A recent article by Ben MacIntyre “Remember this: We're Losing Our Memory (The Times, reproduced in The W.E.Australian, February 28-March 1, 2015, p.13) deals with the problem of “knowledge loss” because of computerisation. The article begins by pointing out that the Russian Federal Guard Service has secured 20 portable typewriters so that sensitive documents will not be electronically produced, but typewritten by hand and stored away on paper. No copy for electronic hacking and no problem of the tools being used to access information becoming obsolete. New laptops don't even come with ports for CD-ROMs and soon USB's will be but a “memory stick”.

 

 

Data could thus be thrown into a black hole. Archival hoarding has disappeared. McIntyre notes that “What looks like never-ending growth on the Internet is really a form of endless decay. The average lifespan of a web page is 44 days. Pages are constantly being updated, overwritten, shifted or left to expire in the process known as “reference rot””.

 

 

There are attempts to preserve the digital landscape - most by further computerisation. But if a Carrington Event, a super solar storm occurs again, as happened in 1859, and as almost hit the Earth in 2012 (according to NASA, missing us by one week), then decades of knowledge, that of the digital age, will be gone. That may, or may not, be a bad thing.