Friday, December 12, 2008

The Long View of Moving it

The Long Now has this wee little post there this morning that on first glance doesn't appear to be "much".

It's a simple post asking us to consider updating the storage of our digital data as regularly as every 5 years to new storage formats.

It's a valid point.

In this age of instant access to everything, information is becoming as transitory and as ephemeral as mists across mountains. Nothing we think we are keeping for prosperity is likely to last as much as we hope it would and expect it will.

Since I was a little girl, I've always had a very long term view about my writing. Even when I was little I can remember the strong will and urge deep within to write "something" that could perhaps be seen by those that came long after me. When I was in my late teens, I began keeping "Mood Journals" which in hindsight were an early version of paper blogging. My Journals were not standard "I did this and this today" diaries as were usually kept by girls my age. They were flexible, mutable documents of my moods, feelings, aspirations, creative writings and memories. Very much like this blog I write now.

The paper books I wrote my angst and thoughts into back then have survived over 25+ years! I can still access them and read them at leisure. I haven't lost my poems of that time, or the stories. It's all still there, readable and accessible.

When I lost my hard-drive in this lap top earlier this year and could not retrieve the data I had accumulated in the year prior to that, I lost a very large number of photo's, writings, ideas half formulated and documentation I cannot replace and never will. It's gone.

My sister and brother-in-law recently had to spend a very large sum of money on having thousands of family photo's from when their children were very little, retrieved when their computer "died".

The human response to tech is that it is "permanent", that the new inventions, which promise so much, will remain long after ourselves. It's an assumption that these digital space-age devices which seem so inherently simple and usable to us, will be the same for many to come after us. Not so!

As people change, so does the tech they use. What we think is about as good as it gets, changes in about 5 to 15 years to something "better" or "worse". It's change and change is here to stay.

History is important to the human psyche. We long to know where we have been, how far we've come, what our forebears thought and did. We long to be surprised by the ingenuity of our ancestors - that "Gee Whiz" component of amazement that they could survive and flourish in such "primitive" circumstances! It gives us hope of our own survival and ability to progress forward to what may come. History anchors us and helps us learn - well, hopefully it does.

Much of our social history will be lost within as little as 50 years if we assume we can keep it on the data storage devices we use now indefinitely. We can't and we won't. The Long Now post I linked to in the title is an important reminder that if we wish to keep the NOW we are living alive for the THEN of our children' children - we need to be proactive about moving our images, stories, writings, thinking, ideas and accounts of our events into the new storage devices to come.

Remember this so that those who come after us remember us.

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