‘Digital Dark Age’ May Doom Some Data

Science Daily brings us “news” of the impending digital dark age, courtesy of Jerome McDonough at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign. I write this with some sarcasm because the Digital Dark Age is not exactly news; people have been speculating about it for years, probably ever since some guy realized that he needed something off a 5.25-inch floppy drive in 1999.

But this paragraph from the story really caught my eye:

“E-mail is a classic example of that,” he said. “It runs both the modern business world and government. If that information is lost, you’ve lost the archive of what has actually happened in the modern world. We’ve seen a couple of examples of this so far.” (From ‘Digital Dark Age’ May Doom Some Data)

It made me dream up some kind of post-apocalyptic science-fiction-fantasy story, in which people have lost all modern knowledge because it was all recorded on computer files, computer that don’t work after the world-ending event.

It’s just a shade of a story for now; perhaps more will come later.

2 thoughts on “‘Digital Dark Age’ May Doom Some Data

  1. A story of that kind was actually done back in the early 1960s by Hal Draper. It's a short story entitled “Ms Fnd in a Lbry”, and documents the work of an alien archaeological team investigating the ruins of human civilization. They discover that humans managed to develop storage technologies which allowed all human knowledge to be stored in a device the size of a shoebox. The indexes into that knowledge, however, grew exponentially. Eventually the discovery of a self-referencing index pointer reveals that the indexes have become corrupt; things went downhill rapidly from there. Not a bad short story if you enjoy references to classification theorists like Ranganathan.

  2. Fascinating. I'll have to look it up. As I read your comment, though, it reminded me for some reason of Borges short stories, especially the one about the library of babel (sp). He always had a way of turning systems of organization and our common frames of reference into mind-bending short stories. Thanks for reading!

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