0108 - Legacy code - 2019.10.28
I remember I once saw a debate for some local politicians, and one of them cited a proverb, saying "a civilization becomes great when old men plant trees whose shade they know they shall never sit in", or something like that.
It's a pretty great sentiment and I absolutely agree with it, but this particular politician (who was in his early thirties) clarified that it meant that it was time for baby boomers to contribute more, which rather ruined the impact. He did not win that particular election, as I recall.
The question of legacy is a big one. Civilization exists and progresses because we stand on the shoulders of giants, so what one leaves behind is a pretty big deal. We like to say that someone isn't really gone as long as living people remember them, but how far out does that stretch? How much does someone have to remember about that person, and how accurate do they have to be? What does this mean for figures like Socrates, who we surely remember inaccurately, assuming they existed at all? We all have long-forgotten ancestors who lived and loved and worked hard to provide for their families, we wouldn't exist without them... and yet, we only know them as a single name in a genealogical record, if that. If all they contributed to your family line was income and sperm, are they therefore less important and less meaningful to your existence than Isaac Newton or Ayn Rand or Rob Schneider?
How will I be remembered?
That's the big question, isn't it? In a world of celebrities and art and science and history, there are millions of names we remember, and billions more that we don't. It is tempting to assume that anything posted online will be preserved forever - so, in a certain sense, we might all be celebrities to someone after we died. I've mangled Andy Warhol's quote before, and I'll do so again here - in the future, everyone will be famous to fifteen people.
....at least fifteen people. Maybe more. It depends on how one defines 'fame'.
Perhaps this very paragraph will be dug up and read a hundred years from now. Perhaps someone will be on the 22nd century equivalent of a podcast, casually mentioning "hey, so I discovered this guy named Tailsteak who had an old science-fiction comic, it was pretty cool."
I just hope it isn't in the episode dedicated to weird gruesome ways people throughout history have died...