-Andre Istel and his Museum of History in Granite. No eroding electrons or software upgrades to worry about there. Jacques is a fascinating man, who is a neighbor on our New Hampshire lake. Jacques was born in France, educated at Princeton, helped to popularize parachuting as a recreational sport, and is a larger than life figure. For the past 30 years he has been building the Museum of History in Granite, which is located in Felicity, California.
Located on the desert in southern Californian, near the Mexican border (Aerial picture here), the site contains hundreds of historical accounts engraved in granite with an expected life of 4,000 years.
This is article 173 for me and it is stored electronically on the web in some unknown, electronic corner of the world. I have noticed when I go back and explore some of my earliest articles that some of the links do not work, those sites or articles are gone. I guess this will be true of my writings someday and that may be a good thing.
Or maybe I should just back-up these articles in granite.