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Category — Preservation of Data

The Myth of Hunter-Gather Hardships

Stephen Harrod Buhner


Anthropologist Richard B. Lee (center) interviews !Kung San in southern Africa’s Kalahari Desert.

In-depth examination of hunter-gatherer societies has, however, conclusively shown that their lives have been empirically based, more efficient, less terror-ridden, less stressful, and less concerned with food production than our own. As the anthropologist Mikal Aasved observes, “The ethnographic record speaks for itself in refuting the myths and outmoded ideas concerning the life of early man.”

Aasved goes on to note that the anthropologist Richard Lee, in the mid-1960s, engaged in The first controlled study of subsistence living among hunter-gatherers with the !Kung Bushmen of Africa’s Kalahari Desert. The region in Which the !Kung people live is among the harshest on Earth .Lee, Through the use of detailed diaries, kept a complete record of food production and in take during his stay .He noted that the !Kung consumed an average daily diet containing 2,140 calories and 93.1 grams of protein, figures that, Mikal Aasved notes, are “high even by American standards.” [Read more →]

April 21, 2013   No Comments

Are We Facing a “Digital Dark Age?”

David Rosenthal

Last October I gave a talk to the Alumni of Humboldt University in Berlin as part of the celebrations of their 200th anniversary. It was entitled “Are We Facing A ‘Digital Dark Age?'”. Below is an edited text of this talk, which was aimed at a non-technical audience.

What is digital preservation and why is it interesting to work on? For millennia, society has relied on paper as its archival memory medium, its way to preserve future generation’s access to information. Paper has many advantages for this task. It is cheap, needs no special equipment to read and, best of all, survives benign neglect very well. Put it in a box in the basement and it is good for 100 years.

Rothenberg’s Dystopian Vision
But less and less of today’s culture and science ever makes it to paper. In 1995 Jeff Rothenberg wrote an article in Scientific American that first drew public attention to the fact that digital media have none of these durable properties of paper. The experience he drew on was the rapid evolution of digital storage media such as tapes and floppy disks, and of applications such as word processors each with their own incompatible format. His vision can be summed up as follows: documents are stored on off-line media which decay quickly, whose readers become obsolete quickly, as do the proprietary, closed formats. If this wasn’t enough, operating systems and hardware change quickly in ways that break the applications that render the documents.

Distrust of digital storage continues to this day. Cathy Marshall, a researcher at Microsoft, vividly describes the attitudes of ordinary users to the loss of their digital memories in a talk called Its Like A Fire, You Just Have To Move On”. [Read more →]

March 6, 2013   No Comments

Ray Mears on Preserving Cultures


Bushcraft and survival expert Ray Mears talks about preserving cultures, evidence of global warming and species extinction. One point he makes is that our modern agricultural society is still an experiment.

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February 13, 2013   No Comments

Rosetta Project: A Collection of Linguistic Data

The Rosetta Project is a global collaboration of language specialists and native speakers working to build a publicly accessible digital library of human languages.

The Rosetta Project was created to begin the work of filling Long Now’s 10,000 Year Library and in 02011 student filmmaker Scott Oller offered to help tell the story of the project's aspirations and achievements. This short documentary, Oller’s senior thesis, was shot over the course of several weeks in the Spring of 02012 and explores the contents of the Rosetta Project’s collection of linguistic data, the Internet Archive’s role in hosting and making accessible that data, and the aesthetics and functionality of the Rosetta Disk itself.

December 3, 2012   No Comments