October 18, 2011

Immortal Artifacts

I found this video very humorous, and probably a very apt description of how our understanding of the past compares to reality.

However, the same lessons don't extrapolate into the future. We are leaving digital artifacts, which are (potentially) immortal. It's very possible that a historian in 3000 A.D. could listen to all of the Beatles' recordings, with exactly the same quality that we can listen to them now. He could watch their movies, and read newspaper articles about them.

Part of what makes another culture feel old or distant is the fact that aging is a lossy process - their paintings fade, their buildings collapse, and their books are lost. How will things change when our artifacts (e.g., the web) can be perfectly preserved indefinitely?


Steven Foote said...

But, can the web be perfectly preserved? In some ways it can, but in some ways it seems to fade. For instance, I was telling some people that I have a friend who looks like the old Facebook face. They had know idea what I meant. that was just 6 years ago.

And while I found it eventually, I couldn't really show them what Facebook looked like back then. They couldn't interact with the old Facebook.

Jeremy said...

Very good clarifier - more and more of what we produce is hidden away within the walls of Facebook, Google, etc. And a large amount of our digital data will eventually be lost or destroyed.

However, I still think that the following changes are really important:

1. The artifacts we produce can be reproduced perfectly and indefinitely.
2. We are producing an incredible amount of digital data - future generations will know more about us than any other society, by orders of magnitude.