Vint Cerf is often described as the Father of the Internet and apparently he believes we may be on the fast lane to a digital Dark Age as a result of our heavy reliance on rapidly-evolving technology. During a recent oratorical engagement at the annual American Association for the Advancement of Science conference, Google’s vice president and chief Internet evangelist accurately highlighted the fact that much of our lives, our memories and our most treasured family photos now exist as bits of information on a hard drive or in the cloud, which, essentially is still just a hard drive somewhere in a data center.
We’ve been taught to digitize our old media for purposes of preservation. We now snap on-the-go photographs with digital cameras, take short clips with our smartphones (filmies). Newspapers and magazines are gradually ebbing off into the technological horizon. We now send e-mails, text messages and tweets instead of written correspondence (over 100billion messages are sent everyday). Everything – even driver’s licenses – is moving to digital formats. And that’s quite an ironic problem, according to Cerf.
As technology continues to evolve at mind-numbing speeds, it’s entirely likely that future generations will have a huge repository of our digital data. The problem is that they won’t have any way to access it as future technology may not be compatible with the standards we use today.
It makes perfect sense when you think about it. Just look at something as trivial as video games, for example. Many of the games from years ago are no longer compatible with modern hardware and software and the ones that do still work are usually buggy at best (try an play Supermario with today’s device capabilities and my good fellow it would have been easier and fun watching paint dry). What’s more, information stored on floppy disks (and more recently, optical discs) is becoming increasingly more difficult to access for the simple fact that the hardware to access them is no longer common.
Now imagine what would happen if the Internet and all of our digital data disappeared. We’d stand to lose an awful lot of our history, Cert said. What stuck in mind for me is what Google’s ex-CEO, Eric Schmidt said at this year’s World Economic Forum at Davos, Switzerland; he evidently is of the opinion that the internet will disappear, most especially as we merge into the whole concept of things, not to mention the internet of us. So, what’s the balance you might ask, truth is, there is no balance, technology is part of the evolutionary process of the human condition-more aptly described, it is the 7th Kingdom of Life according to Kevin Kelly, co-founding editor of Wired magazine. If the balance is off, the assumption is that since technology is part of nature that it will self-correct in order to ensure its survival (even if it means our own extinction). Juan Enriquez, the other tech-intellect declares precisely because we are humans, we will be able to take control of the evolutionary process into becoming another species that he dubs ‘Homo Evolutis’, goodbye Homo sapiens. That should get you pondering about what you put online and at best, how you interact with technology.