Digital Dark Age

I just saw an article in Science Daily which talks about a “Digital Dark Age.” The introduction sums up the idea:

“What stands a better chance of surviving 50 years from now, a framed photograph or a 10-megabyte digital photo file on your computer’s hard drive?”

The article mentions 8-inch floppy disks as an example. Remember those, from the 1980s and ’90s? They were the floppy disks which were actually “floppy,” not those 3.5-inch ones some old people still use today. The “floppy disks” of this era are CDs, DVDs, and flash disks, and you may not foresee them going away any time soon, but it’s inevitable; what happens when those are phased out for “newer, better” storage formats? The year is 2020: where will you find somewhere to plug in your now-ancient USB flash disk (let alone your circa-2001 floppy disk)?

In addition, the article mentions the need to migrate to open file formats and rely more on open standards. I’ve commented to colleagues in Kenya before about the need to embrace open standards with a simple example: How will you read a digital version of your country’s constitution, which has been saved as a Microsoft Word document, in thirty years when Microsoft has been long gone and their software is no longer available? Further, what if you haven’t coughed up the money to buy the Microsoft Office software suite? How are you expected, then, to be familiar with your country’s laws? History? Etc… How do you hold your leaders accountable if you don’t know which ruler to measure them by?

Call me Chicken Little if you will, but I think technology is doing more hurt than help (especially in developing countries). Here are some not-so-funny-but-related links: