Digital Amnesia (2014) 50min · Documentary · 7 September 2014
Our memory is dissipating. Hard drives only last five years, a webpage is forever changing and there's no machine left that can read 15-year old floppy disks. Digital data is vulnerable. Yet entire libraries are shredded and lost to budget cuts, because we assume everything can be found online. But is that really true? For the first time in history, we have the technological means to save our entire past, yet it seems to be going up in smoke. Will we suffer from collective amnesia? This VPRO Backlight documentary tracks down the amnesiac zeitgeist starting at the Royal Tropical Institute, whose world-famous 250-year old library was lost to budget cuts. 400.000 Books and 20.000 magazines were saved from the shredder by Dr. Ismail Serageldin, director of the world-famous Library of Alexandria, who is turning the legendary library of classical antiquity into a new knowledge hub for the digital world. In San Francisco we visit the Internet Archive that's going against the trend to destroy archives and, in fact, wants to save everything. Founder is Internet pioneer Brewster Kahle, who's investing his own money in a universal archive for mankind. His Internet Archive scans and saves the Internet every two months, because Kahle thinks knowledge of the past is essential for shaping the future. Images as well as texts risk being lost in this 'Digital Dark Age'. In an old McDonald's restaurant on a deserted army base in Silicon Valley, retired NASA engineer Dennis Wingo is trying to retrieve the very first images of the moon. After years of tinkering, he now has one machine running to play the few remaining tapes. How do we prevent the massive destruction of information? Are we doomed to an amnesic flight into the future or can we harness new technology to maintain access to knowledge from the past? Digital historian Jason Scott has invented The Archive Team, a network of young activists that saves websites that are at risk of disappearing forever. And, in San Francisco, The Long Now Foundation has put the long-term back on the agenda. Musician Brian Eno, writer Stewart Brand and inventor Danny Hillis are building a clock that only ticks once a year and should last 10,000 years, in an attempt to foster thinking beyond our own children and to reconnect with generations thousands of years from now.
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