I had an amazing realization recently.

What do you know about your great-great-great-great grandfather?

If you’re lucky, there might be an elder in your family that can tell you about him. Or, if you’re really fortunate, there may be some historical records that can tell you some information about him as well. For the most part, all you’ll ever find out are a very narrow set of facts: Where he lived, what he did, who he married, and how many kids he had.

Unless you were related to a major historical figure, you probably won’t know much about your relatives from 100, 500, or 1000 years ago.

Now, that’s changing. We’re part of the first generation of individuals whose entire history may be recorded and passed on. We’re inching closer to an era where everyone will have a recorded digital footprint.

This isn’t just about what you have on your Facebook, Twitter, Instagram and LinkedIn profiles. It’s about the picture and videos your friends have saved of you on their hard drive that gets backed up to the cloud. Its the list of movies you have in your Netflix queue. Its the footage of you holding a sign at a basketball game. Its finding your house on Google Maps.

Understandably, this goes into a host of privacy issues that has a lot of people worried about the “Big Brotherization” of society. While that is a valid concern, there is another way to look at things.

For the first time in history, we have the ability to affect our individual history. We’re part of a generation whose achievements, opinions and memories could theoretically “live forever.”

In the past, only someone who achieved “greatness” could really have a legacy. They left something behind that changed the lives of people in the future. That could be anything from an invention to the creation of a country.

Now, anyone can leave behind a history for family or digital anthropologists from the future to explore. Hell, it’s entirely possible that my grandson could become president and he could quote this blog when writing his own autobiography. (In reality, its more likely that my grandson’s opponent would use my Twitter against my grandson during the campaign.)

So what does this really mean for us? Pure and simple, we cannot become complacent. We can’t allow ourselves to get stuck in ruts. We have to look for ways to impact the greater good of the world and society.

Millions of generations of human beings before us just needed to do one thing: survive. Because of their success not only do we survive, we thrive. We have to do the best we can to make sure that those that come after us thrive as well.

Growing up, I wanted to succeed for my parents. Like most people, I worked hard in school because I didn’t want to disappointment them. Now I’m starting to realize that we need to challenge ourselves for the sake of our descendants as well.

With the ability to change our legacy at our fingertips, what are you doing?

~ by joysonism on May 28, 2013.

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