Vinton “Vint” Cerf, known as a “Father of the Internet”, served as the speaker for the 52nd George Gamow Memorial Lecture on Saturday, Feb. 10 at Macky Auditorium. Cerf, the co-designer of the TCP/IP protocols that function as the basis of the internet, spoke about the challenges of preserving data in a digital age.
Cerf began the lecture by recalling the various ways that data has been recorded, harkening back to the days of stone tablets and papyrus. These were objects which Cerf said “had a long lifetime”. However, the hardware and software used to store information today lack this longevity.
“The question is will those operating softwares be around in 100 or 150 years? Will the hardware be available?” Cerf asked the audience.
The former Google vice president proceeded to show just how much data people are creating in a digital environment. Just a few of the staggering examples are 4.15 million Youtube video uploads a minute and 3.6 million Google searches a minute.
With modern technology and raising concerns about longevity, Cerf questioned how the 21st century will be preserved through digital mediums.
“We need a plan for preserving digital information over long periods of time,” Cerf said. “This is not easy.”
So much data is stored on cloud devices, but at any moment, it could disappear. Cerf talked about situations in which online data becomes vulnerable, such as when a company goes bankrupt and all of its software, including personal data, becomes an asset. It is sold to the highest bidder.
“What’s the business model that keeps this archive going?” Cerf asked.
The lecture provided some current projects which aim to solve this problem. Some companies are now selling data insurance to provide safety for personal information. In terms of preservation, current hardware can now simulate older hardware in order to run older applications which otherwise would be inaccessible.
Unfortunately, this is not easy as current machines run faster than the older software which it is trying to process. Cerf reminded the audience that humanity is still far from solving these problems, but he was clear on the importance of preserving data.
“Historians will tell you that it is important to know what happened,” Cerf said, touching on a common argument that only the important data of the 21st century will be recorded and the unimportant will be left behind.
Cerf argued that history has taught us it is not always that simple. Many times, the information which is considered important now was not at the time. Therefore, it is imperative that people ensure that all modern data can be recorded and preserved.
Cerf ended the lecture with a note of optimism that, well there is still work to be done, the possibility of ensuring our digital preservation is not lost.
Contact CU Independent News Staff Writer Robert Tann at email@example.com.