Tuesday, April 05, 2005

Information Meltdown

Once in a while I get concerned about the sheer volume of information that we only have stored electronically. While I'm certainly no Luddite nor do I fear the Third Wave; I sometimes think the world would be a better place if we held back a little on our technological progress.

My real concern has more to do with what we can't control than what we can. What would happen if, for instance, we had a massive wave of solar flares that reversed the magnetic polarity of Earth? It's happened before but not since before the industrial age. Such an event would have a devestating effect on our modern society; nearly all of our technology would be useless and much of it would be destroyed outright.

There are other things that could cause massive information loss as well such as an EMP bomb over a little town like New York City or Los Angeles or, God forbid, a coordinated attack over the 10 largest cities in America simultaneously.

I realize we are still printing massive amounts of information but that has declined and will continue to do so as the methods for digital distribution improve. The other key to decline of print media will be an improvement in the devices we use to actually read. If I have the choice, I still prefer to read an actual book rather than something on my computer.

How would we recover from a massive loss of information? Is it possible to prepare for such a loss without incurring a huge expense? An information meltdown would certainly be a boon for civil liberties because government can't control what it doesn't know about. What a pity that would be.