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The Dark Side of Technology$
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Peter Townsend

Print publication date: 2017

Print ISBN-13: 9780198790532

Published to Oxford Scholarship Online: December 2016

DOI: 10.1093/acprof:oso/9780198790532.001.0001

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PRINTED FROM OXFORD SCHOLARSHIP ONLINE (oxford.universitypressscholarship.com). (c) Copyright Oxford University Press, 2021. All Rights Reserved. An individual user may print out a PDF of a single chapter of a monograph in OSO for personal use. date: 05 August 2021

Decay of Materials and Information Loss from Technology

Decay of Materials and Information Loss from Technology

(p.180) 10 Decay of Materials and Information Loss from Technology
The Dark Side of Technology

Peter Townsend

Oxford University Press

Materials survive for different lengths of time The pattern is that with improved technologies the writing speed increases but the survival time diminishes. So engraving on stone, writing with inks on vellum, typing on paper, or computer data storage have become progressively faster at adding data, but progressively shorter in terms of survival. A clear pattern in this trade-off with information loss is presented. The implication is that modern electronic storage has an incredibly short survival time (e.g. from tweets or mobile phone photos). This pattern implies there are major limitations for storage of important knowledge, and for viewing data by future historians. It is highly unlikely our electronic images will survive to the next generation. Reasons for this are mentioned, as well as a quantitative estimate of the relevant factors.

Keywords:   information loss, materials, electronic storage, historians, photos

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