[Foundation-l] Long-term archiving of Wikimedia content

Milos Rancic millosh at gmail.com
Wed May 6 14:34:42 UTC 2009

On Wed, May 6, 2009 at 3:52 PM, Aryeh Gregor
<Simetrical+wikilist at gmail.com> wrote:
> On Wed, May 6, 2009 at 6:45 AM, Milos Rancic <millosh at gmail.com> wrote:
>> By accident or by some other reason, we have much better optics than
>> computers. So, it is reasonably to suppose that some future
>> civilization will achieve much faster good optics than good computers.
> Okay, great.  Now you can assign probabilities to my other six
> assumptions, and multiply all the resulting seven probabilities
> together.  Feel free to tell us the results.  If the product of those
> seven is more than a small fraction of a percent, I'm going to say you
> were being wildly unrealistic.  Even if you assign each of the seven a
> 50% probability, their product will be less than 1%.
> Actually, there are more assumptions: you have to assume that humanity
> *ever* recovers, and within a period of time when people will still
> understand written English.  You'd have to calibrate the magnitude of
> a catastrophe *very* carefully to get a situation where civilization
> collapses, to the extent that none of the hundreds of millions of
> computers on the planet remains functional for long enough to print
> out any needed info (even using wood/biomass-powered backup
> generators, or emergency fuel supplies) . . . but you still have
> people who can read English around.  People are more fragile than
> computers, and not much more numerous.
> Yeah, I'm still going to say the entire idea is ridiculous.

There is wide range of possible collapse scenarios. Just the most
drastic ones assume that people won't be able to understand written
English, to have 17th century optics and similar. However, the most of
them assume that such society won't be able to unpack 2TB of data (now
and without Commons; probably dozens or hundreds of TBs in a couple of
years) and put it in some useful form.

In article [1] it is described that ancient Egyptians and
Mesopotamians developed basic optics. Note that those are the first
civilizations. Dominant languages of particular civilizations were
never been a problem: Long after Sumerian civilization had disappeared
Assyrians knew their language because it was useful (not to mention
ancient Latin, Greek, Chinese, Sanskrit etc.). I really don't expect
that written English won't be known long enough (maybe people won't be
able to pronounce it well, but they'll be able to read)... Besides
that, we have many other useful language editions.

At the other side, I prefer reasonably durable "paper" form. If it is
possible to make some plastics or so which may last for, let's say,
1000 years, we may renew those editions every 50 or 100 years and
distribute them to national libraries or put at various places at/in
the Earth.

Also, David mentioned copying of databases all around the world. This
is a good idea, too. Maybe, we should make a wider project in
cooperation with UN and other global organizations. That would be very
useful for the best scenarios, like it may be if Internet would be
damaged, while electricity and computers would still exist.

[1] - http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/History_of_optics

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