Watching the unveiling of the iPad today spurred me to reflect on some possible problems that may occur in future years of our digital age. For example, movies, books and software that I have purchased do not reside with me physically, but are located in the cloud (on a server somewhere in the ether). Assuming that Apple still exists when I die, can my descendants continue to use my Apple ID and password to access all of the accumulated music, books and software I have purchased? Will the government charge an inheritance tax on all the music I pass down via my Apple account? Can someone keep my Gmail account active so that my lifetime of correspondence can be accessed by a future family historian?
And think of the intense amounts of work that will be required by future historians. We think of the Civil War as the most documented conflict due to thousands of diaries and letters that historians must consult in addition to official accounts and government documents. But can you imagine what a future writer on anything will have to wade through in terms of e-communication to get a complete account of something? Millions of web pages, blog posts, e-mails, documents and videos. It staggers the mind to contemplate it. Perhaps they will simply give up and selectively cull the information to try and stay sane. Or perhaps our records now are less permanent unless they are printed. Take away electricity and all of it vanishes, whereas scrolls and books lasted a few centuries in the past. So maybe the staggering amounts of data generated right now will all be gone. But just think of the future historian trying to write a history of the 2008 Presidential election. How did the people see it? How did the media see it? What did the candidates think? Imagine poring through millions of e-mail with some sort of search algorithm or index. Reading texts from Barrack Obama’s Blackberry, posts from millions of common-man blogs, news articles from sites all over the world and on and on.The task seems daunting.