3000 A.D; Will historians know more about Rameses II than Barack Obama?

Assuming we don’t nuke the planet’s balls off or get exterminated by super-intelligent cyborgs, that is.

What I’m referring to is the digital dark age; the idea that the digital storage mediums that we use these days are transitory, for want of a better word - as are other means of data storage. Namely, books, newspapers, documents, photographs - all have a shelf life far below what the ancients use. We’re also increasingly recycling things and ‘destroying’ sources that way.

By contrast the Egyptians recorded their rulers by erecting immense monuments, carving records into stone, imprinting data on clay tablets and hardy papyrus.

So if humans are around in a thousand years, is there a chance that the data on presidents will fade into obscurity while the ancients endure?

Individual digital storage media are transitory, but the important stuff, like early 21st Century American History, will be transferred to whatever media is in use at the time.

Since there is no real way to know the answer to this, let’s move it to IMHO.

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But on the other hand, there’s just so much of it. How many things was Ramses’ name recorded on when for us to learn about him?
Sure digital media is changing all the time, but the name Barack Obama and all kinds of information about him is recorded on hundreds of different mediums in millions or billions of different locations. Even if something wiped us all out and someone or something came back thousands of years later, if they had the ability to learn about Ramses, I’d guess they could learn more about Obama.
Also, WRT the Digital Dark Age, I don’t think that’s going to apply to someone like Obama. It’s not that the only place he’s recorded is on some obscure file system that’s going to be obsolete in 25 years, it’s not even that he’s only recorded in the digital world. He’s in history books, on posters, his name is going to be found in graffiti, political pamphlets, memorial gold coins that you can buy from infomercials etc…

I don’t think papyrus is really more robust then paper we use today. It was preserved in Egypt due to the climate there, but then, presumably that will happen to modern paper as well. And what Joey said, the amount of media devoted to Obama is so much greater then that that was created about Ramses that even if only a small fraction of it survives, it will represent a huge amount of material.

Finally, assuming civilization doesn’t collapse, its not like people will stop writing about Obama in 2016, future historians will probably keep churning out material about him and his presidency, so someone in 3000 will have access to plenty of secondary sources, even if the primary sources have fallen away to dust. This is how we have most Classical texts, not as originals but copies made of copies that preserved the text through the Medieval period.

Plus I think I heard on Fox News that Obama was trying to pass legislation to enslave all the white people in Kansas and have them build him a gigantic funerary pyramid just outside Topeka, so as to ensure the safety of his Ka after he dies. So that should help to.

The joke in Egyptology circles is that Ramses II created more cubic yardage of statues of himself than anyone else in history, before or since. (Maybe Stalin or Mao came close due to sheer industrial capacity).

However, we generally only have a few scattered papyri and walls and walls of hieroglyphic inscriptions on temples touting his good works and victories.

There’s probably more detail on Obama in the section of any public library in the world. There’s probably more detail on Obama in any single book than everything we know of Ramses II.

A lot of the detail WILL be in book form, and assuming we don’t have a book-burning dark age or nuclear apocalypse, a lot of those will survive. Plus, there’s a lot of detail on microfilm. The vast archives of newspapers from the late 1800’s have been transferred to microfilm. Converting microfilm to electronic copy is an art that can only get better - the biggest issue is character recognition (image to text). Newspaper text today is still being stored.

We are lacking a lot of the trivial detail - correspondence, receipts, shipping records, etc. - from the time or Ramses. By contrast, a big part of every president’s legacy lately is to create a personal library, and the funded institution to pay for its upkeep.

Copying old archive to new is trivial, and storage capacity makes this easy. There are still computer games available from the days before personal hard disks - one company IIRC is making a Commodore 64 emulator, for example - collecting many of the programs, transcribing them to a modern media to be fed into a computer emulator. I believe the same will happen for other data.

The largest obstacle is copyright. So much of the early 20th century is lost (as the movie Hugo so eloquently pointed out) because nobody had the financial interest and equipment to properly preserve these products. But for text and images, especially text, the capability is there. Text especially is incredibly simple and cheap to capture and keep. If the authors won’t make works available, go to BitTorrent and see the number of books made available by others , by various means, including the simple process of digitizing and doing OCR on each page, by amateur contributors with no legal right.

Somewhere on my hard drives, for example, I have some stuff from around 1992. I inherited my boss’s laptop, and he left in a hurry and did not wipe it. There are some interesting correspondence about my co-workers. It went into my home computer documents, and that material has followed me as I copy my data from old computer to new computer. There may be some interesting material on floppies that got tossed, but far more got converted to hard disk files, and now gets copied as a matter of course as the hardware is updated.

At a certain point, that material, if interesting, is copied to archives and distributed to thousands of different libraries. Certainly the highlights are everywhere.

For example, too, various media companies have massive vaults full of historical material. As it gets simpler, cheaper and convenient to digitize instead, that material will also become part of the digital domain. As such, it will be kept in media that can more and more easily be copied to the next best thing. (The company I used to work for kept vaults of tapes of their historical data - those were easily converted to hard drive before the tapes deteriorated or the drives became obsolete. Similarly, massive stacks of engineering drawings are being digitized.

Any university or big city library has far more information about the modern era than we have of any historical times. It’s hard to imagine them all being destroyed. Similarly, every media company is brimming with digital data and multimedia about the current era - it’s hard to imagine any of them being destroyed.

We have Greek works because they were copied and kept by the Romans. When Rome fell, the same documents were preserved by monks, or traded over the Byzantine, Ottoman and Arab empires until the Renaissance was ready for them. I imagine the same here - unless we have a world-wide dark ages, it will be preserved. Even if not - we’ve decoded many ancient inscriptions whose languages were totally forgotten. A future civilization will no doubt be able to do the same for our data, when they get to the necessary level of technology. Based on the number of computers in the world - which will only increase exponentially - they will have a lot of raw material to work with.

The joke long ago was that if the world were totally destroyed, the only names still preserved would on a plaque on the moon - Neil Armstrong, Buzz Aldrin, and President Richard M. Nixon. Oh, and there’s a recording on Voyager I where the voice identifies itself as Kurt Waldheim, Secretary general of the UN, and invites anyone to come visit Earth.

I was wondering about current abilities to rescue crashed hard drives, recover lost or erased data, save photo files from damaged SD cards, etc… Would there be enough data to work from in a basic 8GB flash drive 1000 yrs from now?

In most climatic conditions, papyrus does not survive very long at all, but quite quickly rots away. A few ancient Egyptian papyri have survived because they were buried in the very dry desert, but the vast majority of the papyri that must have been written in ancient Egypt, and later in the Greek, Hellenistic and Roman worlds, have not survived. In fact, only a very small proportion of the writings through which we know about the ancient world survived into modern times in their original version, or even in a copy made in ancient times. The vast majority of the information that has survived did so only because it was copied and re-copied, over and over, throughout the ages. What is more, this was in a time when copying was a slow, difficult, labor-intensive process, that depended on expensive materials (neither papyrus nor the parchment that eventually superseded it were cheap) and rare skills.

Copying digital media, by contrast, is extremely easy and cheap. Even transferring it to a new format is a breeze compared to copying stuff out by hand with a quill pen. I do not think we need to be worried. If anything, the problem that future historians are more likely to have is information overload. There will just be so much surviving evidence that it may become very difficult for them to sort the wheat from the chaff, and arrive at a coherent historical vision.

There was a very brief window, early in the digital age, when a lot of information was lost due to changing formats (my undergraduate department had huge racks of paper tape out in the hallway that nobody could read any more, for instance). Now that that’s happened, we’ve learned our lesson, and everyone who has an information worth having keeps the medium continually updated.

One important point: there are orders of magnitude more people alive today and at least in the industrialized world pretty much all literate. Even if we decided that papyrus is somewhat hardier than digital media, there is a helluva lot more digital media floating around than there ever was papyrus.

A thousand years from now any hard drive will be a pile of rust particles.
We have this concept now of “the cloud”. Really what that means from a practical standpoint is that information is stored on various redundant systems, server farms, backup tapes, online repositories, so on and so forth. It’s not like some computer crashing in an office somewhere. Think of it like Wikipedia. Short of some catastrophe destroying civilization, Wikipedia will probably exist in some form over the millennium. It may be acquired or replaced by some other entity. Storage technology will constantly be updated, But I will guarantee you that in a thousand years, whatever mechanism people use to communicate with each other will have a reference source like Wikipedia.

You, uhm, forgot Mike Collins. :rolleyes:

Eh, I’ve seen viking swords from before 1000 AD that were in decent shape, except for some surface corrosion. And quality control has come a long way since then, I think a hard drive would physically survive if kept out of the elements. But the disk would lose magnetization after a century or less, so it wouldn’t have any data left.

I’d think a CD would last more or less forever though, since the data is physically etched on the material. And even if the format was lost, as long as it wasn’t actually encrypted I’d think a adequately determined historian could extract the text just from a frequency analysis of the bytes (assuming they at least were familiar with English, or whatever the CD’s langague was).

So even in the worst case scenario where some sort of disaster disrupts civilization and keeps stuff from getting copied into new formats, I think a determined bunch of historians could recover pretty large swaths of written records.

Nothing beside remains?

Nope. Unless you count lone and level sands. And they stretch…far away, I guess.

Or maybe archive storage media won’t be so perishable after all:


Only in the sense that Obama will not be thought of as that important, so the average historian might not have knowledge about him. Ramses is big because we don’t have as much information about that time period. I suspect Obama will be lost in the mountains of information we have now. The only thing people will remember is that he is the first black president. Maybe he’ll get a brief note in the healthcare thing.

This. I have files on my computer from the early 90s that have been transferred through multiple different computers. The OP operates on the assumption that at some point in time, we will switch to a different technology and just shit can everything we’ve stored up until that point. Clearly there will be technology to convert from the old format to the new format.

I am Obamandias, King of Kings and Lord of Lords