I guess this is the day of big thoughts 🙂 “How secure is our civilization’s accumulated knowledge?” This is the question mulled over by Richard Heinberg in his essay Our Evanescent Culture and the Awesome Duty of Librarians. [copy of article here] “Ultimately,” Heinberg writes,
the entire project of digitized cultural preservation depends on one thing: electricity. As soon as the power goes off, access to the Internet goes down. CDs and DVDs become meaningless plastic disks; e-books become inscrutable and useless; digital archives become as illegible as cuneiform tablets — or more so. Altogether, digitization represents a huge bet on society’s ability to keep the lights on forever . . . . It’s ironic to think that the cave paintings of Lascaux may be far more durable than the photos from the Hubble space telescope. Altogether, if the lights were to go out now, in just a century or two the vast majority of our recently recorded knowledge would be gone or inaccessible.
This isn’t just an idle thought experiment. With GPO, FDLP libraries, Google, Internet Archive etc actively engaged in and/or planning for massive digitization of the historic record of the US govt.
Matt Cardin of The Teeming Brain expounds on Heinberg’s essay and makes some good points in “Zombies, Digital Media, and Cultural Preservation in the New Dark Age”.
[Thanks for the tweet about this ArchivesNext!]
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