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How will history be distorted in the year 3000?

TsaiDec 27, 2016, 7:01:58 PM
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Let's assume that human civilization progresses to the year 3000. How might history that is happening today (as of December 2016) be distorted in the future?

 

First, let us recognize that history is distorted while it is happening. Thus, the integrity of the information that future historians will have to work with depends on the integrity of the information that people generate today. Today, we have different groups of people with different narratives. Almost all the information they generate is stored and transmitted electronically. This includes books, news articles, emails, internal memos, videos, pictures etc. These will serve as the primary source materials that future historians will work with.

 

A primary source is a document or artifact created at the time of the historical event. This isn't to say that primary sources give an accurate view of the truth. For example, newspapers written at the time of historical event may be biased. However, using only primary sources will eliminate biases that may be introduced later on by future generations.

 

In the year 3000, most the primary source material would be our electronic records. Unfortunately, none of our current electronic storage technologies would survive beyond a few decades let alone a thousand years. Thus, the only information that will survive are those deemed important enough to be worth copying onto newer storage devices or newer technologies. This alone would be a source of bias since those in control of the electronic archives (FaceBook, YouTube, etc) would be the ones to decide which information gets passed onto the future and which gets lost to time.


Those alive today might consider most our electronic information to be useless junk consisting primarily of silly online comments, pictures, videos etc generated by ordinary people. Nevertheless, this information would help future historians determine how people live their daily lives today, what the general public mood is, and this information would help historians pinpoint when shifts in culture or political movements occur. It is easy to imagine a biased archivist deliberately preserving only the information that fits their historical narrative. This is fine as long as historians have access to the records of multiple independent archivists. A larger sample size means less bias and more opportunity to cross-check information.

 

Future historians must also be wary of doctored electronic records. The very fact that the records must be copied and passed down with each generation means that the electronic records that future historians will be looking at are not exactly 'primary' source materials. The truly 'primary' source materials would have long degraded beyond repair. Each time information gets copied onto the next generation hardware, the copier has an opportunity to alter the information.

 

 

In conclusion, historians in the year 3000 will rely heavily on electronic records to study the twenty first century. The records will be preserved by biased archivists who may or may not doctor their archives and who may or may not be selectively biased in what they preserve. The information that is preserved may already be biased at the time of creation. Thus, while it is true that our pictures, videos and blogs may provide future generations with a (very) vivid picture of our time, this is no guarantee that their accounting of history would be accurate.