Google vice-president Vint Cerf has made it abundantly clear this week that our digital media is not safe.
In a world where everything has become available in a digital format, it is easy to forget what those simple yet nostalgic print days were all about. We no longer file invoices in physical space, we simply drag and drop them from our desktop to a little folder where they can live happily ever after. They’ll always be recoverable and will always be there when we need them, right?
No, not right according to Vint Cerf, a ‘father of the internet’ and current vice-president at Google. This week, he has declared we should all be a little more careful and less optimistic about our digital future.
“We are nonchalantly throwing all of our data into what could become an information black hole without realising it,” he claimed. Truck-loads of digitised materials such as tweets, videos, blogs, emails and important documents such as court rulings could be lost forever as the programmes needed to view them become defunct.
We only need to look back at the tape, CD and iPod to realise how quickly things change. Frustrating as it is to constantly have technology moving on us, we are still managing to keep our family photos or home videos alive by switching them from technology to technology, but when do we hit that brick wall? Will we lose some of our most valuable possessions in this impending digital black hole?
Today’s historians can understand what civilisation looked like thousands of years ago through wall carvings and written papers. We have to be careful that, with our digital world, all this doesn’t get us lost. Remember the ice age? We could become the black hole age! As a generation, so much of what we do is kept online that if the internet were to crash, historians of the future would not know nearly half as much about us.
Cerf went on to say that “we don’t want our digital lives to fade away. If we want to preserve them, we need to make sure that the digital objects we create today can still be rendered far into the future.”
He is right of course. Calling for the worlds best technical experts to stick their heads together and come up with a solution can’t be a bad thing, although none of us miss the days of offices bursting with stacks of paper!