Monday, February 16, 2015

Internet future blackout: No way to preserve our data

Internet future blackout: No way to preserve our data. Lisa M. Krieger. San Jose Mercury News. February 12, 2015.

Vint Cerf spoke about the "digital vellum" needed to maintain the data that comprise text, video, software games, scientific data and other digital objects, and how to preserve their meaning.
Aiding preservation might involve "Information Centric Networking," which is based on two simple concepts -- addressing information by its name, rather than location, and adding computation and memory to the network. David Oran of Cisco Systems and Glenn Edens, research director of Palo Alto's Xerox Park, are working on that new technology.

Google is not directly involved in the digital preservation effort "although we have worked really hard at preserving the digital information of the day. We aren't planning to become the archive of the future -- although I think it would be cool." Cerf envisions libraries and governments investing in the technology needed to carry today's information into the distant future.

The "digital vellum" project led has been created at Carnegie Mellon University. This is how it would work: There's a digital snapshot of a document, which is then built into one giant file. Using preserved and transmitted instructions, a virtual computer pretends to be a 2015-era Mac or IBM computer, and can find the document. "If I can substantiate those bits (of a document) in another computer, years in future, then I will have created the same document -- I can reproduce what you were doing. It is a digital copy of the state of the computer you were using when you created new documents."

Rather than the current paradigm -- names, addresses and routes -- it would start with an "object," with a name, as the thing to be stored and moved. "Our current system of 'domain names' is not a stable system. The current routing system could be replaced by the information-centric system, where we keep track of everything not by where it is hosted but the information itself, by name.
Just as we need preservation of today's bits and software, our encryption systems will need to be preserved as well -- because once they're lost, so is the material that they're protecting. "We need an encryption system in which the keys never wear out and are never broken, that represents keying for hundreds of thousands of years."

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