Digital Amnesia

Digital Amnesia

2014, Technology  -   20 Comments
Ratings: 8.99/10 from 168 users.

Focusing on the vulnerability of digital data, Digital Amnesia ponders the sustainability of modern artifacts that have no material state. Notable archivists share their perspectives on the Digital Age and whether it poses great promise or threat to the longevity of digital information and our collective memory.

Of the many quirky and amicable characters interviewed throughout the film, one of the most notable is Brewster Kahle, the passionate and energized founder of Internet Archive, whose mission is to preserve the Internet itself. Kahle explains his organization's purpose, highlighting the Wayback Machine website where users can access snapshots of pages long defunct.

Though the Archive exists primarily in the digital realm, Kahle guides us through the Archive's physical headquarters, cautioning viewers that without a reminder of our past we're destined to live in "an Orwellian state of the constant present." Kahle's affable sense of sentimentality is especially evident when he reveals a room populated by honorary statues built to resemble his long-term employees and pioneers of the Internet.

Dr. Ismail Serageldin, director of the Library of Alexandria, bares a similar sentimental side during his travels to Amsterdam, where he intends to rescue a vast collection of books on the verge of destruction. As he sits in a room lined with strikingly barren shelves, he proclaims books should be honored and respected as "living pieces of memories."

Alexander Rose, director of The Long Now, explains that the ephemeral nature of digital data combined with the rapid-pace obsolescence of recording technology guarantee a loss of material unmatched by previous methods of preservation. He later introduces the concept of the 10,000-year clock, a project run by The Long Now, as a symbol of "long-term thinking." Designed to contrast the lighting pace of the modern attention span, the gargantuan mechanical clock is set to tick once a year for ten thousand years.

A thoughtful film with a cautionary angle, Digital Amnesia grants viewers insight into the role of the archivist in perpetuating information across time, profiling just some of the people working to ensure current generations leave their mark in history, and that future generations may benefit from the lessons learned.

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20 Comments / User Reviews

  1. Petra I. Hernandez

    For some of us who have books, where can we donate them? I have 3 or 4 full encyclopedias plus many other loose books literature...
    Where can I send them?

  2. Andy

    This is a remarkable question. Are we worth remembering?

  3. Petra I. Hernandez

    Again I write. I hope someone will get in touch with me so that I can send all the books I have. Please! I also love books and do not wish to see them disappear. Am a retired university professor.

  4. Petra I. Hernandez

    I had assumed that this was being done by universities, etc. I have several complete sets of encyclopedias and many other books in various countries and do not know what to do with them, No one wants them. How can I ge them to the Alexandria Library?

  5. Lee

    Hmm, in the first minute they start with stating that hard drivers only last for 5 years? Really? Where is the research behind that statement? I for one have disks from 15y ago that are still working without issues and I don't expect them to fail any minute now either...

    That made me a bit sceptical for the rest of the movie...

    1. Angel

      Well, you found your little technicality to judge it negatively. I'm guessing not a LOT of things measure up to you, do they, Lee? You find yourself surrounded by dumb people and things that don't work properly? Food that tastes poor served by inept zombies? God forbid a tribute to humanity such as this cool documentary should fail within the first minute.

  6. Faraday

    Loved it. I've joined Archive Team!

  7. Adam K

    It is best for us to preserve the historical libraries of all publications. The governments are broke and possibly, even as Cass stated, there's "a big conspiracy to dumb down the population".

    It is up to us to bound together our heads to bound, republish, archive, and preserve.

  8. Cass

    Makes you wonder if it's a big conspiracy to dumb down the population... I mean it's only a matter of time before our magnetosphere completely dissolves and a solar EMP hits....

  9. dickhead

    so we loose a bunch of old crap watever we have cable tv and memes who caers these gise are loosers

  10. Feyenoord

    This is a dutch series, every sunday they come out with the best documentaries! if you guys wanna check the rest:
    they have all of their doc's available in english, like the one above.

  11. Richard Neva

    A remnant of something needed in a society lost in the immediate!

  12. Mammy07

    Saving books just because they exist is a very inefficient solution to a humanly-defined problem. Just as Mother Nature "unfairly" discards billions of creatures as key to her existential balancing act, so we humans discard most of our creations and in so doing, refrain from drowning the world in dead redundancy.

    Just being born doesn't make an entity, book or human, societally valuable. Why not redefine the "savers" into a worldwide volunteer army of literary evaluators, each perusing one by one the books they come in contact with. Such books could be stamped with a special insignia and sent free of charge to a repository. Society should be saving quality, not quantity.

    1. Robert England

      A book about a Sun centered Solar 'System' would have been thrown away before Galileo's time because they didn't know it was valuable YET. He might have had existing theories to build on and come up with more because of it, OR, it might have been understood a century before Galileo, we will never know. The trouble with your assertion is that someone has to make a 'blind' judgment call of a 'relative' nature that no person is qualified to do unless they have time machine and unlimited time to check each fact as important or not in the distant future,. Even the worst children's books may be important to a sociological archeologist 1000 years in the future, to help with some study on the rise of certain attitudes of Humanistic traits in history that changed how children saw the world and affected everything after. You don't know! How better to save it all in case it does become relevant or valuable! (Rather the point I believe)

  13. sharpstuff

    Wow! A fascinating and heartwarming documentary. One can see how the World could be with more people like those wanting to preserve history instead of decimating it.

  14. ~Oliver B Koslik Esq


  15. Crab_Nebula

    Well good to know my old yahoo "Geocities" site may still be around.

  16. Insignificantly Significant

    Good doc, broken down nicely by those below

    Recent studies have shown people have upper limits on memory. It makes sense that we would. I wonder if society(s) doesn’t also have
    them. We often seem resistant to change, because we have ideas ingrained, that are holding us back from such- as people, and as a society. It could well be, that it’s important that we don’t/haven't fully retained it all. Of course, I’d like to know more of the history we’ve lost (obsessively even lol). What society wants, isn’t always what’s best for it. But, as our capacity increases, maybe we can have our cake, and eat it too, who knows. There would be pros and cons, it's just an alt view; that I’d like to elaborate on, but won’t lol. But, without a doubt, I'm against google locking up the domain, and monopolizing info.

  17. DigiWongaDude

    Jason Scott [BBS, and Get Lamp documentary filmmaker] in a top hat?! Respect! There are some important, easy to grasp, potentially devastating side effects to our bigger, faster, technological society. This film shows somewhat of the lighter side of the issues and what some altruistic folks are attempting to about it. All very nice.

    "Google and the World Brain" is a great accompaniment to this. It tells a similar, great story about the darker, corporate mindset to hoovering up this kind of data. Far more shocking and revealing, but together these two films make for a more balanced perspective surrounding our so-called "technological progress".

  18. Teddy Mcd

    An offbeat and good doc focusing primarily on the loss of info as so much data is no longer printed - and much of the data that is put online is soon deleted never to be seen again. Also as mentioned in the intro a key enterprise that is working to save this otherwise lost forever data is Internet Archive certainly worthy of a visit.