How early is digital life?

Bits don’t leave a fossil record.

Well, not quite. They do persist on magnetic, optical and other media, all easily degraded or erased. But how long will those last?

Since I’ve already asked that question, I’ll set it aside and ask the one in the headline.

Some perspective: depending on when you date its origins, digital life—the one we live by extension through our digital devices, and on the Internet (which, like The Force, connects nearly all digital things)—is decades old.

It’s an open question how long it will last. But I’m guessing it will be more than a few more decades. More likely we will remain partly digital for centuries or millennia.

So I’m looking for guesses more educated than mine.

Since this blog no longer takes comments from outside of Harvard (and I do want to fix that), please tag your responses, wherever they may be on the Internet with #DigitalLife. Thanks.