Tuesday, June 12, 2007

And the More I Find Out, the Better I Did.

My interest in Science is simply to find out about the world..and the more I find out, the better I did.”

- Nobel prize winning physicist, Richard P. Feynman (this clip requires the RealPlayer).

My brother recently gave me 2 books by Feynman who died almost 20 years ago. But thanks to the books and the Internet, he is still with us. My old friend Ted Leonsis recently got the gourmet deluxe tour of the National Archives and you can read his thoughts about that as well as preserving the historical record.

My bias towards preserving is probably stronger than most. Once upon a time, not all that long ago really, as far as the world itself goes there was a fabulous library in Alexandria (think Alexander the Great, not Alexandria, Va.). While there is vast and spirited debate over the cause of the destruction – and nobody seems to agree – the one thing that is agreed on is that hundreds of thousands of papyrus scrolls were lost. This doesn’t really get played up enough because what it means is that almost ALL recorded history up until a couple of thousand years ago was destroyed. Almost the whole thing.

Imagine some Internet disaster that left only ESPN, Fox, CNN, and the New York Times up and running with everything else destroyed. That’s pretty much what happened in Alexandria. We still have Aristotle, Plato, Homer, etc – which was pretty much the New York Times of all that stuff, but we lost so, so much as a result of losing those hundreds of thousands of scrolls.

I do not really believe that between the archive, the library of Congress, etc, that a systematic approach for preserving everything (all forms of media) that involves double, triple and quadruple redundancy will be developed. Sadly, politics come into play and personal agendas and self-interest factor in far more than they should.

Normally this would probably have me panicked and I would be e-mailing Ted with some impassioned plea that “you have to DO something!”

But there’s one entity – even at the macro level consumed with finding out all about the world – and measuring themselves EXACTLY like Feynman did (the more they find out, the better they did). That entity is Google. I have faith that they will advance the preservation of the historical record regardless of the politics. I am not panicked.

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