The history of humanity is a gradient of information.
All that remains of what happened to us as people a few thousand years ago is a sparse collection informational noise, a tiny collection of scattered elements, a dot here and there on an otherwise stark canvas. These few scattered dots allude to stories deeper and more grand than any one of us could dare imagine. But the gaps between those far back, distant bits are wide, leaving much to the deep speculative analysis of science and historians.
…the gradient smearing into an ever-more dense cluster of information points…
As we move closer to the present day, those gaps narrow, the gradient still there and slowly smearing into an ever-more dense cluster of information points. But that gradient remains, always composed of much more clear-space than fill.
And then a curious thing happens as we move even closer to the present day, crossing into the twentieth century, through the end of print-age and start along a path of what we now consider the Internet Age or the Information Age of today. That gradient — that smattering of information — reaches out towards a kind of tipping point where the density of the information it represents might move from being dots of information on a blank canvas to being dots of blank canvas on a smear of information. For the first time in the broad span of human achievement we seem to be getting ready to cross into a realm of more data than gaps.
I imagine there has always been something of this sense. People have long been recording information under the presumption that it will somehow be preserved through the ages. Our capacity to actually preserve that information — or at the very least publish and broadcast it — has been limited however, and it is has not been until recently with the arrival of this vast informational collective we’ve started to build in the Internet that true preservation in perpetuity has suddenly become something of a reality.
This is where that information gradient comes back into the story.
I think I\’ve crossed into a kind of philosophical age of my life…
For a variety of reasons — none-pressing, I should state — I think I’ve crossed into a kind of philosophical age of my life where I spend (way too much) time contemplating things like mortality and personal choices and the impact of being a wad of entropy-fighting flesh propelled into the future at that familiar and constant rate of sixty-seconds per minute.
Along the same lines I’ve been blogging for a while now. It started out as a kind of utilitarian act of communication way back when I began peppering my thoughts into the ether, but has evolved many times finally landing in its current iteration as a kind of ongoing letter to the future. This blog has become, for all intents and purposes, my historical perspective and my contribution to the growing collection of societal data points that have been scattered as a message to the future.
Sometimes I wonder. Sometimes I think that society cannot care enough — either because of the inevitable collapse or the slow, shifting changes that are sure to leave a distinct and clear mark upon what will exist in the space I now occupy at some future point — and that scattering these points of information, adding to the blur of mundane detail that will paint a vast informational tapestry for the future to understand us better, is a waste of time. But then that is pessimistic, isn’t it?
Blogging is a kind of personal archive.
Blogging is a kind of personal archive. On the one hand we write for the “now” and the “moment” publishing on a day-to-day schedule of curiosity and voyeuristic peeks into one person’s life. On the other hand, those moments slip off the bottom of the front pages and into the deep, dark archives, and only occasionally emerge later on; By then they are personal history, moments recollected for entertainment and more idle curiosity.
Barring disaster — barring the collapse of society, the Internet, or even just the notion of informational freedom with the inevitable destruction of intellectual flotsam that would surely follow such a collapse — these words have a good chance of surviving a very long time. They may never be read again after they fall off the bottom of my front page, that’s true — but then again, they may inform some distant, unknowable observer in the far future: They may inform my descendents of some ancient ancestor with too much time to write on his hands. They may inform a scholar of our long-distant society preserved in digital containment. They may inform an artificial intelligence scanning through the whole of human thought and writing in an attempt to better understand its creators. They may do little or they may do much. But there is a better than not chance that they will survive. There is that hope.
Again, I set myself to wondering… what will be known of us in the future? Ten years ago — even five years ago — I don’t think many people were contemplating the value of everyday people putting their thoughts to the wide world as blogs or smatterings of social media quips as a valuable thread in an historical tapestry that would fill the informational gaps of societies of the future. But now? Now it seems like it might be a worthwhile exercise after all.