Leaving A Data Legacy

I would love to know how my grandparents lived their lives half a century ago. Now that all but one have passed, I’m left with only a few pictures and stories. While there may be a Big Fish fantasy charm to the finite amount of information I have, my curiosity endures.

FoursquareI finally adopted Foursquare in January and checked in nearly a hundred times since. To this day, I struggle to find direct utility in the service (beyond specials, which I have never successfully used). That said, I am a data nut. I appreciate the value of collecting information on my life, whether I do anything with it or not. I’m too lazy to keep a journal, so social and location services help a lot. Despite the fact that my data may be used to serve the gains of others, I (perhaps naively) trust that these services will evolve to capture and interpret the nodes of my life back to me and all who follow.

I am of the camp that sees big data not as a violation of personal privacy, but as a path to building a data legacy. I don’t presume to become wildly famous and expect the world to care what I ate for breakfast yesterday. No, I mean to say that I want to leave slices of history for my children and children’s children to better understand me and the times I live in. Does anybody really care that I had Pad Thai for lunch yesterday? Fuck no. But the next generation might appreciate a rich data set on American dining habits and dietary evolution. My grandchildren might appreciate that Pad Thai is one of my favorite dishes.

Like donating your body to science, I want to donate the computed history of my life to the next generation of sociologists, historians and nostalgics. I want my grandchildren to have access to anything they could possibly want to know about me and learn from my mistakes. We all have an opportunity like never before to contribute to the nuance of our generation’s history books.

So, in spite of all this privacy hooplah, I will continue to check in and contribute to big data through applications and organizations that lend to a long shelf life and value for greater societal context.

Advertisements

Profit Is Not the Point

The goal is sustainability. We make money to cover our basic needs – food, water and shelter. The great businesses of our time have figured this out, too. Great product comes before profit – because only great product will keep customers coming back for more. We like steady paychecks and loyal patrons because we can sleep at night and know that life will go on.

The goal isn’t to make money; the goal is to exist. Once you’ve figured that part out, the next goal is to exist longer. Once you realize no one lives forever, the ultimate goal is to leave a legacy.

The only way you can leave a legacy is if you concern yourself less with profit and more with giving life all you’ve got. Sure, you should have a plan to make money. But if greatness comes first on your priority list, then have faith that the rest will follow.

Write History

The men and women revered in our history books made it there by impacting their community. Their personal ambitions transcended the self and aimed for a higher context. The heroes in our history books lived their lives for others, for a mission or spirit greater than themselves. We do not remember them because they were trying to earn a paycheck; we remember them because they made a difference in our lives. They served us in one way or another. They played a role in changing the world.

If you want to leave a legacy before you go, push personal needs and wants to the back burner. Live life for a higher context – if not for humanity, then for your community, friends, and family. See past your own problems and look into the problems of others. Make it your mission to heal the wounds of the world. Target a problem you believe you can solve with your talents, and do not rest until the job is done.

The world will notice. Before long, your needs and wants will be fulfilled in thanks. Your deeds will enrich lives, your name will live on, and life will be good. But only if you do it for others, not yourself.