Technology is all around us: computers, Smart Phones, MP3 players, cars equipped with smart technology, and the list goes on and on. There are very few things in this day and age that don’t require some level of technology. This is both a good thing as well as a bad thing. Today, as I sit here on a computer that is equipped to do a plethora of tasks for me yet all the drives I usually access are down. This has rendered me unable to do my job. The very thing that allows me to do my job is hindering me. Now of course no amount of cursing or banging of my computer will help so I’m sitting here pondering the use of technology.
The use of shared drives, clouds, external hard drives, and even regular hard drives is an everyday occurrence in almost every job. We store massive amounts of information (classified information as it pertains to my job) and yet when these drives stop working, we can’t access it. So what happens if there is some kind of huge destruction of our world and all technology and media is wiped out? Then all the information is useless. For example, what if you have hard drives filled with data and databases of every news clipping dating back to the 1700s. How will we view it? If computers are wiped out, DVD players destroyed, other technologies destroyed; how will we get this information? The answer: we can’t.
So what does this mean when it comes to preserving our past for future generations? Well that’s the issue at hand. Let’s say our cities here in the US are reduced to rubble; come a thousand years from now archaeologists come along and want to learn about what our society was about. Well unlike many ancient societies, our ways of life are immortalized on disks and drives in trillions of gigabytes of data. But what’s the use if they can’t be viewed and examined? Of course archaeologists can find about our ways of life by artifacts just like past societies have been examined but how about all the news? How will they tell how our government was run? How will they even know that we had a government?
Let’s look at the Ancient Mesopotamians. We have tons of records on them that have lasted thousands of years. What’s the reason for this? They carved everything into stone. Stone beats technology every time because stone can survive brutal attacks by neighboring kings and regimes. Not only did they write out the list of kings, their economic standings, social hierarchies, and resources into stone but they also would carve scenes in history into stone.
There are many depictions of great battles carved into stone pillars on temples, in pots, and sometimes even into the ground itself. We can then see what was happening at that time and get a much better understanding of the culture. This is something that we are lacking in our society. Now am I going to take up stone carving instead of updating my Facebook status or tweeting? Well let’s be real probably not but it gives us all something to think about.
One thing we do have is our monuments. We have great monoliths like the Washington monument, the WW II memorial, other war memorials and countless engraving on plaques around our nation describing what had happened. This is our ticket to immortality as a society. We need more of this! More physical documentation near important sites around the country that will be a permanent fixture and will hopefully be preserved for future generations. We need to stop this constant inputting of data in databases and drives to “preserve” it. Chances are it won’t be preserved as well as something that is carved into the ground or on the side of a building.
Samantha (Sam) Curtin is a Geospatial Information Science Graduate Student at University of Maryland and a Penn State Anthropology Alum. She has a passion for geospatial science, anthropology, technology, religion, and writing. Sam currently lives in Columbia, MD where she does technical writing. Her first books "Dark Cell" and "Deal with the Devil" are available on Amazon.com through the Kindle Store. Both are published through her publishing company “Behind the Curtin Publications.”