As more and more of the world becomes digital, a new problem arises: how do we save our memories? Take this blog, for example: it only exists in one place: on the server hosting it. It’s true, I can log onto the server and download a backup to my local computer, which I try to do every few weeks, but I seriously doubt most bloggers bother with such measures. When a service like Weblogs.com shuts down, even temporarily, the outcry is huge. Even places like Macrumors.com have become vibrant communities, with thousands of members posting hundreds of thousands of comments to its active forums. What would happen to the relationships formed here if it were to suddenly shut down?
Closer to home, we now have our photos, our music, our recipes, our finances, our correspondence all saved on computers. I suspect most people back these things up infrequently, if at all. CDs are impractical for backing up, as our digital lives expand to take up more and more space. Even DVDs can’t contain the vast digital archives some of us have begun to accrue. And because so many people don’t even understand where their computer stores their information, they don’t even understand what they should back up. Even people who do regularly back everything up usually put their backups on the shelf above the computer, so if a fire destroyed their homes, it would also destroy their digital lives.
As virtual reality becomes reality for more and more of us, it’s amazing that more of us don’t realize how tenuous that reality is. We become chained to a system that may or may not persist. I have fifteen years of taxes saved in Turbotax format. Just changing tax programs would be a substantial life change for me. I’ve bought 30 or 40 songs using the iTunes Music Service. What happens when I’ve bought three or four thousand and then Apple decides to stop supporting the service? Do I lose all my music?
Virtual relationships can be incredibly strong and robust, but they can also disappear in a flash. I read a fascinating discussion in the MacRumors forums a while back about what would happen if a member of that online community died. How would other members of the forum find out? Would there be a grieving process, or would everyone just move on, as if nothing had ever happened?