Thanks to the permanence of stone tablets, ancient books and messages carved into the very walls of buildings by our ancestors, there’s a bias in our culture towards assuming that the written word is by definition enduring. We quote remarks made centuries ago often because someone wrote them down – and kept the copies safe. But in digital form, the written word is little more than a projection of light onto a screen. As soon as the light goes out, it might not come back.
“How would you adjust your efforts to preserve digital data that belongs to you – emails, text messages, photos and documents – if you knew it would soon get wiped in a series of devastating electrical storms?
“That’s the future catastrophe imagined by Susan Donovan, a high school teacher and science fiction writer based in New York. In her self-published story New York Hypogeographies, she describes a future in which vast amounts of data get deleted thanks to electrical disturbances in the year 2250.
“In the years afterwards, archaeologists comb through ruined city apartments looking for artefacts from the past – the early 2000s.
“I was thinking about, ‘How would it change people going through an event where all of your digital stuff is just gone?’” she says.
“In her story, the catastrophic data loss is not a world-ending event. But it is a hugely disruptive one. And it prompts a change in how people preserve important data. The storms bring a renaissance of printing, Donovan writes. But people are also left wondering how to store things that can’t be printed – augmented reality games, for instance.”
You can read more about the dangers of losing current information in an article by Chris Baraniuk and published in the BBC web site at: https://www.bbc.com/future/article/20210715-the-online-data-thats-being-deleted.