Professor Mike Jackson – Birmingham City Business School

In a recent news story, internet pioneer Vint Cerf has warned that our current use of digital technology could mean that future generations are unable to learn anything about us.

For hundreds of years we have written things down in order to make records of what we have done. Our pictures have been physical objects which can be preserved and kept. Over the last few decades, however, we have moved to digital technologies.

Our documents are word processed files and our pictures are digital photos. We think that these may last longer because paper is easily lost and physical photographs fade. In doing so, we ignore the fact that digital technology moves so fast that in less than a hundred years it may be impossible to make any sense of the ones and zeros that we store away. Indeed, even the storage devices we use may quickly become obsolete.

How many people still possess a 3.5 inch floppy disk reader let alone a 5.25 inch reader. Does anyone remember 8 inch floppy disks? The Egyptians were clearly concerned to record the details of their civilisation. They adorned their buildings with hieroglyphs that detailed their everyday life. Unfortunately when the skill of reading hieroglyphs was lost then the history of their civilisation was lost as well. It took 2000 years to recover it.

Will the 21st century be a similar lost era?

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Mike Jackson

Mike Jackson

Director of Academic Quality & Enhancement Birmingham City Business School