information evolutionary theory

SimonF makes a good point about my previous post on Brewster Kahle and the Internet Archive:

Digitising is hardly going to help.
While we’ve lost some great works due to fires such as those in the Great Library of Alexandria, the chances are that copies of most printed works still exist. We’ve got almost all the great Greeks, for instance.

What happens as digital media becomes obsolete though? Vide the Doomsday Book project on laser disc.

He’s right to mention the (doomed) doomsday project. I think what Brewster is doing is slightly different, however. He’s not so worried about keeping information stored as keeping it *alive* – his motivation is to put stuff out there so that people who want to use it, can use it, and create new things from it. It’s a Darwinian evolutionary model – the information that finds a purpose survives, like the great Greeks Simon mentions. The trouble is, a lot of information isn’t even in the gene pool at the moment, so hasn’t got a chance to mutate and adapt.

Brewster’s archive is more like a World Wildlife Fund for information – he’s interested in keeping things alive and preserving diversity. Earlier attitudes to archiving, like the Doomsday project, were similar to Victorian explorers – kill it and stuff it and stick it on a shelf. The Doomsday Project was the DoDo of information archives – I think Brewster is more enlightened than that.

One comment

  1. Tom D

    And will a million iterations of aliasing artifacts become the equivalent of an oral tradition? Images handed down from generation to generation slowly change – hard edges become harder, soft detail is lost – Grimm-style. Only a formal metre – 8×8 pixel blocks – stands any chance of surviving.

    I’ll get my coat…

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