Thursday, February 22, 2007

digital archaeology

Gordon Bell at Microsoft has been creating some buzz for the MyLifeBits project, an effort to digitize essentially everything in his life. In a Scientific American article, he points out that you can buy a terabyte of storage today for $600, and within a decade you should have that same amount of storage in your cell phone (and four terabytes in a desktop machine.) Multiply that kind of storage capacity by the number of machines on the Internet and it got me thinking about what can start happening with the volume of information that expands to fill that kind of space.

Will there be digital archaeologists, people who sift through our society's discarded files and broken web links, carefully brushing away revisions and piecing together antiquated file formats? Will a team of grad students working on their PhDs a thousand, or two thousand, years from now be digging through old blog entries, still archived online in some remote descendant of the Wayback Machine or a copy of Google's backup tapes?

If so, welcome Digital Archaeologist. I'm honored you've paused to read this digital record. I might send you a letter from time to time, just to let you know how things are going here in your distant past. If I can help your research, so much the better. It's a strange world we live in now, one that's rapidly changing in directions that are not entirely clear. Perhaps by trying to explain it to you, I'll understand it better myself.


Maria Elisa said...

Neat. But do you really think there will be humans with technology two thousand years from now? Seems like we keep having disasters every few thousand years.

False Data said...

There might be a disaster or two, but two thousand years is enough time for a civilization to collapse, middle ages to ensue, a renaissance to occur . . . and maybe even an archaeologist to get interested.

Hmm, maybe I should have said three thousand.

Coppertop said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Coppertop said...

Super-geek digital archaeologists in the world 3000 years from now might be proud of their knowledge that two types of video tapes existed back then: one was beta and the other was VHS.

There is a Japanese animation about bounty/treasure hunters in the future. They are humans living in another planet. They find an old video tape that is supposed to contain information of the location of "treasures" in the 20th century. A problem is that no machines in the future can deal with the old tape. Thus, the treasure hunters set off to look for a tape reader on the Earth that was abandoned centuries ago. Well, they find a tape reader and bring it back to their planet. It does not work because the tape is beta and the machine is a VHS reader. One of their geeky friends is able to dig old data archives and makes a list of serial numbers and brand names of Beta readers. The team gets this list and goes back to the location that appears to be one of the 20th century apartments or condominium. Finally, they find a beta tape reader.