Thursday, August 13, 2015

Asimov, Archives and Records

Asimov, Archives and Records. Chris Erickson. August 12, 2015.
     When I started working with digital preservation, a co-worker referred me to Isaac Asimov's Foundation series. Several passages in two of the books sounded very much like what we are dealing with now, though the time frames are much longer.  Here are some quotes from those books I thought interesting:

Foundation, pp. 34-35.
  • "Q. How do you propose to do this?"
  • "A. By saving the knowledge of the race. The sum of human knowing is beyond any one man; any thousand men. With the destruction of our social fabric, science will be broken into a million pieces. Individuals will know much of exceedingly tiny facets of what there is to know. They will be helpless and useless by themselves. The bits of lore, meaningless, will not be passed on. They will be lost through the generations. But, if we now prepare a giant summary of all knowledge, it will never be lost. Coming generations will build on it, and will not have to rediscover it for themselves...." 
  •  "Why, then, should we concern ourselves with events of three centuries distance?” 
  • "I shall not be alive half a decade hence,” said Seldon, “and yet it is of overpowering concern to me. Call it idealism. Call it an identification of myself with that mystical generalization to which we refer by the term, ‘humanity.’ ”
Foundation and Earth, pp. 5, 11, 15.
  • "Those myths and legends are all there are. There are no actual records, no documents.”
  • “Documents twenty thousand years old? Things decay, perish, are destroyed through inefficiency or war.”
  • “But there should be records of the records; copies, copies of the copies, and copies of the copies of the copies; useful material much younger than twenty millennia. They have been removed."
  • "Those documents are referred to in known historical records, but the documents no longer exist in the Galactic Library. The references to them may exist, but any quotations from them do not exist.”
  • "You cannot have a reasonable civilization without records of some kind."
  • "A civilization in being is not likely to destroy its early records. Far from judging them to be archaic and unnecessary, they are likely to treat them with exaggerated reverence and would labor to preserve them."
(And another site with similar quotes). Preservationists aren't looking that far ahead yet, but with the research into permanent storage technology that is being done, records and archives could be permanent.

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