Vinton Cerf, often called “the father of the Internet,” is giving a dire warning to everyone who uses the internet, print ALL of you pictures and data, or lose them forever. CerfÂ warned that images and documents we store on computers may disappear from history as the ongoing digital revolution makes older hardware and software obsolete.
Cerf is the chief Internet evangelist at Google, and he spoke this week at the annual meeting of the American Association for the Advancement of Science.Â Rather than a world where longevity is a given, Cerf fears a “digital dark age” in which the rapid evolution of technology quickly makes storage formats obsolete thanks to a phenomenon he calls “bit rot.”
“In our zeal to get excited about digitizing, we digitize photographs thinking it’s going to make them last longer, and we might turn out to be wrong,” he said.
Since so much data is now kept in digital format, another problem will be with future generations that struggle to understand our society. Technology is advancing so quickly that old files will be inaccessible.
â€œIf we donâ€™t find a solution our 21st Century will be an information black hole”, Cerf explained. â€œFuture generations will wonder about us but they will have very great difficulty knowing about us.
He continued with his warning saying,Â â€œWe don’t want our digital lives to fade away. If we want to preserve them the same way we preserve books and so on we need to make sure that the digital objects we create will be rendered far into the future.â€
He also expressed concern that even this may not be enough as often historians and people do not realize how important documents are until centuries after those that created them have passed away.
“Some people make the argument that the important stuff will be copied and put into new media and so why should we worry,” Cerf said. “But historians will tell you that sometimes documents and transactions images and so on may turn out to have an importance which is not understood for hundreds of years. So failure to preserve them will cause us to lose our perspective.”
Cerf’s proposed solution is something he calls “digital vellum” — essentially, a tool for preserving old technologies so that even obsolete files can be recovered.
But as for now, the father of the internet is giving this advice,Â â€œIf there are pictures that you really really care about then creating a physical instance is probably a good idea. Print them out, literally.â€™