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Wikipedia and the End of Archeology

Zonk posted more than 7 years ago | from the it's-a-wiki-past dept.

256

Andy Updegrove writes "Far too much attention has been paid to whether or not the Wikipedia is accurate enough. The greater significance of the Wikipedia today, and even more for those in the future, is its reality as the most detailed, comprehensive, concise, culturally-sensitive record of how humanity understands itself at any precise moment in time. Moreover, with its multiple language versions, it also demonstrates how different cultures understand the same facts, historical events and trends at the same time. Today, archaeologists are doing digs to understand how people lived only 150 years ago, making guesses based on the random bits and pieces of peoples' lives that they find. In the future, that won't be necessary, as archaeologists are replaced by anthropologists that mine this treasure-trove for data."

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The ghost of Wiki past, maybe (0)

Control Group (105494) | more than 7 years ago | (#16694839)

That sounds fantastic in an idealistic, theoretical way...but considering the volatility of Wikipedia just on a day-to-day (sometimes hour-to-hour) basis, what makes anyone think the content of Wikipedia in a decade, much less a century, will say anything about what we were like today?

The advent of the digital age has made storing data for arbitrary lengths of time a possibility; as long as it's maintained, there need be no information loss. But at the very same time, the volatility of the information has skyrocketed, such that information that isn't being constantly maintained is routinely vanishing forever.

Contrast this to past eras, where the capacity for information preservation was nowhere near as comprehensive or as close to perfect as it is today. While at the same time being much less volatile: much of the information we've uncovered from human history wasn't intended to be preserved, it just happened to last.

Not that this is in any way surprising; it is, in fact, a restatement of the fundamental difference between analog and digital. Digital information is either preserved or not, there's no middle ground. Meanwhile, analog information can't be perfectly preserved, but it degrades more gracefully.

Sure, barring some sort of cataclysm, our "important" information will be around in far greater quantity two hundred years from now than anything from two hundred years ago. But how much "unimportant" information will we have irretrievably lost? As diaries are replaced with blogs, and letters are replaced with email, and telegrams are replaced with IMs and phone calls, a huge amount of information that might have survived previously as worn scraps of paper is destroyed as soon as it's consumed, thereby denying a window into the everyday culture of the time to future archeo- and anthropologists.

We'll never again lose the Library of Alexandria, but we'll never again have the journals of Da Vinci.

Re:The ghost of Wiki past, maybe (2, Insightful)

MakoStorm (699968) | more than 7 years ago | (#16694865)

"We'll never again lose the Library of Alexandria"

Sir, I think you give wikipedia far to much credit

Re:The ghost of Wiki past, maybe (1)

creimer (824291) | more than 7 years ago | (#16695181)

What? The comparison between Wikipedia and the Library of Alexandria? Or someone can figure out how to decipher the backup tape of Wikipedia a thousand years from now?

Re:The ghost of Wiki past, maybe (1)

XFilesFMDS1013 (830724) | more than 7 years ago | (#16696131)

Or someone can figure out how to decipher the backup tape of Wikipedia a thousand years from now?

Sure, just go read about it on Wikipedia!

Oh wait....

deciphering backup tables = archaeology (0, Redundant)

rhaas (804642) | more than 7 years ago | (#16696185)

I suspect someone probably *CAN* figure out how to decipher the backup tape of Wikipedia a thousand years from now. We will call that person an archaeologist. Just as today archaeologists recover fragments of paper or papyrus or human femurs, archaeologists a thousand years from now (probably 200 years from now, actually) will recover fragments of disk drives and magnetic tapes and human femurs, and they'll try to figure out all of the same things about us that we're trying to figure out about our predecessors. Resources that have been preserved, like books and Wikipedia histories, will be useful too, just as books from historical times are useful now - but there will certainly be questions that they don't answer.

Re:The ghost of Wiki past, maybe (1)

MankyD (567984) | more than 7 years ago | (#16694917)

That sounds fantastic in an idealistic, theoretical way...but considering the volatility of Wikipedia just on a day-to-day (sometimes hour-to-hour) basis, what makes anyone think the content of Wikipedia in a decade, much less a century, will say anything about what we were like today? Well no one said it would be easy :)

In all seriousness, I'm sure methods and techniques would exist that take volatility into acccount, looking at trends and changes over the course of months, days, years, or decades. A sort of averaging, if you will. Sure, the researcher would see hourly changes on heated articles, but this in and off itself might be of interest for finding relevant topics. It is might then be up to the researcher to uncover what's changing about the subject and what's not.

Re:The ghost of Wiki past, maybe (1)

MankyD (567984) | more than 7 years ago | (#16694957)

Next time I will succeed in clicking the preview button and will be able to close my <blockquote> correctly. Sigh...

Re:The ghost of Wiki past, maybe (1)

Control Group (105494) | more than 7 years ago | (#16695059)

But that depends on accurate preservation of historical information in the first place - is that happening with Wikipedia? If it is, I'm unaware of it. And if it is, where would I go to see what Wikipedia looked like last week? Last year? Five years ago? I'd be very curious to look at what people were writing about some topics a few years ago, as compared to now.

Unless I'm missing a significant data storage project (which I may be), once the article is changed, the only remaining copy of it is in human memory and some cache files.

If that's not happening, then I don't see what techniques can possibly be used to analyze the change trends of information (which I agree would be a fascinating long-term study), since the information that's changed is now gone.

Re:The ghost of Wiki past, maybe (2, Insightful)

MankyD (567984) | more than 7 years ago | (#16695115)

And if it is, where would I go to see what Wikipedia looked like last week? Last year? Five years ago?
http://en.wikipedia.org/w/index.php?title=Main_Pag e&action=history [wikipedia.org]

I can't vouch that someone hasn't tampered with it, of course, but that's a whole different story.

Re:The ghost of Wiki past, maybe (1)

Night Goat (18437) | more than 7 years ago | (#16695183)

But that depends on accurate preservation of historical information in the first place - is that happening with Wikipedia? If it is, I'm unaware of it. And if it is, where would I go to see what Wikipedia looked like last week? Last year? Five years ago?

Next time you look at an article in Wikipedia, check the top of the screen for the "History" tab. You can see all the changes that were made to the page.

Re:The ghost of Wiki past, maybe (1)

Atomic6 (1011895) | more than 7 years ago | (#16695345)

It is happening :)

Let's take the Slashdot page for example: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Slashdot [wikipedia.org]

Here [wikipedia.org] is the first version of that article, which is 5 years old.

Just click the "History" tab on any article, and you can see every version of it, and even which parts were changed/added/removed.

Re:The ghost of Wiki past, maybe (1)

Maxo-Texas (864189) | more than 7 years ago | (#16695493)

Wiki keeps a history log.

You can easily see every version of any article by browsing it.

Even see why it was changed in some cases.

Not sure how many versions they keep - maybe all.

Re:The ghost of Wiki past, maybe (3, Insightful)

vindimy (941049) | more than 7 years ago | (#16695017)

As diaries are replaced with blogs, and letters are replaced with email, and telegrams are replaced with IMs and phone calls, a huge amount of information that might have survived previously as worn scraps of paper is destroyed as soon as it's consumed, thereby denying a window into the everyday culture of the time to future archeo- and anthropologists.
... but that has little to do with Wikipedia, which in fact is doing the opposite - it does not destroy information by being electronically published! Rather, it keeps track of all the previous versions of each article, at the same time allowing anyone (making representative sample really big) to edit the content so that it reflects their knowledge, opinions, etc. That's a huge plus. No other work in human history can claim to have ever done that.

Re:The ghost of Wiki past, maybe (1)

Control Group (105494) | more than 7 years ago | (#16695215)

You're right, no other work can - and if I sounded like I was criticizing Wikipedia, I apologize; that wasn't my intent. The fact that Wikipedia exists and is as content-full as it is actually brings out optimism in me for the whole of the species.

Nonetheless, I don't think it's going to replace archeology.

Re:The ghost of Wiki past, maybe (1)

wwwrench (464274) | more than 7 years ago | (#16695055)

The problem is, that in the information age (sorry), retrieving old information is getting harder not easier. A stone table or cave painting can last thousands of years in some cases. I have data on floppy disks that I can no longer access, and that is only after a decade or so. Some of that data was written using a wordprocessor that no longer exists. Technology is evolving so rapidly, that we are quickly losing the ability to retrieve data which is only decades old. In a hundred years, we may be in a lot of trouble learning what our cultures were like. How long before we don;t know what a jpeg is?

End of archeology my ass.

Re:The ghost of Wiki past, maybe (1)

Control Group (105494) | more than 7 years ago | (#16695149)

Exactly.

While the potential to preserve information perfectly for arbitrary lengths of time exists, much (I'd even venture to guess most, if not almost all) of the information being routinely generated is being just as routinely deleted.

As an example, how many times have you been writing a reply or a post on /., only to accidentally switch control focus before hitting backspace, thereby losing forever everything you just wrote? That sort of information loss alone represents a giant bit bucket that vast amounts of information have fallen into. Add on top of that information loss for the reasons you describe, and I think we're losing information at a rate completely unprecedented in human history, both absolutely and relative to the amount of information we're creating.

Re:The ghost of Wiki past, maybe (1)

cptgrudge (177113) | more than 7 years ago | (#16695559)

...I think we're losing information at a rate completely unprecedented in human history...

To that, I can think to respond in only one way...

:-(

Re:The ghost of Wiki past, maybe (2, Insightful)

ampathee (682788) | more than 7 years ago | (#16695071)

Well, Wikipedia stores all edits, so future archaeologists will just have to rollback the Human Society [wikipedia.org] page by a few hundred/thousand years.

Wikipedia is not representative (2, Insightful)

EmbeddedJanitor (597831) | more than 7 years ago | (#16695229)

Geeks, you have your head too far up your geeky arses. There is a world outside the internet. Maybe a world that does not count to you, but it is real.

Likely way less than 1% of the world's population have ever contributed to wikipedia, and less than 10% have ever read it. It only represents a very narrow cross section of information, culture, whatever compared to what is available in written form or in artefact form.

Re:Wikipedia is not representative (1)

DerangedAlchemist (995856) | more than 7 years ago | (#16695727)

Of course, but that is changing very rapidly. How much information was on the internet vs books 20 years ago? See how that's changing. Look to the future a little.

Re:Wikipedia is not representative (3, Insightful)

volsung (378) | more than 7 years ago | (#16695867)

The recording of history has seldom been democratic or representative. For much of the time we have been using written language, it has been the elite (in income or education) who have done the writing.

But I think the original article submitter mistakes history for archaeology. Archaeologists study material culture of the past, and historians study the records of the past. They both try to understand what has gone before, but from different angles. Wikipedia will be of interest to future historians. The server room which houses it will be of interests to future archaeologists.

Re:Wikipedia is not representative (1)

cultrhetor (961872) | more than 7 years ago | (#16695897)

True, but until the development of the printing press, history was written by nobles or monks, who represented (at the time) a much lower percentage than that. Because of the "author"-ity of these individuals, nobody at the time either had the guts or literacy level to challenge their accounts of things, which have been called into question any number of times since the late 19th century introduced public schooling to the masses. Wikipedia offers a publicly negotiated account of a subject, and the collective nature of the Wiki's discussion provides, if not accuracy, an interesting cross-section of rhetorical practices. In short, troll, you couldn't ask for a better dataset for a study of public discourse, which is exactly what the article discusses.

Re:Wikipedia is not representative (1)

needacoolnickname (716083) | more than 7 years ago | (#16696043)

Likely way less than 1% of the world's population have ever contributed to wikipedia, and less than 10% have ever read it. It only represents a very narrow cross section of information, culture, whatever compared to what is available in written form or in artefact form.


I'm no statistician but I am guessing that way less than 1% of the world's population has ever been an archaeologist and less than 10% has read up on all of their work. Does it make the narrow focus meaningless? I don't think so, it just adds another POV.

You're agreeing, not disagreeing (1)

benhocking (724439) | more than 7 years ago | (#16696229)

I'm not sure if you know this, but you're actually supporting the GP's point, and not arguing against it. It wouldn't be the end of archaeology even if 99% of the world's population contributed to Wikipedia, because archaeologists would also care about the other 1%.

Re:The ghost of Wiki past, maybe (1)

lcde (575627) | more than 7 years ago | (#16695927)

That sounds fantastic in an idealistic, theoretical way...but considering the volatility of Wikipedia just on a day-to-day (sometimes hour-to-hour) basis, what makes anyone think the content of Wikipedia in a decade, much less a century, will say anything about what we were like today?

Thats a good point. Perhaps the diff files from 100 yrs ago might show how certain events changed the story on wikipedia. I think that the face value content might not mean much but the overall changes and at what time did these changes take place might be a better mining find.

Maybe then events in our time won't "just be a comma" but a progression from controversy to historical fact.

Firsta Posta (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#16694845)

Itsa me, the firsta posta.

Oblig (1)

Hahnsoo (976162) | more than 7 years ago | (#16694853)

"That belongs in a museum!" *cracks bullwhip, grabbing hat before stone door collapses*

Hope Springs Eternal (1)

TPIRman (142895) | more than 7 years ago | (#16694867)

I'm sure that's what the curators of the Library of Alexandria [wikipedia.org] thought, too. Problem is, the library didn't last forever -- nor is the link in my first sentence probably likely to work 150 years from now.

Library at Alexandria (1)

krell (896769) | more than 7 years ago | (#16694895)

I'm assuming that the Wikipedia guys have a slightly better backup system in place.

Re:Library at Alexandria (1)

Colin Smith (2679) | more than 7 years ago | (#16695871)

Sure, but technology is fragile.

e.g. you're depending on :

MediaWiki
    HTTP server
        IP network
              Physical network
                    Server
                          Electricity
                                  National Grid
                                        Power Station
                                                Coal
                                                      Oil

Start pulling things out of that stack and whether they have good backups or not won't really matter.

 

Re:Library at Alexandria (3, Insightful)

timeOday (582209) | more than 7 years ago | (#16696205)

Interesting point, and I appreciate the work you put into it, but I disagree. All those physical layers don't matter much with digital information, because changing formats is so easy - as easy as burning a DVD [zdnet.com.au] . The achilles' heel of the library of Alexandria was that there was only one copy.

Evolution (1)

ExE122 (954104) | more than 7 years ago | (#16694877)

But, you may ask next, is the Wikipedia accurate enough? After all, there is an ongoing controversy over whether its accuracy is the equal of a traditional encyclopedia.
And we all know that the encyclopedia is 100% spot on. No matter how much all translations and versions contradict each other. Like the bible.

Maybe I'm being too crass. Maybe they're right. Maybe thousands of years from now, people will think that Steve Colbert was the son of God. Who knows.

Either way, I think Wikipediology is a pretty interesting concept. I think that beyond using it as a historical resource, it's fascinating to see how something can grow and change when thousands of people are influencing it. Like the stock market, it becomes an 'entity' of sorts. I think true anthropological benefit would lie in studying how it has evolved.

I think the same could also be said about slashdot. Imagine a study on the evolution of trolls, annonymous cowards, and karma whores. Call it Slashdotology.

--
"A man is asked if he is wise or not. He replies that he is otherwise" ~Mao Zedong

Re:Evolution (1)

jizziknight (976750) | more than 7 years ago | (#16695379)

Call it Slashdotology.
For some reason I read that as Scientology. Coincidence? I think not.

Re:Evolution (3, Funny)

commodoresloat (172735) | more than 7 years ago | (#16695473)

Imagine a study on the evolution of trolls, annonymous cowards, and karma whores.
Hell, imagine a beowulf cluster of such studies!!

Re:Evolution (1)

gardyloo (512791) | more than 7 years ago | (#16695741)

Maybe thousands of years from now, people will think that Steve Colbert was the son of God.

      Son? Why limit the possibilities?!?

Re:Evolution (1)

loimprevisto (910035) | more than 7 years ago | (#16695795)

Maybe I'm being too crass. Maybe they're right. Maybe thousands of years from now, people will think that Steve Colbert was the son of God. Who knows.

Either way, I think Wikipediology is a pretty interesting concept.

I think you misspelled Wikiality...

Oh no (1)

$RANDOMLUSER (804576) | more than 7 years ago | (#16694883)

Don't we already do enough computer archeology trying to figure out other people's code?

Re:Oh no (1)

Apocalypse111 (597674) | more than 7 years ago | (#16695143)

I believe that particular exercise falls into the realm of math and linguistics. Unless its in Fortran.

Re:Oh no (1)

$RANDOMLUSER (804576) | more than 7 years ago | (#16695307)

Not at all. It's psychology - trying to climb into somebody you've never met's head to figure out what they were thinking.

The question is, will any computer still host it. (1)

gurps_npc (621217) | more than 7 years ago | (#16694893)

Obviously, the ability track changes over time in wiki - entrys would be helpfull. Comparing entrys from even 10 years back with today's would be helpfull. (terrorist for example might radically change from 2000 to 2002).

But we are talking about archeology, which generally deals with ANCIENT things. In a mere 100 years, (minute amount of time for an archeologist), I don't expect any wiki to still be around. By then they should be out-dated and replaced with some newer, better version that might very well not carry over data from the old out dated wikipedia.

Re:The question is, will any computer still host i (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#16695051)

Any system which replaces Wikipedia (if any ever does) will have to carry forward all of that information. It would be silly not to. What would be the point of reduplicating all the work that countless people (and bots) have already done?

So what will they think... (1)

Channard (693317) | more than 7 years ago | (#16694913)

.. when they find the the discussion section of half the female celebrity entries on the site involve in depth discussions about boob size. Is this really the kind of legacy to leave?

Re:So what will they think... (1)

boristdog (133725) | more than 7 years ago | (#16694961)

.. when they find the the discussion section of half the female celebrity entries on the site involve in depth discussions about boob size. Is this really the kind of legacy to leave?

Yes. They'll find out how remarkably similar we were to themselves.

Re:So what will they think... (1)

Escherial (806342) | more than 7 years ago | (#16695089)

I think it's reasonable to imagine their shock that the entire article wasn't devoted to breast size analysis -- I have faith that future humanity will finally have their priorities straightened out.

Maybe Vinge is right (1)

numatrix (242325) | more than 7 years ago | (#16694943)

Oh, not about the singularity [wikipedia.org] , but about the future of Software Archeologists [wikipedia.org] . I always loved the descriptions of Pham Nuwen working with software thousands of years old and having to treat it like an archaeological dig.

Or... (1)

DragonWriter (970822) | more than 7 years ago | (#16694945)

Today, archaeologists are doing digs to understand how people lived only 150 years ago, making guesses based on the random bits and pieces of peoples' lives that they find In the future, that won't be necessary, as archaeologists are replaced by anthropologists that mine this treasure trove for data.


Or, maybe, 150 years from now, the present content of wikipedia won't be still online, and archeologists will be digging old hardrives out of current landfills and reconstructing bits of the content for those anthropologists to analyze.

I mean, sure, we like to think of some of the online material we have now as permanent, a way to prevent information from being lost and having to be painfully dug up. But then, so probably did the founders of the Library at Alexandria.

Ever lost your data? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#16694983)

How many of you have a floppy disk drive anymore to read your "old" data backups? Or even the OS & program that wrote that data from 15 years ago?That is if the magnetic bits are still there. 50 years from now it will be hard to find a CD player...

God, I hate techno-elitists (1)

csoto (220540) | more than 7 years ago | (#16694987)

How exactly does Wikipedia reflect the state of modern human life? Most humans don't have computers. Most humans don't have Internet access. Many humans don't even have basic sanitation. A better place to look for the real human story is our landfills and cemeteries, as archaeologists currently do when they find an ancient site...

Re:God, I hate techno-elitists (2, Funny)

Simon la Grue (1021753) | more than 7 years ago | (#16695155)

Either in a landfill or in data stores, the archaeologists are going to have to dig thru an awful lot of spam.

Re:God, I hate techno-elitists (1)

OldeTimeGeek (725417) | more than 7 years ago | (#16695343)

I agree with this. The majority of people don't have the ability, for one reason or another, to contribute. Wikipedia is a one-sided view because it is built by people who have both the interest, the time and the ability to contribute to it. If, in the future, one is interested in how the Internet grew and the thinking behind its users, yes, Wikipedia may be useful. For the knowledge of how the majority of the human population lived their lives, Wikipedia simply has no relevance.

If anything, it will be a just another resource for future archaeologists, not a replacement.

Re:God, I hate techno-elitists (1)

pk2000 (792069) | more than 7 years ago | (#16695589)

Well, "modern" as oposed to those who don't use modern technology

Re:God, I hate techno-elitists (1)

Spez (566714) | more than 7 years ago | (#16695609)

I'm sorry, do you have any hard fact about what you advance, or you just flame? most humans don't have computer? By that, you say that more than 50% don't? Is that even true? Maybe for Internet (and I'm not even sure of that).

And sorry, but today's cemeteries contain mostly pots of human ashes, or decayed corpses (with 1 set of "cheap" clothing). There are no books, stories, news, tools, history and anything that could hint about the technology, science, or anything interesting at all, for that matter.

Re:God, I hate techno-elitists (1)

stinkbomb (238228) | more than 7 years ago | (#16696203)

How exactly does Wikipedia reflect the state of modern human life? Most humans don't have computers. Most humans don't have Internet access. Many humans don't even have basic sanitation. A better place to look for the real human story is our landfills and cemeteries, as archaeologists currently do when they find an ancient site...

While it may be true that most of the world is computer-less, their cultures are well-documented on Wikipedia.

Re:God, I hate techno-elitists (1)

exp(pi*sqrt(163)) (613870) | more than 7 years ago | (#16696247)

How exactly does Wikipedia reflect the state of modern human life?
For God's sake, you only have to type wikipedia.org into your browser to find out. I can't believe how lazy some people on Slashdot are.

Anthropologist, actually. (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#16694991)

This is more relevant to anthropologists, unless you're talking about digging up Wikipedia on old HDs, as a previuos poster mentioned.

Not going to happen (1)

dragonmark_101 (909807) | more than 7 years ago | (#16695003)

Theres one thing that you don't get. People have been saying this for a long time beleaving that newspapers and other sources of information will put archaeologists out of work. A couple of years ago anthropologists and archaeologists got together to do an expirament. They went to two neighborhoods and the anthropologists asked the people in two different neighborhoods about their alcohol cunsuption. The two neigborhoods had were different economic status, and had two different trash dumps. After the survay was done, the poorer of the two neighborhoods said that it had consumed more alcohol, but after archaeologists excavated the two dumps, the opposite was true.

Archives are the answer (1)

ndansmith (582590) | more than 7 years ago | (#16695005)

Wikipedia may still be around in 150 years (and up-to-date), so in order to get an accurate picture of 2006 at that time, they will have to consult an archived version.

If (0)

WilliamSChips (793741) | more than 7 years ago | (#16695009)

If anybody thinks archaeology will become the study of decoding disks, mod me up.

Time capsules (1)

SamSim (630795) | more than 7 years ago | (#16695029)

I've always thought similar things about time capsules.

There's simply no point in burying time capsules anymore. Reason being, our digitised textual and photographic records of any major time capsule's burial will probably survive just as well as the contents of the capsule itself, if not better. We won't need to dig the things up because we'll already know what's in there, who put it there, and why. It's all on record. So why bother?

Re:Time capsules (1)

nine-times (778537) | more than 7 years ago | (#16695537)

Is that the point of time-capsules, to preserve information? I always thought it was more of a prompting for self-analysis, that the items were carefully chosen to pass onto the future, and then placed beyond casual meddling from those who would rethink their contribution to the record.

It seems to me you could have a high-tech time capsule but storing a bunch of photos, music, and letters on a hard drive, encrypted. You'd need some method of creating a time-lock, so the data can't be altered or retrieved for however many years. It wouldn't help you preserve information, but it would replicate the experience of a time capsule.

when people invented script... (1)

cucucu (953756) | more than 7 years ago | (#16695043)

That's probably what humans thought when they invented script. Now everything is documented and no doubts will ever arise regarding our time.

Remember that much of Archeology is not unearthing the findings but interpreting them. If you had today complete access to the Library of Alexandria, how much of it could you understand.

Historians and archaeologists will always be needed. And also in the future there might the chance of recording reality and replaying it as virtual reality, which may cause reading Wikipedia or today's multimedia as a very poor experience.

But Wikipedia deletes stuff! (1)

greenreaper (205818) | more than 7 years ago | (#16695067)

There are many Wikipedians who love to delete things that they consider non-notable [wikipedia.org] . It is not a universal repository of all knowledge.

Submitter == Writer (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#16695079)

== silly person with neofuturist pleadings for fame based on weak hypotheses. See also Cringely and Dvorak.

Wikipedia points to epidemic of Tourettes Syndrome (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#16695099)

Judging from what I've seen, it's more likely that future archaeologists will conclude that our society had a raging epidemic of Tourette's Syndrome considering the high abundance of terms like "FUCK tHIS", "Tyler Scott has a Bigg Dick" or "<example>ThIS iss funn to edit" appearing in the middle of our writings.

Re:Wikipedia points to epidemic of Tourettes Syndr (1)

DragonWriter (970822) | more than 7 years ago | (#16695315)

Yeah, because that's all just a bizarre modern quirk. No one in the future will post profane things, just as no one before the 20th century ever placed profane messages anywhere, right?

Just a thought... (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#16695113)

Archaeologists and history-writing has long been debated to be dominated by those in power. If Wikipedia can be used for, what the article calls, "Wikipediology", isn't it too dominated by people in power? The entry of Africa is in English and I don't think there are (m)any articles in any African languages. If they were, weren't they going to be different on content than the English entry?

You can take any country. As the article praises the meanings of having different opinions about the same thing in Wikipedia of different languages, IMHO Wikipedia is far more prone to have sceptical views about anything to be worth anything related to study of demographical point of views.

The internet is what? 20, 25 years old? (1)

Colin Smith (2679) | more than 7 years ago | (#16695123)

Um the Mongol, Roman, Aztec empires are all gone. How long will our civilisation last after oil becomes scarce?

And someone's predicting the end of archeology? What makes anyone think we'll be able to power the machines required to serve the web pages. Our entire civilisation (including agriculture) is based on abundant energy.

 

Re:The internet is what? 20, 25 years old? (1)

kfg (145172) | more than 7 years ago | (#16695967)

How long will our civilisation last after oil becomes scarce?

37 seconds; +/- 2 seconds.

What makes anyone think we'll be able to power the machines required to serve the web pages. Our entire civilisation (including agriculture) is based on abundant energy.

Some of us are working on it, but most of you won't like the answers that will actually work. You will, however, still find remnants of the technologies of the ancient cultures you name still practiced by the descendents of their people, although I have not experienced this directly with the Mongols.

Something to look forward to, but I'm not sure how I'll eat.

KFG

same problems as with accuracy (1)

wpegden (931091) | more than 7 years ago | (#16695127)

This hope is still affected by the same things that affect accuracy. If an article in Wikipedia is only edited and maintained by a few interested parties (or the U.S. Congress) then it will be no less necessarily representative of societies views than it will necessarily true.

In fact, Wikipedia's champions can hope for nothing more than being representative of societies views. How is wikipedia going to tease out the truth of something that we don't know the answer too/can't agree upon? It won't, no more so than Britannica will.

Why is Wikipedia a better anthropological resource than Britannica? Because it's more comprehensive? From an anthropological point of view, it seems that advantage may well be outweighed by the uncertainties in the processes underlying it's development (even though this doesn't outweigh the fact that it's comprehensive if what your looking for is a good quick first reference).

Of course, it could be very useful if what you're trying to understand is "how people collectively write encyclopedias."

Re:same problems as with accuracy (1)

DragonWriter (970822) | more than 7 years ago | (#16695441)

Why is Wikipedia a better anthropological resource than Britannica? Because it's more comprehensive?


No, because its more inclusive in its contributors, and thus (the idea seems to be) better reflects how the people in general living in society view eachother and the subject matter. Particularly if you look beyond the articles to the discussion pages, there's probably quite a bit to that.

But I don't think its going to replace archeology for people studying our time (first of all, because its rather optimistic to think that on an archeologically significant time-scale—several hundred to several thousand years—the complete current contents of the Wikipedia will be preserved and readily accessible.) Nor will it replace completely other sources of information about society. It'll be one of many parts of the mix in studying our time, and it may well only be accessed through the work of archeologists recovering media.

Except for people making "time capsules", no one plans their work to be the subject of archeology, and yet much of it ends up being studied that way down the line.

"...not necessary.." BS (1)

Presence1 (524732) | more than 7 years ago | (#16695135)

"...Today, archaeologists are doing digs to understand how people lived only 150 years ago, making guesses based on the random bits and pieces of peoples' lives that they find In the future, that won't be necessary, as archaeologists are replaced by anthropologists that mine this treasure trove for data."


Incredibly valuable resource? Yes. Excellent cross-cultrual-reference (a la Rosetta Stone)? Yes. Outstanding resource to create a partial context on other facts? Definitely. fundamentally new and useful type of resource for researchers investigating tins century not available to those investigating earlier centuries? Absolutely

Complete fact base? NO. Replacement for physical archaeology? NFW.

Just the statement in the intro that digs are being done for research into 150 years ago demonstrates the point. There were plenty of books and encyclopedias from that time that survive, and create the same kind of context and cross-cultrual-references. Yet they still have to dig.

It is a good point that Wikipedia is a new type of esource, but this sounds like the geek version of the flat earth society -- "everything revolves around where I stand".

Finally, nicely articulated (1)

zecg (521666) | more than 7 years ago | (#16695141)

I've been explaining to people how Wikipedia is not inaccurate, as any controversial topic shows a history of changes, often replete with links that can serve as additional help in understanding the topic and how it's seen in different cultures, among people belonging to different fractions and so on - but apparently asking an encyclopedia user to read the content that is not a single version of the article "published" at the moment it's read is a big, big problem.

What about blogs? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#16695151)

With all the daily data our society gathers and plugs onto a hard drive these days...I think an online collaborative encyclopedia isn't going to be the place anthropologists look to understand the lives of the past. What with youtube...who knows how many video clips of what not...how could anyone question how we lived today?

Doubtful (1)

mpapet (761907) | more than 7 years ago | (#16695169)

The submitter is a little -too- optimistic when it comes to historic analysis.

The decades of television and film that are quite simply gone/i> because no one, not even the mega-corps that made some of the stuff wanted to keep them around is an excellent example. What television/movies are still around may not be accesible because the storage media may not be playable for whatever reason.

The wikipedia has the same problems. Maybe not right this minute, but very soon.

Establishing facts 100 years from now will be just as difficult, if not more so because fewer and fewer things are being printed.

LOL what (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#16695171)

"Wikipedia today, and even more for those in the future, is its reality as the most detailed, comprehensive, concise, culturally-sensitive record of how humanity understands itself at any precise moment in time."

No, Wikipedia is a record of how Wikipedians understand society. Though I must say it will be nice, 150 years from now, when a member of what's left of humanity, most likely a resident of one of the temperate areas of the globe (the twenty percent or so nearest the poles) not blasted by radiation, will be able to travel the gaslit streets to a building housing one of the remaining computer terminals (the Museum of How We Fucked The World Up Big Time) and check out Wikipedia for evidence of what a lot of shallow, passive, supersitious, self-absorbed shitheads we all were. They will also learn how say some words in Klingon.

Archaeology (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#16695217)

If the spelling is hard, skip an alphabet to suit your inferior intellect.

Nice.

Re:Archaeology (1)

not-enough-info (526586) | more than 7 years ago | (#16695715)

From the Oxford English Dictionary:
ar-che-ol-o-gy
noun
variant of archaeology

Far too much attention? (1)

exley (221867) | more than 7 years ago | (#16695261)

Too much attention paid to a silly little thing like accuracy? Give me a fucking break. If Wikipedia wants to be taken seriously as a true encyclopedia, then accuracy is paramount. No, of course it is not going to be perfect, but the cavalier attitude taken towards accuracy by many is nauseating. All of this other stuff about it being a reflection of "how humanity understands itself" has interest, but that doesn't negate or even make less important the accuracy issue.

I know a lot of people want to get really excited because "information wants to be free" and whatnot, but settle down. Like anything, Wikipedia has its good points and its bad points. Just because it's a great idea doesn't mean that it can't, and doesn't, have some serious flaws in execution.

And before anyone chimes in with "regular encyclopedias have inaccuracies too!", save it. While that is certainly the case, that doesn't let Wikipedia off the hook. Bringing that up is just an attempt to change the subject.

Total Wank (0, Flamebait)

nagora (177841) | more than 7 years ago | (#16695277)

Worst article ever.

It's Comical... (1)

TranscendentalAnarch (1005937) | more than 7 years ago | (#16695331)

... that Wikipedia and the Library of Alexandria would be compared so much. Wikipedia may be a great encyclopaedic reference, but the near compelte lack of literature on the site means it doesn't begin to compare. A more accurate comparison would just be the Internet with the Library of Alexandria, where the Internet is a far more extensive resource. Just look at the services offered by universities, governments, Google, Wikipedia, etc.

A researcher looking back would be able to find the actual work among sites like Google Books, and then find cultural context for the period on Wikipedia.

Archival (1)

Gadgetfreak (97865) | more than 7 years ago | (#16695333)

Given the constant state of modification, you'd need to take "Snapshots" of Wikipedia and archive them. Say every 2 years or something like that, assuming it continues to be a good resource for many years to come.

And then you'd need to constantly upgrade the archives to the latest media as time progresses, so that you can easily do your research 'digging.'

I agree, though, while many folks don't have access to computers, it's still good insight as to what the "neutral point of view" of a given society is. It's a bit hard to envision, but what is considered neutral now may change with the circumstances of the future.

Discoveries, typically those of a scientific nature, have a habit of changing the way the world views itself. I often read about the discovery of the "new world" only a few hundred years ago. I can't imagine what it was like to grow up not knowing what's on the other side of the ocean. Not knowing what the sun really is. And maybe some day, we'll find proof of life elsehwere in the universe. And that will again change our whole perspective.

But at the moment, we don't have a lot to go on for what the typical person's definitions were of generations past. I think archiving would be a fantastic idea.

Yes, but will they care? (1)

sssmashy (612587) | more than 7 years ago | (#16695403)

Wikipedia's importance is its convenience to people living today as a quick overview of just about any topic under the sun.

Sure, Wikipedia may be useful as a cultural artifact 150 years hence... but by that time the early 21st century will be just a blip on the historical landscape. Only a few thousand academics and hobbyists will care about how we thought of ourselves in 2006, just as only a small number of people today really care or know much about the world 0f the 1860s.

In short, Wikipedia's present value to millions of users today is far more important then its future value to a relatively small number of folks in the distant future. All historical knowledge will be lost eventually - even if the physical data continues to exist, the accumulation of information over the coming centuries will be so vast that a detailed record of any given time will become irrelevant.

Is this guy even an archaeologist? (1)

pilkul (667659) | more than 7 years ago | (#16695475)

What does the guy writing for the "standards blog" know about archaeology? I'd like to hear from real archaeologists about they think whether Wikipedia will be enough to kill their profession.

Not in a million years (1)

Strange Ranger (454494) | more than 7 years ago | (#16695503)

Far too much attention has been paid to whether or not the prices on Antique Roadshow [pbs.org] are accurate enough. The greater significance of the Antique Roadshow [pbs.org] today, and even more for those in the future, is its reality as the most detailed, comprehensive, concise, culturally-sensitive record of old human junk.... Today, archaeologists are doing digs to understand how people lived only 150 years ago, making guesses based on the random bits and pieces of peoples' lives that they find. In the future, that won't be necessary, as archaeologists are replaced by antiquers and people who rummage through your attic.


Wikipedia is almost all text. It will never replace, for instance, the feel of an iPod in your hand, with it's little bud in your ear. Text and data, just like a billion attics full of antiques, will never replace the archaeological shovel.

Or to put it another way, once you get all the data out of a relic, you don't discard the relic. You need both, data and relics.

Re:Not in a million years (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#16695893)

"Antique iPods"?!? What are the chances that any of those lithium batteries will still be working 50 years from now, or that you'll be able to find a replacement battery?

just one teensy problem (1)

rucs_hack (784150) | more than 7 years ago | (#16695575)

Name one current data storage medium capable of storing the amount of data required to really give an idea of what's currently going on that will last hundreds/thousands of years. Essentially our version of the ubiquitous stone carving.

I can't think of one. A dvd would be hard pressed to last fifty years given the average build quality, and hard drives just plain don't last that long.

Data will no doubt propagate through history, being changed, updated 'interpreted' and generally messed around with until it gives no more idea about us as petri's pottery shards do about the ancient world. Basically it'll always reflect the views of people regarding us according to their current culteral views, not our view of ourselves, and lets face it, we've done little to impress those who will follow us.

Nope, unless someone finds a permenant and hard wearing storage medium capable of storing large scale data we're pretty much screwed so far as getting our side of things heard in an unbiased fashion. The only thing certain to still hold info from our period in history far into the future is a small gold record attatched to a certain deep space probe.

Interesting Theory (0, Offtopic)

eno2001 (527078) | more than 7 years ago | (#16695595)

But like evolution, it's ONLY a theory!!! The reality is that we are in a digital dark ages. Much of the important data that we hold dear to us, or that keep society running, or that even keep people alive just to name a few areas is NOT recoverable in any fashion should we have a nuclear catastrophe. All those data tapes, RAIDs, CD-Rs, DVDs, hard drives, you name it... they are NOT human readable like those scraps of information from our ancestors were. The problem we've got right now is that there is too much information to even be able to store in a physical and human readable form. So I have two proposals:

1. Using genetic engineering and/or nanotechnology we ensure that all humans born past a certain point have nanosensors that can read data in any form and process it before feeding it to the brain. Ideally this human augmentation should be completely biological. However, if nanotechnology is necessary it should be purely mechanical in nature to avoid being wiped out by EMP.
2. We find a way to back up snapshots of the molecular structure of the entire space encompassing and deliver those snapshots via encryption (ideally quantum encryption) to remote data storage facilities at multiple points outside of the solar system. Should a disaster occur, automated attendants will simply be triggered to rebuild the solar system from a recent snapshot at pre-designated locations in the universe. A message would then be sent to the appropriate people on the newly reconstructed Earth to alert them of the nature and cause of the recent devastation that befell the original Earth so that if it was a human caused destruction, the causal trajectory may be avoided. If it was natural, the nature of the event would permit the reconstructed Earth managers to make a decision to revert to an earlier copy should the natural event be too close temporally to do anything about.

You'll have to excuse me. My mind is in a different space as I've been practicing Jala Neti the past few days and my mind is expanding.

Not quite right... (1, Funny)

Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#16695631)

Actually, anthopoligists of the future will probably data-mine our email... and conclude that we were a people obsessed with p3n1s enlargement and herbal v14gra!

right. (1)

doom (14564) | more than 7 years ago | (#16695649)

If archeologists 1000 years hence are not taking core samples of our landfills, I'll eat my styrofoam seven-eleven cup.

Archaeology != Anthropology (1)

surfcow (169572) | more than 7 years ago | (#16695723)

Anthropology is the study of humanity.

Archaeology is the sub branch of anthropology which studies the physical remains of human societies.

Wikipaedia does not allow us to examine physical remains.

You are probably referring to cultural or linguistic anthropology. I do not know how useful Wikipaedia will be in that regard as it represents the group opinion of only a very small fraction of humanity, almost completely english speaking, white, western, educated, well-off, christians. An old lady in muslim Ethiopia is probably not well represented.

yes, IAAA (am an anthropologist) (1)

Quasar Sera (838279) | more than 7 years ago | (#16695735)

FYI, archaeology is a subfield of anthropology. And text analysis, the sort of which would be necessary to sort through masses of Wikipedia entries (across languages or not), is nothing new (nor is it confined to anthropology -- not remotely). Slapping a new label on something doesn't make it novel, it makes it jargon, and jargon doesn't help anybody.

Also, FTA:

But in the anthropological sense, another name for a "simple collection of disconnected trivia" is "culture."

Is a load of crap. I'm not going to claim that there's a strong concensus on what precisely culture is --beyond, of course, that it's a term we have constructed to represent some odd human behavioral patterns-- but I don't know a single anthropologist who would agree with that statement. And I know a lot of anthropologists.

Re:yes, IAAA (am an anthropologist) (1)

micromuncher (171881) | more than 7 years ago | (#16696079)

Course all sorts of people would argue with that. Where I was, archaeology was under history, not anthro - considered humanities - not a social science. An archaeologist is not necessarily a sociologist. It really depends on your bent.

this is sensationlist spam (1)

non (130182) | more than 7 years ago | (#16695749)

written by a partner in a law firm, undoubtedly to increase their google page rank. there are only apples and oranges here. nothing to truly compare, unless of course we're talking about better devices to reconstruct dead magnetic media. only then could it be called archaelogy.

the reverse is true (3, Insightful)

circletimessquare (444983) | more than 7 years ago | (#16695765)

if i lived in 106, if i wanted to record something, i would write it down on paper. it would therefore persist for decades, perhaps centuries. if i lived in 3000 bc, i'd write it on a stone tablet. then it would persist almost forever.

but what if it is 1966 and i put it on a computer? well, by 2006, the technology, expertise, file format, and actual reading machines wuld be completely gone. in other words, records from computers from 1966 are less accessible to us than records from 1766 or even 3000 bc

if it were 1706 and i wanted records from 1666, how hard would it be for me to locate and read them? now i'm going to give you a computer tape from 1966. good luck

or howabout it is 2046, and i give you a CD burned from 1996: what's the state of the dyes on that CD in that year? exactly. now compare that to parchment from 1776. sure, it's somewhat decayed, but you can still make out what is written, with your own eyes, no other technology needed

so yes, archeology IS going away. but not for lack of anything getting lost, but for the fact that things are getting completely lost, in a way they never did before: the media is becoming inscrutable to modern eyes, very fast

Re:the reverse is true (1)

PurifyYourMind (776223) | more than 7 years ago | (#16696051)

I don't know. It can work both ways. Whatever you may think of George Lucas, he did do some good working/funding of preserving old film reels. Films were (still are?) being lost forever because they were only on one original reel. But one would think, thanks to perfect digital copies and distributed storage (Internet), that shouldn't happen again.

Re:the reverse is true (1)

slimjim8094 (941042) | more than 7 years ago | (#16696107)

And this is a major argument against DRM. If we lock something up, how will future generations read it? More to the point, what happens when this becomes transparent and everything is encrypted? What happens to future generations

Of course, there's always printouts...

Meta Discussion (1)

Lord_Dweomer (648696) | more than 7 years ago | (#16695883)

The most valuable asset of Wikipedia for future archaeologists will indeed be the meta discussion. There is so much lost from the past when all we see is the final outcome of something. This goes hand in hand with the saying that history is written by whoever wins the war. I think the current articles on our situation with Iraq and "the war on terror" are perfect examples of this.

I think communication and information are some of the most dangerous weapons humanity has at its disposal right now, and some of its most powerful tools. It is so very interesting to see the aggregate effect of people realizing that information is not always 100% black and white, 1's and 0's. It can indeed be quite gray, and the reasons for the differences in opinion are as varied as the opinions themselves.

Um, no. I think not. (1)

msuzio (3104) | more than 7 years ago | (#16695909)

Right... sure.

I hope the Wikipedia guys don't break their arms patting themselves on the back. Why in the world would they think any sort of meaningful remnants of Wikipedia will survive intact 150 years from now? If anything, Wikipedia's constant change (particularly on the fringe topics) means it is useless as some sort of "set in stone" archive of any time period.

That's rather short sighted (1)

OpenSourced (323149) | more than 7 years ago | (#16696245)

That supposes that

a) The data will be preserved. There is no particular reason why it should.
b) The data will be understood. There are many languages of the past that we cannot understand. The same will probably will be true in the future.
c) They will have an interest. For us our particular time is interesting, but are we also interested in, say, the political views in the Kassite dinasty in Mesopotamia?. And that period took four centuries, surely many interesting things happened. The quantity of data to analyze in a distant future may make all but big overviews too much for a human mind. Something like "after the Middle-Ages, the so-called Modern-Ages (1500-2500) developed, with humanity developing a primary state of technology, but still lacking a conscience of ecology. The natural resources were depleted and the balance of Earth was tipped a bit too far, ending in the natural disasters that gave birth to the Interregnum (2500-2900)."
I mean, nobody will be particularly interested in what the US thought about the obesity problem, compared to say, what the Germans did, in the beginning of the 21st century.

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