Friday 01 February 2008

Preserving Human Knowledge In The Digital Age

Our desire to preserve the sum of our knowledge in writing begun with the birth of the human civilization. Before the invention of paper (by the Chinese), writings had to be inscribed into stone, clay, bone, wood, wax, papyrus, parchment, and even metal. Reproduction had to be done entirely by hand (wherein the transcription of a single scripture might take up to years), meaning that only a few copies of any work could ever be produced for safekeeping. The advent of the Gutenberg printing press in 1440 (notwithstanding the fact that block printing was already in use by the Chinese before) finally made it possible to mass reproduce copies of printed books for both distribution and preservation. Today, electronic archiving is fast replacing traditional methods of preserving our knowledge previously stored in books and other physical media. Unlike prints, these digital copies are perfect reproductions of the original that will not deteriorate (and thus be prone to be lost) over time. By recording our knowledge in the digital language of 0’s and 1’s, we can assure ourselves that our wisdom will be forever available to benefit generations to come.

By Philip Jong • At 12:01 AM • Under Column • Under World
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