Could We Lose What Is in Cyberspace?

The preceding healthymemory blog post addressed the vast amount of information in cyberspace. Could we lose these information? An article in the Economist addressed this question.1

The task appears to be enormous. Consider the vast amounts of data discussed in the preceding post that is constantly changing and growing. Could it end up like the famed Library of Alexandria that was built in the 3rd century BC that is reputed to have every copy of every book in the world at that time? I suspect that this statement betrays a characteristic western bias. If the Library of Alexandria had a counterpart in the far east or books from the far east, please comment. Nevertheless, the Library of Alexandria was a tremendous repository of knowledge that burned to the ground sometime between Julius Caesar’s conquest of Egypt in 48 BC and the Muslim invasion in 640 AD. It is believed by some historians that the loss of the Alexandria library along with the dissolution of its community of scribes and scholars created the conditions for the Dark Ages.

Of course, it is possible that a nuclear holocaust or some astronomical event could cause the loss of cyberspace and a descent into another Dark Age. However, absent such a cataclysm the infrastructure is already in place for the historical recording and saving of cyberspace. The Internet Archive, http://archive.org/ is a free internet library capable of storing a copy of every web page of every website ever on line. The Wayback Machine, http://archive.org/web/web.php, allows users to view the library’s archived web pages as they appeared when published. The Open Library, http://openlibrary.org/, is working to provide a web page for every book in existence. They are offering 1,000,000 free e-book titles for downloading. Project Gutenberg, http://www.gutenberg.org/, offers 40,000 e-books that can be downloaded for free in any of the popular e-reader formats.

Cyberspace also provides a means of leaving memorials that will long outlast us and will possibly be used by historians and a wide range of scholars far into the future. A couple of healthymemory blog posts discussed this new type of memorial, “Transactive Memory and the Dearly Departed,” and “Online Memorials.” I hope to leave memorials like this for both my wife, who is a talented artist, and myself. I hope I’ll be able to justify my having walked the earth, but that is a tall order. I need to get to work!

1(2012). Lost in Cyberspace, The Economist Technical Quarterly, September 1, p.11.

© Douglas Griffith and healthymemory.wordpress.com, 2012. Unauthorized use and/or duplication of this material without express and written permission from this blog’s author and/or owner is strictly prohibited. Excerpts and links may be used, provided that full and clear credit is given to Douglas Griffith and healthymemory.wordpress.com with appropriate and specific direction to the original content.

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