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Vint Cerf has warned that we may lose all our important data if we rely on digital storage,
but who is this guy and what does he know anyway? Oh he helped invent the internet?
Hello out there in meat space, magnetic ones and zeros decoded as the image of Julian here for DNews.
Doomsday prophets run rampant on the internet and usually they’re pretty easy to tune out,
but when the vice president of Google warns of a digital dark age
, it’s kind of hard not to take notice.
Vint Cerf, along with being vp of google and therefore having dibs on any gmail address
he wants, helped develop the internet in 1969. He and Bob Khan created the Transmission Control
Protocol and Internet Protocol for ARPANET, which allowed computers to send data to each
other and is the basis for the internet. I bet he tells “Cerf the internet jokes”
all the time at parties.
Side note, the World Wide Web was developed 20 years later by a British scientist at CERN.
Tim Berners-Lee’s Hypertext Transfer Protocol or Http makes accessing web sites possible,
but the world wide web is built upon the internet and the two terms are not synonymous. At this
point though nobody seems to care unless they’re arguing over who invented it.
Ok history lesson aside, Cerf believes that storing things digitally isn’t bulletproof
as you might think. And the elder of the internet may have a point. Digital mediums do degrade
sure, but even if the information is good there’s the problem of accessing
it. What’s a universal device today might be totally obsolete in a decade. It’s why
you don’t see floppy diskettes or laser disks anymore. What’s a floppy disk you ask?
But even if we keep the hardware around we still need the software to decode it. Digital
data are just ones and zeros but there are many different formats they can be arranged
in. New and better formats are developed all the time, and there’s no guarantee of backwards
compatibility. Without software that can interpret the information, it’s all gobbledygook.
That’s why you need to stay strong and keep saying not today to that Java update.
But you can’t hold out forever, and you’d need to keep transferring your data to new
mediums and formats, which sounds like a lot of effort. Plus you may miss something you
don’t realize is important until it’s too late. Like the very first web page ever?
It’s gone. CERN is trying to rebuild it. I guess they didn’t think this whole website
thing would take off.
So Cerf recommends printing and storing documents and pictures physically. But there’s a reason
we don’t do this already: where would you put all of it??? Paper, thin as it is, takes
up huge amounts of space because it’s a relatively inefficient way to store data.
I think however I may have found a solution. DNA.
For years scientists have had the idea that if DNA can save genetic information, why can’t
it be used to store digital information too? George Church, a Harvard professor who is
mapping the human genome, thought he’d try that as a fun little side project. In 2012
he appeared on the Colbert Report with a copy of his book, and then produced a vial with
a slip of paper on it. and on the paper was a tiny dot. And on that dot was DNA with its
base pairs of AT and GC representing 1’s and 0’s. That single dot of DNA contained
20 million copies of his book.
So why aren’t we rocking smartphones with 20 gazillion terabytes of storage on DNA drives?
Well for a number of reasons, the technology isn’t ready yet.
First of all, DNA has issues of longevity. It reacts with its environment and errors in
the data are caused by heat or radiation. Dr. Robert Grass of Zurich's Department of
Chemistry and Applied Biosciences may have solved the problem by encasing the DNA in
silica spheres 150 nanometers in diameter. They tested it by keeping the glass coated
DNA heated between 60 and 70 degrees celsius for a month to simulate the passage of hundreds
of years, and when they separated the DNA from the silica with a fluoride solution they
found it was just fine, thank you very much. It’s also not cheap, with a megabyte costing over $12,000,
and it’s not easy to access quickly. But this way you can keep every single TV show
and Movie ever made in high definitions in a solo cup for thousands of years. So as long as we keep a method to decode
it, there’s no reason we should lose a thing. Maybe that’ll help Cerf rest a little easier.
Long term storage is one of the few advantages paper has over digital. Trace explains why
over here.
Are you worried about your digital storage? What’s your strategy to keep everything safe.
I have a bunch of back up hard drives at home with all these episodes on it
because I want to make sure I’m immortal. Let us know in the comments
and I’ll see you next time on DNews.


【時事新聞】數位黑暗時代的來臨可以被避免嗎? (Can We Avoid A Digital Dark Age?)

2494 分類 收藏
羅紹桀 發佈於 2015 年 8 月 21 日    林子暘 翻譯    James 審核
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