The way to a new direction is through value. For individuals to realize the value of their personal information, a first-hand experience of the potential returns is needed. Yet there is little chance of anyone being open to these realizations without an effortless beginning combined with a tremendous value proposition.
Change, self-knowledge, and managing the future each represent fundamental life challenges. Some people thrive on these challenges, but many do not, whether through lack of practice, knowledge, or energy. Nearly everyone can see what is possible to do, and what they might need to do, but for any number of reasons are not doing it. These challenges can cause stress, anxiety, feelings of inadequacy, and even despair.
It's difficult to overstate the impedance of both the barriers we put up between ourselves and our individual aspirations and the barriers others put up in front of us. True personal value is a rarity that too often requires tremendous effort and energy. Any kind of progress seems to be a victory worth celebrating.
Yet these barriers are no more than frictions, or problems, that are smoothed over by beginnings. If we can't see where these barriers are or where they've come from, then we're not looking at a true and detailed reflection of ourselves. And if we make it very easy for others to implant or reinforce these barriers, and then distract us from what's just happened, we are severely undervaluing our personal information.
If we find ourselves unable to realize our personal value in even small ways, then we end up with a deep pool of latent potential and just-out-of-reach opportunity. Whether or not we'll recognize and accept a viable way forward is another story.
Regardless, one way forward is encoded within this general structure introduced earlier:
Viewed from just the right perspective, the structure fundamentally supports a natural direction and process which can take you from where you are to wherever you'd rather be, comfortably and naturally. It is beginning-oriented and capable of mirroring any degree of complexity or scope. It is also ideally suited for underpinning a safe and productive attitude toward personal information, and thus voluntary participation in an information economy.
However, there is an often-repeated pattern to keep in mind. Whenever we accept a new platform into our lives - a communication medium, a financial system, a new technology, and whatnot - the risks, costs, and consequences are weighed against the new value provided. When the promised value of a new platform is great enough, risks and downsides are swept aside. Everything is fine as long as the platform provides enough value.
But it's not enough to be completely convinced that the value proposition is amazing. Nor is it enough to be fully aware of the risks, costs and consequences. Value must consistently accumulate and compound or else the platform becomes compromised. This happens when the value dips low and yet the platform sticks around as a part of the cultural background. The original risks, consequences, and costs all remain in place and will begin to surface. This reversal of the risk-reward ratio changes the formerly-valuable platform into an invisible vulnerability or attack vector. So it important that any new platform is designed with this dangerous pattern in mind - presenting minimum risks while returning the greatest possible value, and ensuring that this value accumulates and compounds indefinitely.
In the context of a real implementation using your personal technology, there is a careful combination of value sources and implementation details to be concerned with.
The general structure can be viewed in a few ways. There's the thread-based "side" view of the above diagram, which gives a sense of historical progression - frequency patterns, associativity, and developing complexity.
There's also a thread-based "front" view where you look at that structure head on, with the right-hand side nearest your viewpoint. This view gives a sense of the present as it arises from recent activity.
Then there's a compressed representation where the totality of actions are squished into a single sequence, much like a timeline. This simplified sequence is well-suited for protection and publishing schemes.
A useful property of these representations is that they each apply very well to arbitrary subsets of the original information. That is, you can take a specific section out of the compressed view - say between yesterday at 2PM and today at 2PM - and treat it as an independent dataset. Then perhaps transform it into either of the other two views. Or you can pick out specific threads, to any particular depth of detail, and view just that specific subset, with the potential to then transform that subset into a compressed timeline or another representation.
Each of these representations offers a direct contribution to a software implementation: the front view provides navigation and two-way interactivity, the side view provides visualization, extraction, and analysis (whether algorithmic or observational), and the compressed view provides a complete perspective as well as underlying data validation, referential integrity, and proof of authorship - prerequisites for voluntary economic participation.
Similarly, each representation also exposes an aspect of the overall provided value. The front view allows for navigating between different threads (which mirror your actions) where you can very easily input your actions. The act of navigating establishes context as well as sequentiality and associativity amongst various actions. This increasingly connected information can then be applied to visualizations (so you can see what you're doing from a variety of perspectvies) as well as algorithms which pull out details and connections that you have neither the time, inclination, nor experience for.
The side view is a fundamental visualization on its own but it also allows sectioning or slicing, filtering, pattern awareness like frequency distributions, repetitive cycles, clustering, and sequential correlations. If you want a quick glance at your last hour, day, or week, you can get it from this view.
The value of the compressed view is not so much from visuals or interactivity, but rather its computational structure. If you've heard of BitCoin or another cryptocurrency, you might know that they are each based on a public ledger called a blockchain. This blockchain is an ordered list of all transactions since its inception, with transactions bundled into blocks and then each block cryptographically linked to its predecessor. Cryptocurrencies achieve consensus agreement about the content of this public ledger by ensuring a significant amount of quickly verifiable work is done by anyone attempting to extend the blockchain. Gory details aside, this structure and process ensures a few useful things: no past transaction can be modified, all transactions are traceable back to their origins, only the owner of a coin can spend it, and of course that all transactions are public.
The compressed view can be represented similarly to a cryptocurrency blockchain, although privately held. Actions and associations recorded across a day or a week are naturally in sequence and interconnected, so each such interval becomes a block. As blocks are completed they are structured appropriately and then cryptographically signed and linked to the previous block. The very first block (and possibly each subsequent block) is linked to a private cryptographic identity that can be later used to verify ownership and/or authorship of the information.
This private blockchain-like structure allows an otherwise intensely personal and private collection of highly refined information to be selectively shared with the outside world in a safe and controlled manner. Or simply protected and not shared at all due to an appreciation of its value. Either way, it is an individual choice.
As described earlier, the general structure of the information is well suited for extracting very specific subsets of information. For example, if you found great success with a particular exercise routine, you might want to share that with your friends or on your blog. You'd narrow down to your exercise thread or context, then limit your interval to a relevant timeframe, and then continue to simplify and refine that raw workout data until you had something that was consumable by others. This extracted chunk would be traceable back to your raw data (even if it stayed private) and verifiably yours. Well before you reach a publishable form, the information analysis becomes a creative process. You may have noticed that the general structure aligns with the creative process quite well, but that is another topic.
So there's plenty of value coming from the pieces of the general structure, but there is even more sources of value when you look at the system as a whole. Being based on this particular general structure, a person finally has a general tool to use to approach nearly any problem. By recording and then visualizing information about theirself, a person can raise their level of self-awareness and be more conscious of their actions and behaviour patterns. Receiving value from one's own personal information is likely to cause an appreciation of its potential value, and change one's perspective on how to protect it. A realization of value - to experience it is to have it made real. Until it is real, it's not much like property, and not worthy of ownership and protection.
And then, once enough value has been realized, there's motivation to gain awareness of technological reality as it relates to the capture and recording of personal information. The risks of both public sharing and unintentional exposure of personal information become clear, leading to first-hand knowledge of how and why all of this information is aggregated and used. In this light, the demand for reliable and trusted devices and software may yet become substantial.
After such a system exists and is used for a while, there is finally a realistic basis for a legitimate information economy. There'd be a secure container for an individual's personal information with ways to extract and publish information of their chosing and in their preferred form. This information would be high quality, strongly verifiable, and intentionally distributed. But none of it is possible without a realization of value right from the beginning which then grows each small step along the way. If that happens, we can envision an information economy sustained by voluntary participation - one quite different from what we have now.