My father always remarks on how unless society carefully archives its piles of electronic data, future archaeologists will be able to gather little information about our civilization.
Though technological advancement has permitted the invention and use of more sophisticated data-storage methods and devices, the durability of these methods and devices have decreased significantly - logarithmically, in fact.
Consider the following data-storage methods: Stone
lasts for thousands
of years - that's why there's still standing remnants of past civilizations and that's why we've been able to discover and interpret ancient inscriptions on stone tablets or hieroglyphics. Paper
lasts for hundreds
of years - thus the possibility of existence of the classics (what would we know if no one had ever decided to write down their ideas instead of just pass their stories on by mouth?), etc., and that spicy/musty smell of used bookstores. (Sniff...mmm....)
But what about electronic
devices - disks, CDs, DVDs, hard drives, and data sticks, etc? These devices have a life span of decades
, if that. DVDs, CDs,...despite their obvious advantages, they all degrade quite quickly. And besides that, consider that 30 years ago, if a TV or radio broke down, you'd bring it to a repairman. Nowadays though, it's cheaper (and much to the benefit of the corporation that makes the products) for you to just throw out your TV or computer or car and buy a new one because these devices aren't designed to endure. If there's anything left for future archeaoligists to find, it'll be huge piles of hundreds of thousands of invincibly plastic computer monitors which were responsible for putting so much lead into the ground. There'll be archeaological layers of garbage.
Furthermore, technologies now change at a rapid pace. If I gave you a diskette from 10 or 15 years ago, would you, or more importantly, your computer, know what to with it (or have any use for it)? Which goes to say, in 15 years, if someone gives you a piece of data from 2006, will it be completely foreign and useless to you?
Everything that survives will be virtual. If this Huge Cyber Entity called the Internet continues to evolve, then perhaps the archeaologists (if they haven't died from water poisoning, climate change, or a nuclear meltdown) will
discover something of this strange and revolutionary era......a mish mash of millions of porn sites, blogs, strange news reports, and even stranger things, like broadcasts from YouTube.com..."The Scowls"
and "The Scowls Part2"
. (These videos are quite strange, I suggest you check them out.) What else can you find on YouTube or the internet that might make it to the future archaeologists? (Hopefully Vogons will come and destroy the Earth and save us from thinking about all this)