The recent spate of cyber attacks that occurred in Korea recently has me wondering about how secure our increasingly digital lives really are.
Thousands of ancient manuscripts were recently saved in volatile Timbuktu. Saved because they had been digitized and downloaded onto scores of hard drives. Due to the foresight of some smart librarians and their international partners, digitization of these irreplaceable relics had begun before the political unrest had destroyed the physical items. Much easier to transport to safety these hard drives packed with digital images than smuggle out crates of books and manuscripts.
However, as the article states:
Turning to digital copies as a tool for cultural preservation carries risks, and raises its own questions:
- What do you prioritize?
- How do you handle the expense and potential damage to priceless old documents?
- What about the fact that these digital files, too, are unstable?
Digitization is a powerful tool, but transforming an ancient treatise into binary code does not necessarily ensure the safety of the object. Just think of the ephemera of our digital lives: emails replacing letters, texts replacing notes. Yes, it helps to speed up our lives and supposedly make our existence more efficient. But what about all that is lost without that written record? Is someone, years from now, going to have access to my emails or documents which help define my life and times? Or will that be impossible due to obsolete formats and long-disappeared clouds? Sifting through the physical items of our collective past may soon become impossible. And then where will we be without the past upon which to reflect and learn?