dubious durability

It is mind blowing to consider the scope of the lengths we have to go to in order to store even a relatively miniscule chunk of the information continuously being produced at astonishing rates. Not to mention how those rates are expected to rise as time goes on (“Five years ago humans had produced 4.4 zettabytes of data; that’s set to explode to 160 zettabytes (each year!) by 2025. Current infrastructure can handle only a fraction of the coming data deluge, which is expected to consume all the world’s microchip-grade silicon by 2040.” From The Rise of DNA Data Storage). Even more mind blowing to me is the development of artificial DNA technology used as more dense and durable data storage. As I was reading the “Archiving a Website for Ten Thousand Years,” they also mentioned DNA data storage and linked to an article linked here: https://www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2016/04/160407121455.htm. With this picture:


“All the movies, images, emails and other digital data from more than 600 basic smartphones (10,000 gigabytes) can be stored in the faint pink smear of DNA at the end of this test tube.”

Another image from the sciencedaily article states there will be enough digital data by 2020 to fill six stacks of computer tablets reaching to the moon. I don’t even know what to say about that. Still, I wonder how durable these new technologies actually are. As the “Archiving a Website for Ten Thousand Years,” article discussed, many of the time capsules people thought would remain stable for centuries have been lost to renovations and decay already.

One Reply

  • Thanks, Peggy. The scope — material, temporal, physical, epistemological, etc. — of our preservation challenge certainly is mind-boggling!

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