Are We Heading for a Digital Dark Age?

Apparently, Google’s Vint Cerf is a little worried about all the information we store on our computers. From the BBC News article Google’s Vint Cerf warns of ‘digital Dark Age’:

“Our life, our memories, our most cherished family photographs increasingly exist as bits of information – on our hard drives or in ‘the cloud’. But as technology moves on, they risk being lost in the wake of an accelerating digital revolution.”

Cerf, who is one of the so-called “fathers of the Internet,” is mainly worried about backwards compatibility, old software and files working on new versions of software or new hardware. If we’re not careful, that old information can be lost.

Luckily, he’s working on making sure that never happens. He wants to create what he calls “X-ray snapshots” that include “the application and the operating system together, with a description of the machine it runs on.”

The idea is that, so long as you have all of this, you’ll always know how to access the information, and hopefully have the tools to do so.

Which I think is a good idea. However, I’ve always thought about digital information loss on a much grander scale. If every record becomes digital — all our history and scientific breakthroughs and all the important stuff — what would happen if all of that vanished?

Not just due to a lack of backwards compatibility, but something like a catastrophe. A massive solar flare or EMP. Something that just wipes out everything.

Over time, would information about our civilization be completely lost? No documents, no photographs, nothing. Like, say…Atlantis and Lemuria?

Okay, well, that’s probably a long shot. Probably. But I know of at least one person who will be looking for legacy tech for just this reason in the future…


Rob Schwarz

Writer, blogger, and part-time peddler of mysterious tales. Editor-in-chief of Stranger Dimensions.