The Digital Dark Age And Bene Gesserit House Records
According to Jerome P. McDonough, assistant professor in the Graduate School of Library and Information Science at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign, the bewildering array of information storage devices and hardware platforms could lead to a "digital dark age," an era in which we will flounder helplessly in the midst of an information glut.
"If we can't keep today's information alive for future generations," McDonough said, "we will lose a lot of our culture."
Contrary to popular belief, electronic data has proven to be much more ephemeral than books, journals or pieces of plastic art. After all, when was the last time you opened a WordPerfect file or tried to read an 8-inch floppy disk?
"Even over the course of 10 years, you can have a rapid enough evolution in the ways people store digital information and the programs they use to access it that file formats can fall out of date," McDonough said.
Magnetic tape, which stores most of the world's computer backups, can degrade within a decade. According to the National Archives Web site by the mid-1970s, only two machines could read the data from the 1960 U.S. Census: One was in Japan, the other in the Smithsonian Institution. Some of the data collected from NASA's 1976 Viking landing on Mars is unreadable and lost forever.
(Jerome P. McDonough describes the coming 'digital dark age')
Science fiction fans have already been to this era. In his 1984 novel Heretics of Dune, Frank Herbert gave us a peek into the House Records of the Bene Gesserit, an organization with archives that spanned thousands of years of human activity.
The holoprojector flickered with its continuing production above the table top - more bits and pieces that she had summoned.
Taraza rather distrusted Archivists, which she knew was an ambivalent attitude because she recognized the underlying necessity for data. But Chapter House Records could only be viewed as a jungle of of abbreviations, special notations, coded insertions, and footnotes. Such material often required a Mentat for translation or, what was worse in times of extreme fatigue demanded that she delve into Other Memories. ...You could never consult Archival Records in a straightforward manner.
(Read more about Herbert's Bene Gesserit House records)
It's interesting to note that the use of the system eventually requires the use of Mentats as highly evolved information specialists. Information management in the Egyptian era required an entire social class of specialists; I don't see why our era should be any different.
Scroll down for more stories in the same category. (Story submitted 11/10/2008)
Follow this kind of news @Technovelgy.
| Email | RSS | Blog It | Stumble | del.icio.us | Digg | Reddit |
you like to contribute a story tip?
Get the URL of the story, and the related sf author, and add
Comment/Join discussion ( 2 )
Related News Stories -
The Largest Virtual Universe!
'...a machine able literally to contain the Universe Itself .' - Stanislaw Lem, 1965.
ARM Wants To Build Brain Chips
'Slivers of microsoft, angular fragments of colored silicon...' - William Gibson, 1984.
Robot Swarms Controlled With Augmented Reality
'You're not thinking in enough dimensions...' - Daniel Suarez, 2009.
Eterni.me - To Skype With The Dead
'Nothing... left of Jeserac but a galaxy of electrons frozen in the heart of a crystal.'- Arthur C. Clarke, 1956.
Technovelgy (that's tech-novel-gee!)
is devoted to the creative science inventions and ideas of sf authors. Look for
the Invention Category that interests
you, the Glossary, the Invention
Timeline, or see what's New.
Will A Steel Umbrella Stop Russia?
'Everyone was aware that the damned platform was wandering around in its own orbit...'
EVE Artificial Womb For Lambs (For Now)
'In the crimson darkness, stewing warm on their cushion of peritoneum and gorged with blood-surrogate and hormones...'
TIKAD Armed Drone Ready To Fight
'Each a television eye and a sonic stunner...'
Bees Royal Jelly Helps Wounds Heal Faster
'An alien drug... used by an insect race.'
NASA Wants To Make Oxygen On Mars
'They plop down on the Red and if the dust is deep enough ... they burrow in...'
Hackers Insert Malware Into DNA
'They tied the memory to the bloodline and that was their record!'
X2-VelociRoACH Cooperates To Launch Tiny Drones
Little robots cooperating can do big tasks. Eventually.
'Do Not Pay' Chatbots To Replace Law Firm Associates?
'I want my lawyer program.'
MULTI Model Of Star Trek Turbolift
Cool prototype video!
A Look Into The Future Of Spacecraft!
Ever wonder how you look when you enter a new part of a spacecraft?
An 'Ethical Black Box' For Robots?
Explored by science fiction authors.
Dadbot Digital Immortality
'A hardwired ROM cassette replicating a dead man's skills...'
Should We Permit Computers To Create Their Own Language?
'Talk Between Robots radio...'
Breakthrough Starshot Sprites Yearn For Alpha Centauri
'Whoever launched it fired a laser cannon...'
Kino Project Roaming Personal Fashion Robots
'Most of the crew have the tiny imp ride on their shoulder...'
Astronaut Exercise Video, Predicted By SF Writers
'Joe got out the gravity-simulator harnesses.'
More SF in the News Stories
More Beyond Technovelgy science news stories