Recent comments by Vint Cerf, vice president of Google and one of the founding fathers of the Internet, about the long-term viability of our data has many wondering what will happen to our digital information over the next 100, 200, or even 1,000 years.
At the heart of the problem is something he refers to as “bit-rot,” decaying levels of information that can be found in our digital storage systems.
Much of the data stored on outdated mediums like VHS tapes, vinyl records, cassette tapes and floppy disks has already been lost.
We currently have no usable form of storage technology capable of maintaining its integrity for centuries on end. Without a breakthrough in this area, humanity’s most important memories – videos, photos, books, writings, and thousands of other informational sources – may indeed be lost.
Sadly, paper remains as our most survivable form of information over the next 100+ years.
But here’s where that whole issue goes sideways.
Swiss scientists recently developed a process for encasing DNA in glass and chilling it down as a way to preserve data encoded in it for upwards of a million years. DNA is an ultra dense storage medium with the potential of holding 455 exabytes of data per gram of DNA.
Since all of the information that exists in the world today is still under 10,000 exabytes, we have the potential of storing all of the world’s data in less than a cup of DNA.
Yes, we still have a ways to go before encasing DNA in glass and keeping it chilled for all eternity becomes practical, and we still have to develop efficient ways to store and retrieve information, but the DNA approach may indeed be the light we’re looking for at the end of this tunnel.
With that in mind, I’d like to invite you along on a journey into the far reaches of future information. Come along as we create a few unusual scenarios surrounding the “six immutable laws of information.”