Pop geek quiz.
If you didn’t even have to think to know the meaning of this acronym, this bit is for you.
If you don’t know that TTL – the Time To Live value – is what keeps networks from collapsing under the weight of all of the data that would otherwise be bouncing around lost, never to arrive or otherwise be useful in any other way, then this bit is also for you. Twice.
Some fundamental design concepts prove to be so large in their application, that one wonders how we managed to successfully breathe in and out before they revealed themselves to their designer. The sheer mass of these fundamental concepts only reveal themselves to us over time as well, as we keep finding new applications for them after we had all long assumed there couldn’t be any more of them.
The TTL, or network Time To Live, assumes that all data in transmission only has a certain potential usefulness, when viewed in terms of time. That if data shows up at its destination after a certain point in time, that it just shouldn’t have bothered showing up at all. Oh, and as an aside, if it showed up that late or was otherwise being transmitted after that time, it was probably also lost, as well.
And here’s where TTL unexpectedly gets larger.
Explosively, massively, relativistically larger.
The network engineer will tell you that data should only have a defined Time To Live on the network.
I’m here to tell you that Information should also have its own – configurable — Time to Live as well.
Think about that for just a second, maybe two, and imagine what it would mean if the time that certain types of information could only be stored could be tuned according to its intended use.
Imagine the impacts on IT security, if the types of commercial data that are consistently being breached, were set to have to destruct and have to be renewed in such a short period of time that stealing them would get you virtually nothing.
What got me thinking about this was a case reported in the New York Times — http://www.nytimes.com/2014/05/14/opinion/ordering-google-to-forget.html?_r=0 – about a Spanish citizen winning a court case that has created a precedent that Individuals control the rights over whether or how long information about them should be made available via the Internet.
So it is, essentially, up to you – at least under Spanish law – to determine how long information about you is publically shared.
So we have a principle that – today – does not yet have a technical solution or an infrastructure to support it. The principle that all personal information is controlled by the associated human.
Imagine all of the types of information that people will want to restrict. Pictures of you…doing that thing…. at that long ago frat party. Adverse employment actions. Stupid Facebook flame wars on politically incorrect subjects. The list is virtually and literally endless.
The entire structure and implementation of networks and file systems will need to be reworked to include the header and metadata structures to support and implement this.
It’s something that will totally revolutionize the way we regard and handle all digital information in the future. It could just restore rational operation to the whole psyche of the entire human race, which has been made collectively insane by being unable to forget anything at all.
Information Time to Live. Information that is designed to be forgotten.
Have your lawyers call my lawyers to draw up the agreement. You know that this little brainstorm of mine is the way forward for us all.