Our actions on the blockchain create a permanent digital trail of breadcrumbs

in #writinglast year

In genealogy, the study of family lineage and history, we form a general idea of a person who lived long ago by analyzing available data points relating to their life. Birth and death documents, marriage licences, tombstones, immigration paperwork, records of legal actions, personal/photographs, letters, baptism records, and so on. Anything that recorded someone's 1) identity and 2) some other bit of information (like location, current age, marital status, etc) is useful to piece together a picture of that ancestor's life.

From just 4 faded documents in handwritten ink from the 1800s, all publicly-available online, I was able to put together the following general overview of my great-great-great-grandmother:

  • Jemima Metherall
  • born 1839 in Prince Edward Island, Canada
  • the Metherall family (and her husband's family, the Kinleys) came to Eastern Canada in the early 1800s from Devon and Isle of Man, England
  • Jemima married Richard Kinley on 5 September 1861 in PEI at the Methodist church in Charlottetown
  • my great-great-grandmother (Margaret Drucilla Kinley) was born the following summer, also in PEI
  • the family moved West to Manitoba as Canada became a country and expanded in the 1860s
  • at least 5 younger siblings were born over the next 15 years
  • they settled in the Wapella (Qu'Appelle) area of Saskatchewan, in the middle of the harsh Canadian prairies
  • the family made a living by farming until the children had left home, some moving further West to Vancouver, British Columbia
  • Jemima died in Wapella, Saskatchewan, in the autumn of 1904

She didn't leave those documents there for us to discover. She wasn't trying to leave her mark on history. Fall all we know, she was doing her best to stay hidden! Regardless, as the centuries tick by, society requires more and more documentation, and we get better at preserving and analyzing those documents. Jemima's tombstone, birth certificate, marriage license, and census data were created by her family members and by the early government of Canada, whether she liked it or not.

Today, I don't know what colour Jemima's eyes were, but perhaps even that could be discovered, with enough effort and time. Search skills, logic, basic math, and puzzle-solving skills come in handy for genealogists, and it's more fun and rewarding than you'd think! (If you're interested in finding out about your own family members, try this database.)

The point is, from just a few rudimentary pieces of data, we can get a pretty good idea about people.

Now... consider that today, we're leaving FAR more than just a handful of documents behind when we die...

And every post, comment, upvote, view, refresh, scroll, and click on the blockchain is being recorded and stored forever...

And if we're on a "smart" device (which has unique identifying numbers in the phone as well as the SIM card), even more information is being generated and saved - our vital signs, direction we're facing, if we're moving and how fast, audio, photos, and video from the cameras and microphones, a list of who else is nearby, any financial transactions, any calls or messages sent/received, and so much more...

And consider all that data comes attached with our IP address, login credentials, information about our internet connection, exact time down to the nanosecord, and much more...

What kind of picture are we leaving about ourselves for our descendents to discover some day? How about the picture we're creating of ourselves, right now, for big tech, corporations, government agencies, and anyone else who might want to know?

Nowadays, some of us are generating more "documents" than others, but I believe most of us are leaving a very clear and vivid picture of not just who we are, but every single thing we do.

For better or for worse, future and current observers can discover (and already know) our every move - from waking up, to falling asleep, and from our birth until our final breath.

D.Rutter (1975-)


Based on history, individualism increases quality of living. I wonder if individualism on the blockchain will follow that trend.

Good question.
So far, it seems that privacy (one aspect to individual liberty) is taking a backseat to convenience on the blockchain. We saw that with my inability to get funds off Steem/Hive without a smart device and/or bank account. You'd think it would be possible, and that people would be working nonstop to make it happen and improve it, but apparently not. So hopefully other aspects of individualism fare better than privacy has so far.

Thank you for that coverage, I actually needed to show @darkflame the issue with exiting crypto. Its so hard to tell our friends "buy this awesome new financial utility so we can invest on line" knowing that at the end of the day if they have even 1 bottle neck in their banking regulations it will make them unable to use the money how they are habitually using money.

There is some silly gift card loop holes but I don't want to rely on crypto to gift card

Hahahaahah true, buddy! Big dabs all around. Fuck crypto gift card shenanigans. We want access to our funds, without banks or smart devices!!

Maybe I should sell all my mining rigs and buy gold and hustle it for the Hive community

The word breadcrumbs makes me first think of circus and breadcrumbs. I forgot about the other connotation: to leave a trail :)

This is the sort of content that should do well. Original material, relating to incredibly hot topics, written up nicely with links and original images. Educational and entertaining.

Upvoted and rehived!

Carving stuff in stone...yeah the masons knew how to leave breadcrumbs! And WOW people used to have very nice writing! Nowadays people can't even read or use basic handwriting....or even printing.

Hahaha, truth!
Nowadays people aren't even learning to READ handwriting, let alone actually create it.
The art of creating text using writing implements and paper is nearing an end.
What comes after that? Something not as good, I imagine.

interesting point, however I highly doubt humanity is going to be around long enough for "decendants" many generations beyond now...and, hopefully, the blockchain, being decentralized, makes our footprint a little more anonymous than say...facebook...although the IP address is a dead giveaway...

I don't think decentralization has anything to do with privacy.

But you're right, this probably is the end of human history. Almost anything is possible with technology advancing exponentially from this already-advanced point. We approach the information singularity, long before which everything about our lives will have to completely change, likely into a permanent state of flux to be able to accommodate the pace of technological advance.

Which means there probably will never be "future genealogists", unless we're talking about the very near future.

you are prob right that decentralization does not equal privacy although I used to truly believe it did...now I understand why civilizations disappear without a trace -

That's a disturbing thought, friend.

I guess... but we are investing everything onto "online" - sadly - although this would be a perfect time to just get off the internet and live in REALITY.

We could start a new Amish-like project, but instead of living in 1799 forever, we live in 1999 forever! No smart phones :D

I would LOVE that

Getting it started is another matter. I don't know who is up for organizing that kind of thing. Maybe several small communities, to keep things small. We need somewhere to go, too. Maybe a national park will have to be seized for the people's use? Heh.

I think that our data and much of what concerns us will always leave a mark now and much more after the pandemic, there is a lot of speculation about the vaccine that we should get, without it we will not even be able to get on a plane, but we must use technology now. it's part of the world we live

Is "it's part of the world we live" another way to say "we are powerless and must go along with the demands of others"?