This file is not human readable
We are moving away from simple human readable standalone recording methods to complex only machine-readable integrated recording.  And the implications of that are being ignored for the most part. Now, the first sentence there was a bit of a mouthful.  But what I'm getting at is three-fold.

Non-human readable

The very basic methods of recording information used to be making marks on something relatively permanent (cave walls, papyrus, wood, stone, paper, etc.). For a long period of time, technology advanced slowly and even the printing press didn't change the fundamental nature of recording information. The biggest problems with loss of information came from destruction or deterioration of the media, or disuse of the language. Usually you could reverse engineer meaning (hieroglyphics) or find a good translation key (rosetta stone).

However, more recent technologies are no longer human readable. Things like the Edison cylinders and later vinyl records required machinery (although simple) to decipher the contents. Luckily, this was mostly limited to audio. And the idea of just sticking a needle in the groove was pretty self-evident, and pretty easily manufactured. Now, however, we've moved through paper tape and cards (human readable in a sense) to invisible magnetic tape and diskettes to CDROMs (and their successors). I could read a punched card or paper tape with my eyes if I had to. Can't do that with floppies or CDROMs. More and more of our society's information is being stored in formats that are not human-readable, even in the
hardest punched-card sense.

Online systems

More and more data is being recorded in online websites and other online systems -- and nowhere else. Someone turns the power switch off and the information essentially does not exist. If any part of our complex Internet fails (and loosing power to your house counts!), access to the data is gone. An interesting trade-off. The old method of printing information limited access. The Internet expands the access, but makes it fragile. The data is only available as long as those disk drives are spinning and the wires are connected and the routers are routing and the electrical plants are generating and...

Formats obsoleted rapidly

Who has access to an Edison machine for playing the wax cylinders? A record player for vinyl LPs? An 8-track tape player? A tape punch? A 7-track reel-to-reel computer tape drive? An 8" floppy drive? Heck, even a 5 1/4" floppy drive? These new formats are being obsoleted so quickly that information stored on old media is simply considered lost. For the longest time, you could still play 78s on your record player even though they had been obsoleted by LPs. Black and white TVs can still receive the current color broadcasts.  But the pace of change has increased, and the concern with compatibility has decreased (besides, there's more profit in selling new devices). Witness the plans for HDTV in the US.  All current television sets will be obsoleted (including the one you bought last week and the black and white your aunt has used for decades).

Worse yet, the actual medium is not the end of the problem.  For example, even if you have the old 8" drive to read the media, the data is likely recorded in some unsupported format, like WordStar. And although you could probably hack your way through a WordStar document with a binary file editor, the file formats are becoming more complex too. I don't even want to know what the inside of a Word97 file looks like (but yes I want most of the formatting features!).

Interestingly, this last third problem is the problem most likely to affect us as a society. The first two problems will more likely affect our legacy to the future should our society die out (and what do we care if it does). Or perhaps the first two items would become a problem if our society regresses, perhaps after catastrophe such as a nuclear war (hey, now we really have to worry about that again -- thank's India!) or a meteor hit.  For our generation and those in the near future, again this is not a big deal, since most of our important information is still in printed form.  But who knows how long that will last.
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Copyright 1998 Robert L. Oliver
The views expressed here are the author's.