One Theft – And Three Thoughts

Stolen Laptop

This note went viral yesterday. I saw it on several Facebook posts from different people. Clearly, the note tells a self-explanatory story. The poor guy lost years worth of irrecoverable work. I can imagine the sheer panic he is going through, as he is preparing for his dissertation defense.

There are three separate thoughts that this prompted in my mind. Here they are, one at a time:

Back Your Stuff Up!

The poor man did not back up his work. I know he is punishing himself right now, and he does not need my comments. But we all do this! We keep our photographs on our iPhones and forget to synchronize and save them somewhere, anywhere. We have precious videos of Joey’s first step and we save it on the hard-drive of our computer. We write our dissertations and we don’t keep a copy? Really?

Think about it, some of our most important valuables are not tangible anymore, and we save them in one vulnerable place. The man’s computer didn’t have to get stolen. He could have had a drive failure. Those things happen regularly. It is crucial to back up computers.

In my work, I often write proposals, concept documents and designs. I HATE doing things twice. Even two hours of writing that I lost and that I have to redo aggravate me to no end. So I make regular backups of the documents I work on, at a minimum daily, to the company server, so it’s safe, in case my machine breaks down, my disk dies, my computer goes up in smoke, I erase my own file by accident – which I have done quite often over the years, and – goodness – somebody steals my machine.

We used to have shoeboxes in attics that we found when our grandparents passed away. Our generation won’t leave those. Here are some more thoughts of mine to that effect, that I wrote down in 2007.

Theft of Electronics

Electronics gets stolen a lot these days. My daughter’s iPhone got stolen recently for the second time in 6 months. We now carry around with us these devices that cost $600 each and are highly mobile. This is almost unprecedented. Only jewelry (expensive jewelry) and watches (expensive watches like Rolexes) are similar. But who used to wear expensive jewelry or Rolexes on the bus to work, or at Costco on the way home, or at the farmer’s market, or at the fair. But now pretty much everyone carries with them a smart phone ranging in cost from $300 to $700. What a market for a pickpocket. I wonder if there are statistics on how many of these devices are stolen regularly? We used to file police reports when jewelry was stolen. Do people file a police report for an iPhone? I think not. The phone companies are probably the only ones that have the real statistics, if they even keep track of why you’re buying another one.

Breakdown of Civilization

You may wonder why this title belongs here. I recently gave a speech in a Toastmasters club where I talked about eBooks and how they are changing our world. One of my points was that by no longer putting words on physical paper, over time, the intellectual value of our civilization will mostly be stored – and backed up – on digital media. A few companies will own and store all the goods, and keep them safe. Over time, we’ll get used to that.

Then, a hundred years from now, one catastrophic event, like a comet strike, or one act of war that wipes out our ability to generate electricity so we can charge our e-readers, could throw us back into the stone age.

I know that penicillin can cure an infection like the black plague, but I don’t know how to make penicillin. Science, medicine, agriculture, literature of all kinds, all is written in books, and if those books evaporated one day because the electrical power was shut off for some reason for some period of time, our civilization would degrade to the level of the stone age in a generation or two.

2 thoughts on “One Theft – And Three Thoughts

  1. Anonymous

    Proof that most PhDs are idiots! Please stay in school and don’t join the work force! 5 years and a single point of failure, really?

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