From the invention of the wheel to the printing press, new technology has changed the human experience. Our comprehension of the world is no longer limited to a village. Our collective knowledge grows by inconceivable exabytes of data every day. And our memories, our very recollections of the events that shape our lives, are changing too.
In fact, according to neurobiologist Dr. James L. McGaugh, a researcher specializing in learning and memory, technological advancements right up to the advent of the internet have made it less necessary for humans to construct lasting records of our own memories.
Dr. McGaugh found that the presence of “emotional arousal” appears to enhance the storage of memories, helping us to hold on to our most important experiences and let go of the mundane daily clutter. He wrote:“It is said that, before writing was available to keep records of important events, such as a wedding or granting of land, a child was selected to observe an event and then thrown into a river so that the child would subsequently have a lifelong memory of the event.”
Thanks to new inventions (and common decency) infants are no longer subject to the traumatic possibility of death by drowning.
Yet the questions of who is recording the events, how they are being recorded, and whether any information is being omitted, distorted, destroyed or removed, continue to command society’s attention.Blockchain’s immutability
We’ve long been living in a world in which history is documented and human brains are wired to have selective memory. However, with the advent of blockchain technology, we now have a tool to record data that (ideally) cannot be edited, tampered with, or removed. Unlike the pages of a book or an entry in a database, data in the blockchain cannot be altered. In effect, records stored on a blockchain are immutable and live forever.
The question of data permanence for many, though, isn’t blockchain’s most sali...