Which digital records from our present days will be found in the future?
1 The Big Oblivion
Data traffic, data processing, and data storage requires energy. Currently the internet requires more energy than Germany and France combined. The internet accounts for 3% of the global CO2 emission – this is twice as much emissions as those caused by the worldwide aviation industry.
The growth in data volume and the associated energy consumption increases exponentially.
Sooner rather than later, we will reach a point when we – for economic and/or ecological reasons – cannot afford to keep everything.
Deleting-algorithms will trawl through the internet and erase data which had no or too few accesses.
Considering the content which comprises a significant portion of the internet today, much of this data will not be missed at all.
But blogs will disappear, too. Blogs are the instant mirror of our time and comparable with written diaries. Blog-entries are interesting on the issuing day, maybe still after a week, but not a year after publication. Perhaps they become interesting after 100 years, but it is not very likely these accounts will survive at this point of time.
A time may come, when forthcoming generations may recall times in which books and magazines were printed, but not within the recent, immediate past; a phenomenon we may paraphrase as “Global Alzheimer”.
What is interesting within the old newspapers you find in old cabinets or as wrapping paper for old stuff in the attic? The advertising! Sometimes these contents are amusing as they mirror the respective time, for instance the depiction of women in commercials from the 1950’s.
Advertisments on websites will simply not exist in 100 years. They are replaced already by the time a new campaign emerges online.
2 The Age of Morons
We know approximately 0.1 to 1 % of the literature from antiquity. Publishing was costly and we may assume the published texts were significant.
This is why we can reconstruct, even from this tiny fragment, the world and mindset of the antiquity.
Today, not only newspapers and scientists are publishing, EVERYONE is: every post, tweet, video is publishing.
Since pseudo-science attracts a wider audience than scientific papers, we find that there are more websites devoted to crop-circles than gravitational waves.
Furthermore there are more Youtube-videos about people hurting themselves in exceptionally ludicrous ways (for instance trying to stand on an inflated exercise ball) than videos about people performing spectacular feits of human intellect.
Now, imagine what a 0.1% random data fragment may contain. It will be, in a particular way, representative for our days but it will certainly not contain the fields we undertake huge effort for or spend great amounts of money on: Research, science, medicine, LHC, …
People in the future may think we never performed spaceflight, because we obviously haven’t even figured out the law of gravity…