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Are we living in a new Dark Age?

Old men forget; yet all will be forgot.

I would define a Dark Age as that period in history where there's so few written sources and the archaeological evidence is so scarce that historians generally don't know wtf was going on. This odd phenomenon has happened a few times - most famously following the years after the fall of the Roman Empire and also the confusing period in Egyptian history following the invasion of the Sea Peoples.

This thread isn't created with the intent to discuss the Dark Ages of the past though, what I would like to ponder on is whether we're living in a new Dark Age without even realising it.

Printed work has taken off exponentially, never before have so many books been printed so easily and so widely. Nowadays anyone can write their unsolicited opinion about any subject under the sun and have it published on Amazon. However, paper is perishable and books, except under the rarest of circumstances, do not last millennia. The most ancient tablets we have are clay cuneiform dating back a few thousand years and the secret of their preservation is their durability and strength, combined with their arid desert environment. Notwithstanding inevitable wars and plagues, what are the chances of anything published nowadays lasting into the next millennium or even five thousand years into the future?

Strangest of all is the internet, how long will it last? Think about it for a moment. Imagine our own renown website, Arrse, lasting even one hundred years. That length of time would be long enough to see every single person reading this thread dead and gone, but if Arrse were to last then future generations could read this thread and ponder upon it. They could read our thoughts and perhaps, if they were brave enough, venture into the NAAFI bar and laugh at our jokes. It would be the closest you could get to speaking with our ghosts.

Imagine if we were that generation, it would be akin to reading a forum from soldiers of the First World War, reading their discussions about the war and also how the characters interact. As Arrse goes into the future it might even be weird enough to compare it to reading about soldiers from Wellington's time.

If the internet goes though and the websites all come crashing down then what will be left for future generations to read about? I don't see why it can't happen, already we've lost so much of the early days of the internet. Does anyone remember Homestead or those early website builders? Myspace has also disappeared.

If the books disintegrate and the internet is no more then what will future generations have to learn about from our own civilisation? We do not communicate with cuneiform tablets. I fear our legacy might be baffling to future archaeologists when they unearth the myriad of religious cooking ovens and golden 'M' arches to the god of McDonald's.

What do you guys think, are we living in a new Dark Age?


~D.C.
 
No there will be a nuc war. Men will become dumb and apes will rule. Until some space men arrive through a time warp and one will find a plastic doll and an figure out what happened.
 

Dredd

LE
The Second Sleep by Robert Harris makes just the same observation you do - only set 300 years in our future.
 
Digital storage is cheap. Physical space is expensive. The cloud is someone else's servers. If it goes down, the data is inaccessible. One day there is a great resource of information, the next it has gone. If archive.org is still going and has snapshots, some but not all of the resource might be recovered. If it has gone and there were no mirrors or local copies, it has gone forever. Likewise photographic prints. There is a real concern that many records could be lost.

I got rid of a lot of books between moves. I didn't particularly want to get rid of them but space was a real problem. Although I kept the better books, the others had different insights and views of events which help build a picture. If I kept just one book on any topic, I might lose a lot of context. Now of course we have the threat of censorship and the rewriting of history.

Every time history is rewritten to conform to agenda and dictat, rather than to enrich it with the benefit of new discoveries, we lose valuable insights and lessons without which mistakes will be repeated and progress thwarted or even turned back in some cases.
 
I was watching something interesting the other day - Joe Rogan podcast I think, can't remember who the other guy was - but I remember nodding my head in agreement as they were discussing that people have the world's knowledge in the palm of their hand yet are more ignorant and uninformed than ever.

The general flow was that previously, knowledge and expertise had to be earnt through hard work and application. That's not the case anymore - there's no respect for how the information has been gathered, collated and extrapolated - the internet says so, so...

As you mention, as soon as the internet goes down, everyone becomes dumb as **** and/or they can't demonstrate their references for any constructive or analytical argument. A lifetime of experience nowasdays just makes you an old duffer in a world where CEO's are in their 20's.

Newton understood he was 'standing on the shoulders of giants' - today's lot are arrogant with little understanding. They are the intellectual equivalent of new money with all the tastelessness and gobshiteness that goes with it.

They do not understand that actions have consequences and will push too far, and it will all come crashing down around their ears.
 
Backwards compatibility seems to be a key issue: you buy a book and it remains a book and readable. But data stored electronically over 20 years ago - or even more recently - cannot be accessed. It exists in the format in which is was saved but if it cannot be read [or cannot be read with commonly accesible tech] it may as well not exist.
In more general terms, I like the comparison of the existence of humans being like a clockface. If human life began at midnight, when there was no technology, etc, we are now at 11:59 - very advanced yet - because we don't understand how any of this works - close in the event of a disaster to being in the basic existence of our distant ancestors.
 

OneTenner

LE
Book Reviewer
I find that the move from local storage and backups in my control but offsite to cloud storage and content being 'licensed' rather than owned is causing me to mirror much of my digital content at home, I'm also buying more books than I used to, just to have the hard copy in a 'safe place' obviously its still able to be compromised by a disaster but so are the datacentres, even with failover & supposed DR plans in place
 
There's a quote out there that eludes my GoogleFu at the minute: it runs to something like, 'The vast majority of us hold in our hands a device that gives us access to the sum of all human knowledge. And yet we use it to argue with people we don't know and send images of cute kittens to the rest'.
 
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Backwards compatibility seems to be a key issue: you buy a book and it remains a book and readable. But data stored electronically over 20 years ago - or even more recently - cannot be accessed. It exists in the format in which is was saved but if it cannot be read [or cannot be read with commonly accesible tech] it may as well not exist.
In more general terms, I like the comparison of the existence of humans being like a clockface. If human life began at midnight, when there was no technology, etc, we are now at 11:59 - very advanced yet - because we don't understand how any of this works - close in the event of a disaster to being in the basic existence of our distant ancestors.

Many years ago I saw a Time Team episode where they talked about exactly this. One of the experts said they'd create an electronic copy and store. Someone else said something akin to what has been said here, with file format changes and the like.
The response was something like "Of course we also produce a paper copy!"

I think a more pressing concern is an inverse Dark age so to speak. Instead of too little, we're producing too much. This means there is no way to sort the wheat from the chaff. Consider the impending arguments when someone in 100 years presents only the Guardian view of things and tries to explain history through Guardian articles. Or sorting out what people thought from Twitter.
 
What do you guys think, are we living in a new Dark Age?

No, we are technically living in the opposite - information freely and widely available to all who want to know it.

A Dark Age would be if the whole edifice of the internet is destroyed / cut off and we lose access to the knowledge that was there.
 
It’s already happened . I knew two
different US Airforce pers over two tours 10 years apart .Back in 2000 both had huge DVD collections in the hundreds . 10 years later both were buying the same movies and new ones in Blue Ray.
One on his retirement said “ Not sure what I’m going to do all I have is my Jeep and movies .
Today ? All streaming .


Also electronic devices might have the capacity to store millions of words but in some cases they are not suitable for a working environment. Also know some RAF riggers who as part of their trade need to climb up huge masts to check on bulbs as well as other “technical” devices. The RAF went for the “oh just get a few IPads load on the PDFs for the equipment and all will be well.

Senior RAF NCO, who the RAF Officers do listen to .

“This idea is not workable. Up a huge tower in the rain and wind scrolling through a IPad to find page 245 does not work. Let’s go back to the old plastic covered book. “

OH I see what you mean. OK.
 
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No, we are technically living in the opposite - information freely and widely available to all who want to know it.

A Dark Age would be if the whole edifice of the internet is destroyed / cut off and we lose access to the knowledge that was there.
Are we however only able to access the 'live' current web? What if we wanted to know what websites were saying about issues ten years ago? Or closed websites?
Old books, magazines can be consulted to provide contemporary insight - is that possible online? (genuine question).
 
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Something that's worried me is the stagnation of technology, science and culture. All three defined the decades of the 30th century, but progress seemed to have come to a standstill twenty years ago.
No major scientific breakthroughs, no new technologies, and popular 'artists' have merely imitated each other to the point of blandness.
 
The way to preserve info is to print it on clay tablets then burn down the library, vitrifying the contents. It worked for the Sumerians. There will be Irving Finkels in the future to read them.
 
Senior RAF NCO, who the RAF Officers do listen to .

“This idea is not workable. Up a huge tower in the rain and wind scrolling through a IPad to find page 245 does not work. Let’s go back to the old plastic covered book. “

OH I see what you mean. OK.
Perhaps some sort of waterproof case would be in order?
 
Many years ago I saw a Time Team episode where they talked about exactly this. One of the experts said they'd create an electronic copy and store. Someone else said something akin to what has been said here, with file format changes and the like.
The response was something like "Of course we also produce a paper copy!"

I think a more pressing concern is an inverse Dark age so to speak. Instead of too little, we're producing too much. This means there is no way to sort the wheat from the chaff. Consider the impending arguments when someone in 100 years presents only the Guardian view of things and tries to explain history through Guardian articles. Or sorting out what people thought from Twitter.
Absolutely. The noise to signal ratio can be incredible. The average punter will struggle.
 

Diogenes' limp

Old-Salt
A contrast:

All the research data and analysis of a 1996 project, quite groundbreaking at the time, are stored on 3 1/2" floppys. The IBM machine is long gone and there is no easy, practical access to that work.

In the same room, two copies of HOBOCOB - the student produced magazine of the Household Brigade Officer Cadet Bn, from 1918. Which I can pick up and read, though the language and humour is from a different time.

Google HOBOCOB and up pops an image of exactly the same two editions at auction in Jan 2015.

The only conclusions I can draw, at the moment, are:

That a lot of work stored digitally is gone - except to specialists perhaps .

That the information I can access is printed page from 102 years ago - where I can see the signatures of the platoon concerned.

And that, but for the internet, I wouldn't be aware of the existence of a similar set that, given the dates, probably belonged to a contemporary of my Grandfather.

So perhaps at this moment in time, the benefits of both worlds, but who wins the 'environmental argument, between the high materials, production and storage costs for paper in an increasingly crowded world and the apparent ubiquity of cheap electronic gadgets - who knows.

Books were supposed to become obsolete when the Kindle* became available. Has that happened?

The paperless office was being trumpeted 30 years ago, how's that going we might enquire?
 

Fang_Farrier

LE
Kit Reviewer
Book Reviewer
We have a vast amount of knowledge available to us and are taught many things at school. However that knowledge is very much of its time.

The vast majority have absolutely no knowledge of how the various devices and machines around us work. The mear thought of repairing many of them if they break is often thought ridiculous as it is usually cheaper to just replace with new than repair.

As to the electronic storage data, I can no more read my patient's notes from the late 90s stored on floppy discs than I can access those from the early 2000's stored on 3.5discs.
 

endure

GCM
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