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Comment A crisis of permanence (Score 1) 633

I think this points out a pretty big problem with our civilization.

One of the things that have enabled past civilizations to endure and be remembered was their permanence. Every great civilization knew they were leaving a legacy for future generations to look back on. Think of how much we still know about the Egyptians, Greeks, and Romans. They made sure that everything that was important to them was recorded for posterity, and we owe a lot to them for that.

I laugh when people talk about digitally remastering music, movies, and books in order to preserve them. The Vatican is currently scanning their entire archive and saving it to digital media (CD-ROM). What's going to happen, though, when CD-ROM drives are no longer profitable to make because the next new technology has rendered them obsolete? What about when copyright holders or companies with exclusive rights to certain types of media go out of business? Just think of the effort involved to keep the data we already enjoy now up to date. How many times has the Beatles been remastered on new formats in the last 50 years? Just one generation of people who thinks of it as passe is enough for it to be lost forever.

So much of what is written now, including this, is only available on "the net" which is the most transitory medium we've come up with yet. How much of what is on the net today do you think will still be readable 100 years from now. Any of it? I still have a hard time getting to stuff from 10 years ago. And this is what is killing off our newspapers.

When our civilization dies off like all the others have, what will we leave behind? What will people of the future be able to learn from us? Are all the advances we've made in science, technology, engineering, medicine, being recorded in a way that will ensure permanence for the future? Or are we so focused on the short term in everything we do, that no one will even know we existed?

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The fancy is indeed no other than a mode of memory emancipated from the order of space and time. -- Samuel Taylor Coleridge