Now of course printed hardcopies will have severe limitations because our electronic documents tend to be anything but flat, they link to many other items and in the long run the "links won't work". But if we think we have problems what about these giant media behemoths? It sort of boggles the imagination that the current generation that so criticized previous ones for being so slow to transfer older films on fire-prone acetate-based film stock that many earlier masterpieces were lost, themselves have neither a "future-proof" strategy nor an archival medium available to preserve the current cinematic masterpieces for another generation. Perhaps CD technology that is literally "using lasers to burn pits into aluminum" will last for awhile - oops, does anyone remember the early discs and "laser rot" (humid delamination)? Certainly DVDs and later technologies that are merely representing phase change in a dye are not preserving anything by performing an "irreversible process", and as far as hard disk copies go - gee that's right they ALL fail given enough time don't they? Well at least media FORMATS stay around almost forever don't they (wait a minute, when was the last time I had a machine with a Bernoulli drive again)? The most amazing thing is there's just about ZERO discussion about what to do about this pitiful state of affairs, and maybe if the big studios would start to take seriously the financial consequences of the potential loss of TRILLIONS in entertainment IP then we could "tag along" on their choice of archival media, and come up with some innovations of our own to "fill in the holes" that represent our own special needs.
There are a lot of bigger things to worry about... Digital copies ARE the only way to go.
I don't worry about data conversion. As long as there are geeks, there will be software to convert just about anything to the latest-greatest format.
I don't worry about data loss, because I use RAID, backup copies, and multiple sites to store stuff.
I don't worry about how long my data will last on magnetic media or solid state memory. Long after I'm gone, if anyone is really interested in my archives they will transfer them to new media before they go bad on the old media.
I certainly don't worry about getting knocked into the stone age. If you believe what is written in the book of Revelation (and I do), our digital copies are likely to become useless, but our paper copies are even more likely to be burned up. As was already stated in this thread, when that time comes I will not care about such things as my digital photos anyway.
I may be a hoarder of information, but it is all kept in a very small box instead of warehouses of paper.
Oh - one last thing... I was able to pay an unemployed person 10 bucks an hour to scan all my old photos. She was very appreciative of the short-term contracting job, and I got decades of family history on a thumb drive for about a thousand bucks.
Although the scrolls were preserved for millenia, apparently they were difficult to read because of the dirt (to say nothing of the fragmentation, penamanship and language). I remember reqding an advert ~1978 where the advertiser claimed that their mini sandblaster had been used (albeit at a very low setting). I googled mini sandblaster and came up with a low price alternative and surprisingly easily available.
Heck with the cloud, I don't trust anyone (not even myself).
I've got a 8TB NAS sitting out in the open on my desk, movies of my kids growing up, digitized records of every sort, every photo (well, almost, still scanning in old polaroid's), tax records, purchased software, etc., etc., etc.,
All sitting inside this little shoe box size device (NAS) with only two cords I need to unplug to grab and go in the case of an emergency (power & Ethernet).
This is way better than the myriad of storage boxes I have the originals saved in scattered around the house (upstairs and downstairs).
In addition, I've do backups of the NAS on regular basis and they are stored elsewhere.
Yes, there's data on there that I probably would have to go to great lengths (and write my own software) to recover (e.g., true type font collections from the 1980's for my Mac's :-) But I'm hopeful that there will always be an easy way to read common image formats (even raw) and pdf's (and certainly text).
Unless of course, something knocks us back into the stone age. Which then I think we will have bigger problems then not being able to reminisce over photos of our great great grandparents we once scanned in.