Genealogy in the new era.

One thing that I find fascinating in this digital day and age is that genealogy is about to become much more expansive then ever before in world history.  Frankly, I think this is about the coolest bi-product of the digital age.  Let me explain…

What are the names of your grandparents?  Do you have a mental picture of them?  Maybe you remember what they look like from something you did as a child together.  Now, what did they look like when they were your age?  Would you be able to pick them out of a group picture when they are age 10, or 20, or 50?

What are the names of your great grandparents?  A lot harder, yes?  Any chance at all you know what they look like?  If you answered “yes”, that’s probably because you’ve seen them in a picture or two.  What did they do for a living?  No idea, right?  Sadly, it seems that we forget people – LOTS AND LOTS OF PEOPLE – about every 3.5 generations.  We don’t spend much energy thinking about or remembering people with whom we had very little interpersonal contact.  It’s sad, but it’s a fact.  People live, people die, and somewhere along the way – be it 30 years or 80 years – they are completely forgotten.  Only people who were well known by the public (Babe Ruth, President Truman, Marilyn Monroe, etc.) remain in the mind’s eye for more then a generation or two.  And even they start to fade over time.

Now imagine this:  in 100 years, all of your decedents will be able to recognize you because of the pictures available now.  It gets better.  In most cases, they’ll know your voice from a video of you that see on YouTube or a similar site.  And if you have a blog or an email account those kin folk of the future will get to “know” you better then you could EVER know your great grandparents.  Linked in will provide a detailed work history.  Facebook will offer deep insight in to your likes and dislikes and in to the company you keep.  And a generation or two from now, most (or all) of a person’s life will be completely recorded in digital format and nearly consolidated.  Credit Card receipts to show what you bought your wife on your first anniversary.  Facial recognition software to chronicle what plane you took and where you went on a vacation.

If our consumer culture had a longer attention span, someone would be putting together some sort of application or product to neatly organize and chronicle “you” so that your kids and grandkids and great grandkids would always have a digital version of you to look in on.   The problem with the business model is that there isn’t much of a way to see how effective it would be and how used and appreciated it would be because you’d be dead (or close to it) as your family members were using it.  Maybe they’d pay $20 for a digital archive of Grandpa Josh or Grandma Jill.  Who knows.

Or maybe it isn’t a product that needs to be made at all.  Maybe the natural order of the internet ecosystem will simply exist in a way that an interested person can look for and easily “find” the digital you.  Point is, I’m delighted to know that my kids and their kids and their kids will always have a way to know more about me then I know about my great grandparents and their parents, etc.    You should be glad to – many people work hard (at work, family, charity, church, whatever) to be “remembered” for something and it just became a lot easier.  In fact, you aren’t likely to have to do anything at all.  You’ll just be there, forever, for everyone to see.


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