October 30th, 2003

bald australia sepia

Data Bleed

Maybe I should go to librarian's school or something. This is a response that I posted to arohanui's post about the loss of historical film to decay.

When I think of how much of the last century's information we're losing to entropy it really makes me sad.

It's humbling to realize that the only thing that _really_ lasts is paper. With every thing else it decays rapidly or else the technology changes so fast that we just can't remember how to read it or play it back anymore.

CDs and CD-ROMs have a life span of 30-100 years and then they'll all be worthless.

The glue on all the 8 Track tapes has mostly already failed.

VHS videos lose their magnetic charge over time most people's home movies from the early 80s are getting unwatchable now.

Old magnetic computer tapes and reel to reel audio tapes are not only losing their information but there simlpy aren't any machines left for them so we can't even copy them.

Now to learn that we're losing our film herritage.

It's the tragedy of modern information technology. We're so immersed in so much information that we just assume stuff is really durable because it is NEW. We take it for granted. And then one day it'll be gone and future generations will never know how we got from there to here.

Will we be able to do better with the petabyes of digital information now available to us? Are there effective archival methods that will preserve it other than printing it to punchcards and storing it in a vault? The only real way is to keep copying it (with good checksums) faster than entropy drops bits. But will we copy it all forever? Once we take a break, all is lost. A book can be put down and forgotten about and rediscovered 500 years later. Not so with digital data.
  • Current Mood
    tired tired
bald australia sepia

Fighting the Smoking Man

My position on Big Tobacco and government regulation/punishment thereof is being drawn out over in stuffedsheep29's journal where I seem to have fallen into a debate with swank76.

Here are a few excerpts of what I wrote:
That's not at all like Arby's catering to the fat-assed American consumers who like to eat a giant beef sandwich by creating "The Big Montana". It's also not unlike a car company creating another SUV that won't fit in a garage. How dare a company try to make a product that sells!

Well, personally, I think that the manufacture and marketting of gigantic SUVs and wildly unhealthy food products should also be regulated. I don't think that companies shouldn't have the right to sell cigarettes or that people shouldn't have the right to choose to smoke them. I do think that if a given product has a known negative public health impact that it should be regulated and that the producers have some responsibility to cooperate with efforts to minimize the public health impact.

We regulate where and how and when alcohol can be advertised and sold and consumed. We regulate just how bad for you alcohol can be (e.g. if it'll kill you, make you blind, or give you hallucinations it isn't legal). I don't know if it is illegal, but it is certainly considered socially unacceptable, for alcohol companies or bars to encourage binge drinking in their advertising. It is certainly illegal to market alcohol to minors. I expect that if marijuana were legalized it would be regulated in similar ways. I see no reason why cigarette companies shouldn't face some penalties for a) using additives that affect the delivery of nicotine without listing those additives b) marketting to children c) altering/faking/supressing scientific data that would suggest a need for heavier regulation of tobacco.

I'm all for letting people fuck themselves over. But they need to have accurate information. They need to be able to find out not only what the effects of nicotine are but what the effects of all the additives are. They need to be able to find out not just that cigarettes can cause cancer but that certain practices by the tobacco companies could reduce the risk. Without knowledge of these things the market can not do it's thing, consumers are manipulated and ultimately killed (rather than being allowed to kill themselves).

And this too:
These Socialist programs are unconstitutional and un-American. They stab at the heart of America.

I do agree that the settlements with the tobacco companies was a scam because I believe they don't do anything to change the underlying problems or to otherwise punish the industry. The settlements are a drop in the bucket and as structured actually serve to further brand recognition.

I believe this scam was not perpetrated by a bunch of hippies. I believe this scam was perpetrated by the politicians who were responsible for seeing the lawsuits through but who caved in to a settlement that was acceptable to the very criminals they were supposed to punish. A bunch of lawyers got rich, a bunch of politicans got to tell their constituents that they punished Big Tobacco, and the coziness between Big Tobacco and Big Politics remained intact. Everyone saved face and nothing changed.

Some stupid anti-smoking ads are not my agenda as a person who is opposed to the way Big Tobacco does business so since that's all we got out of the last round of lawsuits, I consider that a failure. I think most serious activists would feel the same way.

Really, stupid small scale liberal fights like this aren't the kind of thing I spend a lot of time caring about. I ally myself with them but I don't work on them. I see the problems with Big Tobacco as merely the most egregious of the problems with Big Business in general. It's just too damn big and has too much power to cheat the rules that exist for the public good. I'm fighting a bigger (and more doomed to failure) fight against the whole system and I'm glad some nambypamby liberals are fighting the little (easier to win occasionally) fights at the same time. They've got my support but I don't cry too much if they lose or cheer too much if they win.

Last I checked there was nothing in the Constition or the American tradition (a tradition rich with anti-corporate and socialist tendencies dating back to the founding fathers) elevating free market unregulated laissez-faire capitalism as the official state economic model.