Google’s vice president, Vint Cerf, warned that it’s high time we started preserving the enormous amount of digital information before it’s too late and we may lose it forever. He explained that the 21st century could easily turn into a second “Dark Ages.” Technology is evolving so fast that in the near future chances are that we will no longer be able to access our information due to incompatibility issues.
“We stand to lose a lot of our history. If you think about the quantity of documentation from our daily lives which is captured in digital form, like our interactions by email, people’s tweets, all of the world wide web, then if you wanted to see what was on the web in 1994 you’d have trouble doing that. A lot of the stuff disappears,”
Cerf explained during a conference in San Jose, California.
The first steps humanity took as far as the digital era is concerned are likely to be lost for future historians, Mr. Cerf explained the American Association for the Advancement of Science during its annual meeting. He encouraged the development of a “digital vellum,” meant to preserve old hardware and software so that files that are out-of-date can easily be recovered despite their date of provenience.
People are storing everything from music, photos and emails onto their personal hard drives, but the ever-developing technology will make it harder and harder to access the files through newer programs and hardware devices.
Just think of floppy disks and audio tapes that are in good condition but most people are no longer able to access due to their not having the required hardware anymore. As far as old civilisations are concerned, one only needs a pair of eyes in order to access any kind of information available as they are by excellence written on cuneiform on baked clay tablets, or on rolled papyrus scrolls, or on cave walls.
Cerf used an analogy of a classic example of valuable document recovery, explaining the fact that historians have learned how Archimedes, one of the greatest mathematician of antiquity, regarded the concept of infinity and how he anticipated calculus back in 3BC just by finding his palimpsest hidden under the words of a Byzantine prayer book dating from the 13th century.