Fundraising 2007/Why Give blog/Preservation of knowledge, decades from now
In 1985, Pan-Electric Industries collapsed causing the Singapore (the only time in history) and Malaysia stock exchanges to shut down for three days, with the news screaming headlines in the frontpage of Asian newspapers. More than twenty years later, the article documenting the company and the incident is merely a stub. For myself, I was not even born when the incident occurred, and neither did I knew nor heard of this at all until I came across an obscure entry in a paper encyclopedia which recorded nothing more than a short summary of events.
I am pretty sure almost everyone has heard about Enron scandal, which occurred in 2001. I would like to ask though, how many people are going to remember about Enron twenty years later? Will our next generation be able to find and know the same amount of information and detail that we currently have, or is it going to be a faint memory where we tell our kids, "Oh, it was a very big thing twenty years ago, but you will have look very, very hard scouring through books and national archives to find it"?
That is a big problem I faced when I exactly tried to search and document significant past events for Wikipedia. Several of these articles (including articles published online) would have disappeared altogether as they expire (some as short as in a week), decay, etc. At times, you have to go down to your local library and request for the archived hard copy, and there is no guarantee that they still hold it. A few companies take advantage of this fact and would charge you for a good amount of quid to release an article from the archives. Chances are, unless you have a project to turn in, or something similar happens where you get the feeling of "deja-vu" and want to investigate, you would not bother to find out.
Even though at times Wikipedia may be criticized for its Recentism, I do not think it would be a bad thing for the encyclopedia to hold more in-depth information than any other source when news break and several editors make rapid additions to its respective articles. In fact, it is this that we are able to provide a complete picture of significant events, such as the 2004 Asian Tsunami (currently a featured article on English Wikipedia). In fact, I am glad that in this same manner we now have a comprehensive compilation of current events since the Wikipedia began in 2001, and the best of all we have made it free and available for everyone to be know and be utilized.
We are able to know detailed events in Ancient China that occurred thousands of years ago, because historian and scribe Sima Qian bothered to write the Records of the Grand Historian. Today, we want to do the same : be able to pass on the records of history to the future generations. And of course, there isn't much use if we are unable to survive the test of time. There is no way to know if Wikipedia would still be around in decades, a century, perhaps a millenia. However, there is one thing that we know for sure : we want to preserve knowledge, keep it running for as long as possible, and pass it on. And for that to happen, we need your contribution and help; every dollar counts.