Thursday, October 30, 2008

The Digital Twilight

I'm a little conflicted over whether to really worry about a "digital dark-age". One of the predictions of cosmology is that the universe will slowly drift apart until atoms become as large as galaxies; the cold death versus the big crunch. Eventually every form of human media and information will disappear. At the same time, I'm a historian and the collection and preservation of data is first among priorities. So you see the conflict here.
Even so, there's a good reason for worrying about the ability to read data from even a decade ago. The Y2K problem was made worse by the problems in reading the coding of systems built back in the 70s. It's not as if you need to continually transfer your data to the latest medium, but expecting a long-term back-up solution for digital data isn't in the cards. What you'll see is the same problem researchers of ancient Egypt had until the Rosetta Stone was discovered. Unless you can read the data it is worthless for all intents and purposes.
What might result from a digital dark-age? That's something I'm going to ponder for a while. With all of the ways civilization might end up back in the pre-industrial ages it is a necessary question. Too sleepy to give an answer right now though.