Where are we heading in knowledge preservation?

The Internet Archive is not Google. The Internet Archive is a chaotic, beautiful mess. It’s not well-organized, and its tools for browsing and searching the wealth of material on there are still rudimentary, but getting better. — by Andy Baio

The discussion about the how to preserve knowledge and make it available in a time when many want to close down history, condemn classic books as inappropriate, and simply decide what you can or cannot think. When corporations like google intervene and fail and all their money is just another way of Lock In. We need many projects like the Internet Archive. Society need creative people to invent things, not just for the sake of making a quick buck, but because our collective knowledge must be preserved. Only by building on top of the past will we be capable of having a bright future.

Since the mid 1980s the preservation of knowledge became a new emerging topic mainly because of the digital realm that started flooding our lives. Companies started searching for ways to archive digitally the accumulated knowledge. And this is not just in the realm of the internet. It also included discussions on the preservation and digitisation of analogue works. Yes, books can be digitised and OCR’ed but how do you preserve digitally a statue? or a an Oil painting? Also what about the preservation of digital only knowledge?

This leads to many fields and many discussions and there isn’t a one solution to fit all. It also leads do discussions about copyright and open licenses and also about the longevity of the intelectual property rights — that everybody more or less agrees, are to long for the digital world.

Variety. The idea of putting all eggs in the same basket is one that we should not embrace, even if in the end it is not cost efficient. But having many projects that aim to preserve the past is important because human knowledge is fragile and ephemeral. The right nationalists movements that you see across America and Europe are an expressive attack to knowledge, progress and modernity.

If society concentrates the preservation of knowledge in few guardians, then they will be easily targeted and controlled. Books will be burned if not conforming with the ideology — Putin pulling a Bebelplatz? History repeating itself again and again?

The XXI century challenge is not to incur in the same mistakes that led us into two world wars of ignorance. For some reason stupidity has this property of being able to survive and creep into societies like a cockroach. Diversity of archival and preservation strategies and distributed systems like peer-to-peer are probably our best options to ensure that no fanatic can take control over what we are allowed to know. The march of progress might be unstoppable, but only if we all participate in it together.