Scientists warn we’re entering a ‘digital dark age’…

Date: June 21, 2018

01) Scientists warn we’re entering a ‘digital dark age’

“We may [one day] know less about the early 21st century than we do about the early 20th century,” says Rick West, who manages data at Google. “The early 20th century is still largely based on things like paper and film formats that are still accessible to a large extent; whereas, much of what we’re doing now — the things we’re putting into the cloud, our digital content — is born digital. It’s not something that we translated from an analog container into a digital container, but, in fact, it is born, and now increasingly dies, as digital content, without any kind of analog counterpart.”

Computer and data specialists refer to this era of lost data as the “digital dark ages.” Other experts call the 21st century an “informational black hole,” because the digital information we are creating right now may not be readable by machines and software programs of the future. All that data, they worry — our century’s digital history — is at risk of never being recoverable.

Kari Kraus, an associate professor in the College of Information Studies at the University of Maryland in College Park and who helps run a project that rescues and resurrects digital relics, including video games and virtual worlds, knows about bit rot, and its close relative “software rot,” in which old files, games and other data becomes unusable because no format exists to read and reproduce the information.”

5 thoughts on “Scientists warn we’re entering a ‘digital dark age’…

  1. Yure

    Odd, SID files, from Commodore 64s, are still readable via emulation. Sure, they are not perfect, but hey, they are sound (or rather, code that is interpreted by the machine or emulator to produce the sound). I don’t think the same could happen with text that needs no emulation whatsoever. It’s more of a matter of keeping the compatibility and the archives.

    1. eqfoundation Post author

      That’s a good point…but I think part of the issue, is just how much content only exists in “electronic” format…

      …Imagine what would happen if we lost all electrical power, and there was nothing left to access this content on.

      Many of us…we don’t print our stuff out into paper copies…At best, we might burn it to disk…but commonly, we keep backups on external hard drives or flash drives…all of which can eventually fail, or be destroyed…or be corrupted…

      1. Yure

        That’s correct. But the last problem can be addressed by keeping files in different drives accross the world. The Internet was conceived so that a file can exist by being copied and shared. As for the apocalyptic scenario of losing power permanently, that feels, for me, like a more practical concern than data corruption, supposing that we keep uploading and downloading.

  2. Loudly

    Part of this is due to censorship (of all sorts — hate speech, revenge porn, copyright violation, publication of corporate or government or court secrets, etc.)

    The same new web that defeats censorship will also defeat those who would corrode (actively or passively) our human history. A community-based cloud project could lead to permanence. There are already systems that preserve information as long as one person, anywhere in the world, wants it to exist. However, the lack of anonymity means that if it is the government who is the censor, they can take off-web means to get the person to remove it. But this technology is young yet.

    1. eqfoundation Post author

      I’m looking forward to this new technology.

      I honestly don’t understand how “the cloud” is so terribly different from the regular web…but I look forward to learning.


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