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Ian Goldin: Navigating our global future

Ian Goldin shares on TED what might be the gab for humanity as globalization and technological advances bring us hurtling towards a new integrated future.

World Internet Speed Test 16112009
World Internet Speed Test

We live in a very different world within a span of 50 years. Korea downloads as fast as a giga bit per second, while another part of the world chuck along on a 56.6kbps modem. We are capturing more, storing more, learning more... all thanks to technology. The smart will get smarter with their ability to get access to more information.

While there is a need to ensure that no part of the world and its people are left behind in knowledge and wealth because of technology; there are much bigger concerns that lie far, far off in the future. In a thousand years, will computers still be able to understand all this information we humans worked so hard to archive? All of today's documentation - essays, articles, spreadsheets, media in general are created with today's software.

If that software should no longer be supported, you and I may have a vast quantity of bits we have stored that we don't know how to interpret anymore. They're just rotten bits. The big worry I have is that as time goes on, as we accumulate more digital information, if we don't preserve the ability to interpret the bits, they won't be useful anymore. One big scary possibility is that over a period of a thousand years, all of the accumulated digital information that we've stored away somewhere will no longer be understandable to our descendants. Historians, of course, will wonder what went on the early 21st Century if they don't know how to interpret a 1997 PowerPoint file.

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