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[P]
The Alexandria Effect

By rts in Op-Ed
Fri Jan 25, 2002 at 01:15:00 PM EST
Tags: Freedom (all tags)
Freedom

The Library of Alexandria was the ultimate repository of human knowledge in the ancient world. Unfortunately, having most of all human knowledge in one central place turned out to be disastrous. In the fourth century CE the library was looted and torched. Seven centuries of human knowledge were lost in one fell swoop.

We are on the cusp of creating a new kind of Library of Alexandria, with a similar danger.


The Library of Alexandria was the ultimate repository of human knowledge in the ancient world. It was the one central place to go for knowledge on any subject, from mathematics to astronomy to philosophy. Having such a central repository proved to be very beneficial for a very long time: if you needed to know anything, Alexandria was the place to go. The huge store of knowledge also served as a jumping off point for even more knowledge, and the library snowballed in this way towards an ever increasing richness and diversity of knowledge. Eratosthenes, Apollonius of Perga, Archimedes, Euclid, and Ptolemy are among the scholars that graced this Pierian place.

Unfortunately, having most of all human knowledge in one central place turned out to be disastrous. In the fourth century CE, under the Christian Patriarch Cyril, the library was looted and torched. Seven centuries of human knowledge were lost in one fell swoop; much of the knowledge contained in the volumes at the Library would not be rediscovered for up to 1500 years later.

At the beginning of the 21st century CE the beginnings of a new Library began to take shape. The Internet fast became a massive store of knowledge, personal musings, pornography, mundane business dealings, and a host of other documents, the collective writings of millions of people. Off-line, people began writing books and other information using binary file formats such as DOC and XLS, controlled by one corporation, Microsoft.

Eventually electronic books did catch on; or rather, they were forced to catch on. The hardware and software worked in concert to prevent illegal copying and illegal reading: pay-per-read became as ubiquitous as pay-per-view. On the software end of things the SDOC, or Secure DOC, format, made by Microsoft, became the pen of choice for authors and publishers. Secure DOC was encrypted, and only approved e-books had the proper keys to unlock the encryption to allow SDOCs to be read. These keys were tightly controlled and regulated by Microsoft. Circumventing SDOCs encryption scheme was made illegal by the Digital Millennium Copyright Act passed in the late 20th century CE.

On-line, Internet content providers saw how lucrative SDOC had become, and wanted a piece of the action. Microsoft came up with SHTML, Secure HTML, that would allow for pay-per-read Internet sites. Once again, the keys to SHTML were Microsoft's property, and available only in Internet Explorer. Eventually SHTML was done away with and everything was rolled into SDOC, which became the one and only de facto way of exchanging electronic documents.

Publishers still faced problems with people reading paper books. More than one person could read one copy of a paper book, and this caused the publishers to lose money. Late in the 21st century CE, a law was passed severely restricting the use of paper for documents. It was sold to the public as an environmental concern: why cut down trees when we can live in an electronic, paper-less world?

Music, too, was being distributed purely electronicly in the SMUSIC format. CDs, minidiscs, and other physical means of storing music went the way of paper. SMUSIC could only be created by microphones and other equipment with valid keys, and could only be played on speakers and other equipment with valid keys. Pay-per-listen rose up along with pay-per-read.

For a while having one document format, SDOC, and one music format, SMUSIC, controlled by one corporation, Microsoft, worked well for the world. Everyone had e-readers and e-writers, and they all spoke the same language, and per-read fees could easily be collected. Everyone had e-players and the professionals had e-recorders, and they all spoke the same language, and per-listen fees could easily be collected.

Eventually, however, like all empires of the past, Microsoft ceased to be. The corporation exploded in a nebula of lawsuits, intellectual property claims, and red tape. Suddenly, e-books could not contact the Mother Ship to verify encryption keys. Speakers stopped working and microphones refused to record without proper approval from the Content Verification System, which no longer existed. The knowledge necessary to circumvent the keys, long ago driven underground by legislation, had been wiped out when the corporations won the Piracy Wars of the late 22nd century CE. The keys themselves were locked up in lawsuits and counter-lawsuits, and were eventually lost.

The lessons of the fourth century CE were relearned late in the 24th. It took humanity another 1500 years to fully recover from The Alexandria Effect, as it came to be known.

"History does not repeat itself," Mark Twain once said.

"It rhymes".

Permission is granted to copy, distribute and/or modify this document under the terms of the GNU Free Documentation License, Version 1.1 or any later version published by the Free Software Foundation; with no Invariant Sections, with no Front-Cover Texts, and with no Back-Cover Texts. A copy of the license can be found at http://www.gnu.org/copyleft/fdl.html.

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The Alexandria Effect | 50 comments (33 topical, 17 editorial, 0 hidden)
I was thinking about this just yesterday (4.50 / 8) (#1)
by sticky on Fri Jan 25, 2002 at 01:39:10 AM EST

Another thing to consider is the actual media on which we store all of this information. Consider acid-free paper, which can last upwards of 1000+ years and compare it to magnetic and optical media. As many know, magnetic media is very prone to failure and probably does not have a lifespan exceeding 50 years (and that is a very liberal estimate). Optical media may have a lifespan of 100+ years, but since it hasn't been around for even a generation it's hard to say.

This means that transcription of information must take place more frequently. If transcription is not maintained, the information is lost within 100 years or so.

Another more important point to consider: what if our civilisation were to suffer a catastrophic downfall, throwing us into another Dark Age and our storage media were to somehow survive? The "Rosetta Stone" required to decode our writings would not be as simple as finding a dictionary. It would entail designing and manufacturing a device that could read the medium on which the information is stored (ie. a computer).

The great thing about paper is WYSIWYG. The same cannot be said of a hard disk platter or a CD (in the case of the CD though, using a microscope you could read the peaks and valleys but it would still just be a bunch of 0s and 1s).


Don't eat the shrimp.---God
Hmm... great idea. (3.50 / 2) (#2)
by xriso on Fri Jan 25, 2002 at 01:56:09 AM EST

We should come up with some sort of permanent crystalline storage system. Granted, all of our information is crammed full of "meta-information". See, this is why we should all be using text!
--
*** Quits: xriso:#kuro5hin (Forever)
[ Parent ]
Crystalline Storage Material (none / 0) (#40)
by S_hane on Fri Jan 25, 2002 at 02:35:52 PM EST

Heh, like in the book "The Mote in God's Eye", by Larry Niven and Jerry Pournelle, (amazon link here). Interestingly enough, the storage material in this book was needed for a similar purpose - saving the collected knowledge of a race of creatures through a dark age.

Also a damn fine read :)

Shane Stephens

[ Parent ]

Rosetta Disc (4.71 / 7) (#12)
by djotto on Fri Jan 25, 2002 at 06:27:22 AM EST

what if our civilisation were to suffer a catastrophic downfall, throwing us into another Dark Age and our storage media were to somehow survive?

I'm a sucker for stuff like this - recapturing knowledge after the fall of civilisation.

One of the neatest ideas I've come across is a metal disc. Inscribed on it's surface is enough knowledge to let you build a microscope (glassmaking, basic optics, simple metalworking).

Go over the disc with your newly-built microscope, and you find everything you need to build an electron microscope. Check out the disc at that level, and you've got vast quantities of data to read off. As a side-effect, you've already done a whole lot of science building the first two tools.

Couldn't find any links, but did find a modern Rosetta Disk from the Long Now Foundation (God, I'd love to work for Danny Hillis :)

It would entail designing and manufacturing a device that could read the medium on which the information is stored (ie. a computer).

Programmer archaeologists, fragmented polycarbonate disc in one hand, oscilloscope in the other, resurrecting millenia-old file formats.



[ Parent ]
Rosetta disk (5.00 / 1) (#45)
by I am Jack's username on Sat Jan 26, 2002 at 07:10:49 AM EST

My problem with the Rosetta disk is that it's built around translations of Genesis 1-3: showcasing our worst superstitious mass delusion. I'd have preferred basing it around the Universal declaration of human rights (eventho the use of the word universal is silly).
--
Inoshiro for president!
"War does not determine who is right - only who is left." - Bertrand Russell
[ Parent ]
Heinlein Concurs (4.00 / 1) (#22)
by notcarlos on Fri Jan 25, 2002 at 10:16:48 AM EST

Yeah, I'm commenting all over this article...

"It is too late to save this culture - this worldwide culture, not just the freak show here in California. Therefore we must now prepare the monasteries for the coming Dark Age. Electronic records are too fragile; we must again have books, of stable inks and resistant paper."
-- M. Friday Baldwin, Friday
Quotable Heinlein


He will destroy you like an academic ninja.
-- Rating on Rate My Professors.com
[ Parent ]
No precedence (none / 0) (#27)
by A Trickster Imp on Fri Jan 25, 2002 at 11:13:19 AM EST

Never before in history has so much information been distributed more and more everywhere.

All of Usenet is available, so too are projects to record all of the web pages, for ever and ever.


As for encoded text, the only people who use them are those who want their stuff protected. As all that stuff will be valuable, as will the contract to lock it up, any bankruptcy of Microsoft will have this as a valuable asset to sell off.




[ Parent ]
Transcription not a problem (none / 0) (#47)
by brunes69 on Sat Jan 26, 2002 at 11:41:34 AM EST

With the way storage technology progresses, information is transcribed far more often than what would be required for this to be a problem. How many people do you know with 500 MB hard drives? That was what, 5 years ago? Any valuble information on drives of that era has been transcribed at least twice since. And it will continue to do so, until we have more storage space than we can possibly fill (and I don't see that happening). And what about holographic storage? What is the lifeline for that?



---There is no Spoon---
[ Parent ]
-1 for bashing and endless speculation (4.00 / 7) (#8)
by ahsyed on Fri Jan 25, 2002 at 05:23:01 AM EST

As the previous posts discussed, the MS bashing is not only not necessary for your thought but also takes away from your credibility.

While I won't say that this is totally impossible, I will say it is very close. If a company is getting so much criticism for an OS, I find it hard to believe they won't get that criticism for something as common and "mainstream" as documents, the Internet, speakers, and microphones.

But I'll give you the benefit of the doubt, let's say this does play out and MS does eventually collapse. I doubt the government would not demand the magical keys be released. I doubt even Microsoft would not want to release them, I think they would like to be able to see documents and listen to music.

Secure-Doc not sufficient for loss (4.57 / 7) (#9)
by Paul Johnson on Fri Jan 25, 2002 at 05:27:22 AM EST

Its an interesting scenario: a proprietary encryption format causes the loss of data. Unfortunately it just ain't plausible.

Even if we reached the point where some MegaCorp was the gatekeeper to all knowledge the financial implosion of that megacorp would not destroy that knowledge. At the very least the business of keeping keys available (presumably in return for money) would be a going concern which could be sold as such. And whilst most copies of books, music etc would be encrypted for public consumption, anything important would have original archives in plaintext form. So I just don't see this scenario as an argument against digital rights management.

Paul.
You are lost in a twisty maze of little standards, all different.

a stretch, but +1 Section (4.00 / 3) (#10)
by danny on Fri Jan 25, 2002 at 06:02:56 AM EST

I think this scenario is a bit unlikely - much more so than Stallman's in "The Right to Read". A more plausible future to me is one in which information is not lost, but is available only to a technocratic elite, with the mass of the population not allowed to access potentially dangerous resources (like parsers or compilers or debuggers).

Danny.
[900 book reviews and other stuff]

Segregation (4.00 / 2) (#15)
by BehTong on Fri Jan 25, 2002 at 08:49:57 AM EST

A more plausible future to me is one in which information is not lost, but is available only to a technocratic elite, with the mass of the population not allowed to access potentially dangerous resources

Sounds frighteningly similar to the Dark Ages... when the religiously elite controlled access to the bible, and the laymen were not allowed anywhere near it. Result? The religiously elite could dictate whatever they wanted to the laymen, and the laymen had no way to argue or dispute them. The religiously elite could then back everything they did by saying it comes from the bible -- but nobody knows if they were lying or distorting the message of the bible, because nobody was allowed to check it for themselves. Hence, they could get away with burning people at the stake and still come out "justified".

This is just an analogy, of course. But the analogy strikes a frighteningly familiar chord.

(Disclaimer: I'm a Christian myself. This is not a dig at anyone's religion, just a statement of unfortunate historical events.)

Beh Tong Kah Beh Si!
[ Parent ]

MS bashing? (3.12 / 8) (#11)
by Tezcatlipoca on Fri Jan 25, 2002 at 06:12:11 AM EST

Lets see their aims:

-.NET: full control of the Internet, including Passport and by consequence access to personal information.

-WindowsCE (or whatever they call it today): full control of the PDA market.

-WIndowsNT/IIS: control of the server market.

-Xbox: control of the gamming market.

-Music management: control of what and when you can listen to in your computer.

-Office: control of the format used to write your own information.

-MSNBC: control of day to day presentation of information.

Give me the name of any other company that is in a position to take us all in the hypotetical situation painted in the article.





---
Those who sleep can't sin.
Those who sin, sleep well.

Wow, went from bashing to unsupported bashing (3.88 / 9) (#29)
by ahsyed on Fri Jan 25, 2002 at 11:21:24 AM EST

"-.NET: full control of the Internet, including Passport and by consequence access to personal information."

Wow, "full control". I guess they'll just take AOL.com, Sun.com, and kernel.org off of "their" Internet, huh? Using the Internet and having "full control" of it are totally different things.

Passport is one of the many single sign on services. And don't talk about "consequence access to personal information". Think about that the next time you hand your credit card over to a waiter. They go in the back and do whatever they want with it. Plus, many online services have information Microsoft can only dream about. Talk to AOL.

"-WindowsCE (or whatever they call it today): full control of the PDA market."

There's that "full control" again, another wow. Last I checked, WindowsCE had 30% of the PDA market. Mainly because of that other company..what is it called...umm...PALM! Yeah, their flagship software PalmOS is causing competition. But I guess your definition of "full control" is 30% of market share and having competition.

"-WIndowsNT/IIS: control of the server market."

Wow, atleast you didn't say "full" this time. Just go over to Netcraft to see a rough estimate of the latest market shares. 30% of Microsoft, and 57% to that hot young upstart (sarcasm) Apache. Nevermind, I forgot all about your 30% with competition equals control.

"-Xbox: control of the gamming market."

Hmm, Microsoft is barely beating Nintendo and PS2 continues to crush both of them. Sounds like MS has another market in its pocket, all within a year mind you.

"-Music management: control of what and when you can listen to in your computer. "

Can you speak up? I'm listening to my MP3 collection in Winamp. I think you said something about a company having control of what and how I listen to music.

"-Office: control of the format used to write your own information. "

I'll agree with you, this is the closest thing to "control" in a market. But it is Microsoft's suite and their right to choose which format to write its DOCs in. If you don't like it, use StarOffice or Office's many competitors. Oh wait, they all suck. I wonder why MS does have control?

And to back up to the format, the DOJ sees nothing wrong with MS using it's custom DOC format. It does see something wrong with their OS, which I'll agree is "control". So while you're agreeing with DOJ about punishing MS for their OS monopoly, please also accept DOJ's allowing of DOC.

"-MSNBC: control of day to day presentation of information."

MSNBC is one of the three major news outlets. Hardly what I call "control of day to day presentation of information". Lastly, just because nearly half of the name is MS, doesn't mean they control half of it. If that was the case, I wouldn't hear so much OS monopoly news on MSNBC.

"Give me the name of any other company that is in a position to take us all in the hypotetical situation painted in the article. "

As I've shown above, they are not even close to "taking us all in". The only place MS can screw us is in the OS market, and like it or not...DOJ is dealing with that. DOJ has found nothing else wrong with their business tactics, you shouldn't either.

Also, about MS' "aim". EVERY company's aim is to be on top of their markets and yes, have "full control". Ask Ellison if he wants MS to go away. Ask McNealy if he wants MS to go away. When you get the answer, please criticize them too.

[ Parent ]
Look for the word "aim" in the dictionar (1.00 / 1) (#49)
by Tezcatlipoca on Mon Jan 28, 2002 at 09:25:22 AM EST

Thanks.


---
Those who sleep can't sin.
Those who sin, sleep well.

[ Parent ]
Before you write down a snappy response... (none / 0) (#50)
by ahsyed on Wed Jan 30, 2002 at 02:36:05 PM EST

please read my entire post. I discussed both what MS has right now and what every business' aim is.

And rather than shooting off a one liner, and then a one worder, how about responding to what I posted. Name me one company that doesn't want to be on top?

[ Parent ]
Easy (4.80 / 5) (#31)
by Torgos Pizza on Fri Jan 25, 2002 at 11:26:01 AM EST

AOL/TimeWarner

I intend to live forever, or die trying.
[ Parent ]
Is This Likely to Happen? (4.72 / 11) (#13)
by amike on Fri Jan 25, 2002 at 07:26:54 AM EST

A few points to make:
  1. You're insinuating that a single corporation will control all the means of viewing/creating content. Given the current climate, this is not likely to happen; there will always be competition, despite Microsoft.
  2. You suggest that whatever is used to encrypt content is completely secure. The fact is that nothing is totally secure; given enough time, somebody will hack it. Besides, with the kind of copy protections they've been implementing, I don't think we have to worry about not being able to read the content once the company that created it falls into dust.
  3. You assume that all artists, musicians, publishers, and web designers will use secure formats. Many don't care about money and do it for their own sake. We may lose the big names in music and writing (even that is highly unlikely - see 1 and 2), but writing and music and the Internet will live on.
While you do make some valid points, let's all keep in mind that the nightmare scenario described above is highly unlikely to happen. There are more important things to worry about.

----------
In a mad world, only the mad are sane. -Akira Kurosawa
Two points (4.77 / 9) (#14)
by wiredog on Fri Jan 25, 2002 at 08:43:37 AM EST

First, the Microsoft bashing is a bit gratuitous.

Bruce Sterling the author of The Hacker Crackdown has quite a bit on The Dead Media Project, which has a better overview of your concerns.

Peoples Front To Reunite Gondwanaland: "Stop the Laurasian Separatist Movement!"

Good Article (3.00 / 3) (#17)
by ChiefHoser on Fri Jan 25, 2002 at 09:11:54 AM EST

First of all I would like to say that I enjoyed the article.

Secondly, I think - maybe I should say I hope - that this is a very pessimistic point of view and I don't think (again, maybe hope is a better word) that it will every come to this point.

The real problem here is not Microsoft (well it is but in a way no), as MS (or any other companies attempting this) is just a product of our capitalistic society. It is the ultimate goal in this society to make as much money as possible and if you controlled the only access to certain documents than you are making all the money. So where as it was an over zealousness by religion when the Library (and hence years of human knowledge) was destroyed now it is over zealousness by capitalism that *might* repeat the event.
-------------

Chief of the Hosers
Extending that goal (none / 0) (#38)
by skim123 on Fri Jan 25, 2002 at 01:31:17 PM EST

The real problem here is not Microsoft (well it is but in a way no), as MS (or any other companies attempting this) is just a product of our capitalistic society. It is the ultimate goal in this society to make as much money as possible and if you controlled the only access to certain documents than you are making all the money.

But that would never happen. Capitalism does not favor only one monolithic company, but many competing companies. If you are making all the money, and I want my share too, I'll compete against you. You can say Microsoft is a monopoly, but there are a plethora of other options people have when it comes to Office suites, OSes, browsers, etc. As long as the spirit of capitalism survives (which our gov't seems to be trying to kill), competition will always exist.

Money is in some respects like fire; it is a very excellent servant but a terrible master.
PT Barnum


[ Parent ]
Not necessarily true. (5.00 / 2) (#41)
by S_hane on Fri Jan 25, 2002 at 03:02:03 PM EST

When you move to the 'net, instead of sticking with traditional over-the-counter type business, it's not necessarily true that "Capitalism does not favor only one monolithic company".

I read an intriguing article two or three years ago, and I was just looking for it to post a link to, but unfortunately I couldn't find the damn thing.

However, the central argument of this article was essentially as follows:

In traditional over-the-counter commerce, something called the "distance effect" comes into play. Essentially, a given person is only likely to search a given area for a particular product that they wish to purchase. Obviously, the size of this area differs with the person and the cost of the product, but it's unlikely (for instance) for most Australians to do their CD shopping in an Argentinian CD shop.

In addition, the cost of running a business tends to increase approximately linearly with the number of locations managed by the business. This is good for the business, because it means that they _can_ generally make more money by opening more shops, but it could be better.

The end effect is that there's lots of room for competition - even if one business is clearly better at selling a product in one particular region, another business can still flourish in adjacent, or even overlapping region.

These two facts aren't necessarily true on the 'net. It's a lot easier, for instance, to compare the prices of Argentinian and Australian CD shops on the 'net than it is in real life. In addition, businesses don't always need to open more locations to service customers in diverse regions. Hence, internet business seems to scale _better_ than linearly with size.

All of this sounds wonderful for business! But the article contends that the conclusion of this effect is that the middleman is eliminated. Say I'm a company that produces CD's. Why would I both selling the rights to sell the CD's to, say, cdnow, when I can sell them direct from my web site, charge the customer less, and _still_ make more of a profit myself? Let's say there's _two_ CD companies that produce CD's. One of them is likely to be _slightly_ more efficient at producing CD's than the other. This one can charge _slightly_ less. More customers tend to go to this CD site because of the price disparity. This effectively causes an increase in the price disparity. The end effect? *One* business sells each different type of product.

Hence, it is possible that internet commerce promotes monopolies, rather than preventing them.

Damn I wish I could find that article! It explains things much better than I can.

   -Shane Stephens


[ Parent ]
People who purchased^W read this article... (4.66 / 3) (#18)
by Vs on Fri Jan 25, 2002 at 09:44:30 AM EST

...also read the following item: R.Stallman: The Right To Read. Excellent write-up.
--
Where are the immoderate submissions?
i like these better (4.00 / 2) (#21)
by velex on Fri Jan 25, 2002 at 10:08:38 AM EST

.kwd; .html; .ksp; .dia; umm... what else? oh yeah! can't forget good old .txt and .xml

Please get the history right (4.00 / 5) (#23)
by W V Paris on Fri Jan 25, 2002 at 10:20:54 AM EST

It's always the Christian "sacking" of the library in 391CE that gets mentioned. The main library was destroyed a century before in a civil war; before that Julius Caesar's siege of Alexandria in 48BCE also did severe damage.

What remained was destroyed by the Muslims in 645CE, on the grounds that either the library contained information already in the Qu'ran (in which case it was superfluous) or it contained information not in the Qu'ran (in which case it was blasphemous).

The Arab world (5.00 / 3) (#35)
by ucblockhead on Fri Jan 25, 2002 at 12:18:42 PM EST

People tend to talk of "Muslims" as if they are all of completely like mind. But "Muslims" are like Christians, who range from Calvinists to Catholics. There's a huge variety of belief. While it is true that a group Muslims sacked the library for the reasons given, we owe other Muslims a great debt for being the ones to save and transmit the very same information. It was the Muslims that saved the knowledge of the classical world during the Christian dark ages.
-----------------------
This is k5. We're all tools - duxup
[ Parent ]
At The Time? (5.00 / 1) (#44)
by Matrix on Fri Jan 25, 2002 at 05:55:27 PM EST

Umm... Slightly different historical periods there. At this point, the Muslem religion was just getting going and had not fragmented. Most of the converts were of this extremely fanatical mindset, which only helped worsen the loss of knowledge during the Dark Ages. It was only afterwards that they started trying to preserve remaining knowledge, and they did a pretty damn good job of it.

(Oh, and props to them for inventing Algebra, too. I'd hate to have to do math the Greek way. ;) )


Matrix
"...Pulling together is the aim of despotism and tyranny. Free men pull in all kinds of directions. It's the only way to make progress."
- Lord Vetinari, pg 312 of the Truth, a Discworld novel by Terry Pratchett
[ Parent ]

Wayback Machine (4.00 / 1) (#32)
by dannygene on Fri Jan 25, 2002 at 11:29:51 AM EST

Up until about halfway through the article I thought this was going to be about the Wayback Machine and how it will one day die and all of the internet's history will go with it. Somehow I think I would've enjoyed the article much more if that had been the case.

Life is too serious to be taken too seriously.

I liked this story better the first time (5.00 / 3) (#39)
by PresJPolk on Fri Jan 25, 2002 at 01:50:51 PM EST

I liked this story better as Richard Stallman's The Right to Read. That one had a happy ending.



Wouldn't it be more likely... (4.50 / 2) (#42)
by Wah on Fri Jan 25, 2002 at 03:55:01 PM EST

..that an interstellar electro-magnetic pulse created by some not yet interpreted galactic phenomenon would sweep by and erase all magnetic data storage in an instant?

Ah hell, why not just make it a big asteroid.
--
Choas and order, flowing down the drain of time. Ain't it purdy? | SSP

One problem.... (5.00 / 2) (#43)
by CrazyJub on Fri Jan 25, 2002 at 04:27:16 PM EST

Everyone (who matters) is getting behind XML as the new document standard, owned by nobody.

HMTL begat XML, and the world rejoiced.



I don't think it will happen. (none / 0) (#46)
by komet on Sat Jan 26, 2002 at 11:39:28 AM EST

Great write up, thanks.

Nevertheless, I believe that human nature has mechanisms in place to prevent this from happening.

Microsoft will have rivals for a long time. I don't think IBM, Adobe, etc. will sit back and let Microsoft take control.

On the other hand, the "all corporations merge to form UniCorp" scenario is a distinct possibility. This gigantic corporation would be just about the only IT business in the US. In this case, it would employ tens of millions of rather intelligent people. Many hundreds of thousands of them would be old enough to remember kuro5hin. They would be disgruntled to have to be working for a monopoly. And only one of them needs to find a way of surreptiously obtaining the encryption keys.

Also, the US will have enemies, or at least detractors, for a long time to come. Will Communist China use SDOC for their internal documents? What about the Taliban? True, Red Flag LeninWord won't be able to read SDOC, but at least not _all_ human knowledge would be lost.

Unless, of course, all countries unite to form GlobalGov. Then, the above argument applies...

I think, basically, humans have an innate resistance to captivity. Though TV may turn 99% of them to couch potatoes, if the other 1% reach a large enough number, they will strike back.

Just a few thoughts...

YOU HAVE NO CHANCE TO SURVIVE MAKE YOUR TIME.

Seems the <i>opposite</i> of the Alexa (none / 0) (#48)
by clark9000 on Sun Jan 27, 2002 at 11:18:55 AM EST

The problem with your scenario is that on the one hand, while the library at Alexandria was a flawed way of aggregating information, the great benefit of it was that it INCREASED people's access to important information. If you needed something, you knew exactly where to go to get it. The people who built the library didn't to it because they hoped to make tremendous royalties by selling millions of scrolls. They did it because they realized important knowledge would be useless to everyone if it remained scattered all over the world in a disconnected way.

The new scenario you propose is that corporations will seek to RESTRICT people's access to information for the purpose of profit. They already do this to a large extent, via the enforcement of existing copyright laws, copy protection, etc. However, at this point universities control most of the information that is analagous to the information that was once in the library of Alexandria. They are using new technologies to achieve more and more distribution and redundancy (if only Alexandria could have had off-site backups, eh?), and give access to more and more people. Seems mostly good to me.
_____
Much madness is divinest sense
To a discerning eye;
Much sense the starkest madness.

-- E. Dickinson
The Alexandria Effect | 50 comments (33 topical, 17 editorial, 0 hidden)
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