Friday, November 1, 2013

Beyond digital footprints #hashtag

In a previous posting I wrote about my digital footprint. This XKCD: What if post got me thinking about digital tombstones. Think about it, given the ever shrinking cost of data storage the things we post on the internet will likely be there forever. FOR-EV-ER. My friends grandkids will be able to read this. It got me thinking about the stuff we leave behind.

I am going to write a story, to my friends' grandchildren. Your dad was born on March 21. I always found it easy to remember because it was the same day of the month as my birthday. I remember getting an early morning text the day of your dad's birthday. I had moved into you grandma and grandpa's house to look after the dogs when your grandma went into the hospital. They were great dogs. You may have seen them in pictures. Max was a bit neurotic, but he and I were friends. Cleo was dumb as rocks, but so sweet. We had a tradition of lighting up numerical candles for birthdays. I had a zero in my car waiting for the day your was born (technically his zero-th birthday), but it melted so we never used it.

Thirty-some years from now, when I am dead and gone, you'll be able to read this post in some Google/NSA archive and get a glimpse of what the past was like for your family. I hope this blog-posting was more interesting than anything written by Samuel Pepys, if they still make you read that terrible diary in your French-Chinese class [I'm assuming that the French-Chinese have taken over most of the world by now, and we are all forced to learn to read and write in French-Chinese. So, in the same way that we might read Tolstoy in 'English' class, you'll reading literature in 'French-Chinese'].

Also, if time travel exists when you are reading this. Please come back and tell me about sports outcomes so that I can win lots of money gambling [insert a description to the rest of the plot from 'Back to the Future: Part II" here].

All joking aside, the persistent nature of information on the internet is something that our generation will be the first to live with and learn from. What we do today matters, not just because it affects the people around us, but because there will be a digital record of it for (potentially) the rest of human history. John Donne wrote about how each of us are just one chapter in a big long book. Now that book is available for everyone to read. So, this weekend, when you are playing games at the U-M/MSU tailgate, remember this: your grandkids might read whatever you post on Facebook this weekend. Stay classy, Ann Arbor.

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