The Future of History

Album Cover: The Black Album

"Young enough to know the right car to buy yet grown enough not to put rims on it."
Jay-Z / 30 Something

Posted on January 06, 2007 1:08 AM in Miscellaneous
Warning: This blog entry was written two or more years ago. Therefore, it may contain broken links, out-dated or misleading content, or information that is just plain wrong. Please read on with caution.

We seem to have a bit of a "mini blow" passing through Washington tonight, not even a month after the big one. As I sit here at the computer, the lights continue to blink, so hopefully I'll be able to make it to the end of this post before anything unfortunate happens.

I read via Tailrank tonight that Yahoo! Local Maps is now allowing for user-edited and -generated content. If you spot a listing that is out-of-date or incorrect, you can propose changes that will await verification from other users. If you know of a listing that isn't included in their data, you can submit it for addition.

In my opinion, this is a really cool feature. I'd love to see the idea extended to include reviews and/or additional information about listed businesses. If I'm looking for a mechanic, I'd love to have quick access to user feedback on the various options. Same thing goes for doctors, flower shops, Mexican restaurants, etc.

This idea of user-maintained information ties in well with similar advancements made in other services, such as the addition of geotagging to Flickr. It also reminds me of an idea that Robert Scoble proposed about a month ago, which he dubbed news near me.

I've been thinking about these types of shifts in the way data is created and made accessible for a while now. I really think we're reaching a tipping-point by which the future of history is going to change in a major way. For instance, you can now move into a house without knowing very much at all about the house's history at all. You probably don't know much about the previous owners, and even if you do, you have hardly any knowledge about the things that happened in the house long before you moved in. The future will be different. Because of all the location-based services that are becoming more pervasive by the day, it won't be long before you can look up the history of any location with relative ease. Whether it be the 10-minute history that Robert Scoble is interested in, or the 10-year history that a curious owner of a new home might be interested in, that type of information will be at our fingertips.

Imagine being able to stand at any arbitrary point on the earth's surface and find out what's happened there in the past. Imagine your surprise when standing in the middle of downtown in a city like Seattle and realizing that you're within feet of where a man was shot and killed only months before. Imagine being able to walk in the footsteps of someone famous, simply because they chose to enable the disclosure of that information via their cellphone long before they hit the big-time.

If you've ever been to Seattle and visited the Experience Music Project, you probably noticed a bunch of tourist-types walking around with headsets and a special device in their hands. Those devices told them what they were looking at and provided additional information as they walked around the exhibit. Well, that's the type of thing you may see in tourist-friendly areas in general throughout the world in the not-so-distant future. Devices ranging from the TomTom to your cellphone to your hand-held video gaming system will all be capable of providing very detailed information specific to your current location. If you're not careful, billboards, buildings or other artifacts in your general vicinity may even communicate with you in various ways based on the types of information you're looking up on your device. Minority Report, anyone?

Anyway, with the exposion of data, mashups, user-generated and -maintained information and the inclusion of the additional dimensions of time and space, the future of history looks really, really interesting. It also seems a bit scary. What do you think? Are you ready for this type of shift in what we know and how we know it?


Ian Clifton on January 11, 2007 at 11:22 AM:

I started to comment, but the comment grew excessively, so I wrote a blog entry stemming from your post. It's called The Coming Of The Coming Of The Information Age


Ian Clifton on January 12, 2007 at 1:25 PM:

The iPhone can show images and you can zoom in or out on a particular point by touching two spots and sliding your fingers toward or away from the point between them. This is much like the way the main character of Minority Report enlarges certain screens when he is looking at future crimes. We might not have holograms, but we certainly are making steps forward with the other technology (and perhaps holograms aren't far away either).


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