I felt it’s important to write this down for the previous and rest of my posts to make more sense.
“Der Sieger wird immer der Richter und der Besiegte stets der Angeklagte sein,” (The victor will always be the judge, and the vanquished the accused) Herman Göring at the Nuremberg trial, often attributed to Winston Churchill as “History is written by the Victors”
“What is history, but a fable agreed upon?” Napoleon Bonaparte
What we call History so far, has been a mix of anecdote, deliberate, misunderstood or accidental narrative setting and a variety of events described with subjectiveness and personal perspectives. There’s nothing objective about winners writing history, there’s nothing historic about losing the perspectives of the vanquished, their justifications for their crimes against the winners, their toil and convictions.
As we explore the intergenerational ebb and flow of memes, culture, political philosophy and the management systems of humanity, one of the first things we observe, is that : Things forgotten, will bring themselves back to mainstream relevance a generation or two later, which is the time they need to be forgotten. Often where you least expect them to. History doesn’t quite repeat itself, but it often rhymes, Mark Twain is credited as saying.
So what does our current understanding of “history” need so it can eventually become History ?
I now state my hypothesis, it requires two things :
- An Objective record of data, irrespective of sides or arguments or narratives or colorations of any kind, devoid of all subjectivity, recording the vast majority of mankind’s interactions, with each other and with the world around us. Pure data, so to speak, preferably data that has a costly signal attached to it (ie Proof of Work and transactions with fees). Suffice to say we have not reached this yet.
- Sufficiently objective narrator. That means that the interpreter of the data must be substantially detached from the data (directly or by extension) and be an observer as objective as a documentary narrator, a proverbial alien David Attenborough (or until they stumble on us) probably an advanced difference engine (ie an AI). Detachment could also be temporal, as in the far future from the events being analyzed. We’ll discuss this in a future post.
The astute reader should already have surmised that 1. is of course a blockchain that can fit, connect, record, interlock and lock away all the data our civilization has created so far, and the data it will create in the future. Financially incentivized data (fees and PoW) will always carry more weight and have more value than unconfirmed and “skinless” (Skin in the game) data. The fingerprints will all be public, some data will be public, some will be temporarily private.
“Temporarily” in this context is intergenerational again, due to the useful lifetime of hash functions and other cryptographic primitives, inevitable collisions, increases in compute capacity, algorithm improvements, privacy regulations, etc
What is privately on the blockchain now, won’t be as private in a century and probably less so in a millennium. I believe at this stage, we don’t know enough about how the inevitable dilapidation will take place, but so far, my assumption is that present and near-past (last couple of generations or a century maybe?) data will be sufficiently private and protected under contemporary cryptographic primitives, the past beyond that will not. The past will be transparent to every observer, and everyone will be able to become a “historian”, mining away on that data and reaching arguable conclusions, testable hypotheses (both the data and the hypotheses will be available to be tested), and hence actual science.
Imagine how dark, treacherous and riddled with uncertainty our present times must appear to our distant future brethren and their tools. Imagine how alienated they’ll feel with our stumblings about, our Twitter and Facebook “fact checkers”, censorship, deplatforming, cancel culture, and so much more ambiguity, rhetoric and narratives.
“Think of the endless cruelties visited by the inhabitants of one corner of this pixel on the scarcely distinguishable inhabitants of some other corner, how frequent their misunderstandings, how eager they are to kill one another, how fervent their hatreds.”
— Carl Sagan, Pale Blue Dot, 1994
Prehistory is over, long live History.