But Belbo had found in the machine a kind of LSD and ran his fingers over the keyboard as if inventing, variations on 'The Happy Farmer' on the old piano at home, without fear of being judged. Not that he thought he was being creative: terrified as he was by writing, he knew that this was not writing but only the testing of an electronic skill. A gymnastic exercise. But, forgetting the usual ghosts that haunted him, he discovered that playing with the word processor was a way of giving vent to a fifty-year-old's second adolescence. His natural pessimism, his reluctant acceptance of his own past were somehow dissolved in this dialog with a memory that was inorganic, objective, obedient, nonmoral, transistorized, and so humanly inhuman that it enabled him to forget his chronic nervousness about life.Also, a pertinent article at NYTimes on the growth of a digital preservation movement in the sciences. I still worry about most art (especially work not recognized as "high" art) being lost, though, because the people doing the preserving might not care.
No one is suggesting that we try to hold on to every bit of data lingering in every obsolete corner. Choices must be made about the kind of material that should be kept fresh and accessible for 5 years, or 50, or 1,000. Census data? Put it on the “forever” drive, please. To-do lists? A little less crucial.People outside the science and engineering crowd need to have some say in the decisions about what will be preserved using expensive long-term storage. Of course, the arts community could always set up some sort of trans-generational, ritualistic cult to ensure the preservation of culture. Maybe I've been reading too many novels.