New Tech to Old

I imagine a specialist job someday with the title resembling “techno-archaeologist,” or “digital paleontology.” Right now paleontology might be the study of ancient beings, but would it be surprising if information gained the status of a living being one day? And if someone worked painstakingly to recover ancient technology, like they do today for dinosaur bones?

Digital technology makes it possible to create and store immense amounts of information. And to destroy it. Most of the new information created today is likely to live a short lifespan, at most until it stops being useful to someone. But a small number of informational units are likely to persist–“live”–much longer, indefinitely. Today the planet is overrun by space junk above and oceanic plastic above, but someday the material remnants of broken information may become as common as dirty air. The thing about technology, as a distinctive category of human endeavor, is that it first distinguishes itself by being new. Today old technology first ceases to exist when it becomes obsolete: “not-new” is its own kind of non-being.

If information achieves a transition to a kind of being, a personhood, maybe it will be worthy of being dug up, preserved, archived–because age itself will make it worthy of an archive. It becomes valuable not for what it can do, but because of what it is, what it suggests about the line between past, present and future.

Tags discipline history archaeologist