If you’ve ever researched your family tree, you’ve probably been able to trace your ancestors back several generations. You’ve probably also found that the further back you go, the less you know about the people that you find. In as little as a couple of generations the past becomes shrouded.

In generations to come, how will you be remembered? Will it be the snatches of anecdotes passed on by relatives, or will you leave a detailed and coherent portrait of the way you want to be remembered?

LifeStories will offer its customers two simple benefits:

  1. The ability to create their own LifeStory based on the stories that they want to tell.
  2. The means to persist the LifeStory for the benefit of generations to come.

By using LifeStories, customers can take advantage of tools and a promise of longevity that ensures that future generations have a much clearer and personalised view of their ancestors.

It’s easier said than done, as there are two significant obstacles.  The first is the collation of the material that defines a person. How do you organise a life in a way that it can be presented for future generations? The second obstacle is time. How do you persist this record for future generations to uncover?

LifeStories is the solution to both problems. On the one hand it provides the tools and structure to allow customers to organise the information that they want to leave behind. On the other, it will provide the physical environment to retain the data and provides a commitment to act as custodian for generations to come.

We’ve created the tools in the form of apps which allow you collate traditional and social media into digital time capsules and later this year we will be starting the development of a hybrid virtual/physical storage facility that customers will be able to use to store their LifeStories in perpetuity.

The Archive is our working title for the facility that we are developing and which we are planning on crowdfunding. Depending on when you read this, that process may have already started.

The Archive will be a collection of LifeStories, primarily focused on autobiographical work that will be stored for posterity. Our fundamental aim, and the reason why we’ve structured the content the way we have is to make it curatable for generations to come.

Our aim is not revenue, profit, or shareholder value. It’s longevity.

We’re trying to create something that will be around long after we and all of the social media we use today are all gone.

We leave our digital imprint in many places, but this scattering of information will do little to help future generations build a picture of us, even if the information lasted long enough to be researched.

And the reality is, without LifeStories, it’s not likely that the data will last very long. It needs a concerted effort to retain and repurpose it. There are three problems to overcome; human intervention, technological change and information decay.

Human Intervention

There have been many examples in the last 100 years of how information and media that should have been stored for posterity has been lost as a result of financial pressure, accidents and a lack of understanding of its long term significance.

In 1948, Universal Studios destroyed most of the 5,000 films it produced during the silent era. In fact, across all studios, it is thought that less than 25% of silent movies survive. People often fail to see the historical value of objects when making key financial decisions.

The companies that we store our data with today seem strong and prosperous but over decades there are sure to be financial pressures to reduce costs. As data becomes older and less relevant or if a company comes under financial pressure it is likely that they will cease maintenance of older data. Twenty years ago you may have uploaded extensive amounts of data to MySpace. It was the forerunner of today’s social media and gave the impression of longevity in the same way that Facebook does today, but it recently confessed it had lost all of its data for the period prior to 2013.

In these cases, the data was lost because someone had to make a decision and the value of the data was just not valuable enough to them.

Technological Change

The last fifty years have seen huge changes in the way that we store information. So much has gone digital, and technology changes very quickly and data needs to move with it.

For generations to come, the way that we record, compress, store and playback data is also sure to change radically.

Audio, video and still images are all compressed using common formats. In 50 years those formats will be archaic and will have been replaced with more modern techniques. It is therefore vital to ensure that content is upgraded as storage is upgraded. It will take a commitment to migrate data to new formats to ensure that information remains accessible.

The reason that Studio generates web (HTML) files is so that it gives us a standard platform from which to migrate in the future.

Information Decay

There are several problems that affect the long-term storage of digital information.

Modern storage media is prone to decay over an extended period of time. If you’ve had a computer for many years, you’ll probably know how often hardware failures occur and data can be lost.

How fast the data is lost depends on how it is stored. For complex systems like computer hard drives, the failures are relatively fast. Despite conservative manufacturer predictions, the majority of hard drives used for data storage will fail within 15-20 years.

Disk-based storage like CD/DVD and Blu-Ray is harder to estimate as manufacturers have done little testing. However, an accelerated ageing analysis by the National Institute of Standards and Technology suggested that the lifespan of disks could be in excess of 30 years when stored in optimal conditions. It is likely that magnetic tape storage will be equally durable under optimal conditions.

However, in terms of longevity, it is clear that all of these methods will result in potentially significant levels of data loss in less than 50 years. Whatever the media chosen, long-term survival of information needs a proactive approach to storage that includes redundancy and a commitment to move to new technologies.

LifeStories will take that responsibility.