Archain — A New Kind of History in the Making

I recently had the pleasure of visiting the British Museum. One of my favourite parts of the museum is the wing on Mesopotamia — to my mind the cradle of civilisation. The department that curates this wing houses the largest and most important collection of Cuneiform tablets in the world, with around 130,000 tablets in total. Developed by the Sumerians of Mesopotamia c. 3500 BCE, Cuneiform is one of the earliest systems of writing and scripts used to convey language. Of particular note to me was a collection of over 30,000 clay tablets named “The Library of Ashurbanipal”. Predating the Library of Alexandria, the Library of Ashurbanipal represents, what is speculated to be the earliest library of all of human knowledge — a Universal Library. The most well known document in the Library of Ashurbanipal is a twelve tablet copy of The Epic of Gilgamesh, widely regarded to be the earliest surviving great work of literature.

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Tablet 11 of the Epic of Gilgamesh, part of the Library of Ashurbanipal (source: Wikipedia).

Seeing the Library of Ashurbanipal, I was struck by the parallels between it and what Archain is attempting to do. For as long as information encoding in terms of script has been around, Humans have been trying to store information for long periods of time. While, of course, it is incredibly impressive that the tablets that comprise the Library have survived over five millennia, they are fundamentally impermanent. However, we believe that the digital age and the internet at last affords us the technology to provide a solution to true permanent information storage at a wholesale level. By financially incentivising the mass storage of rare knowledge in a decentralised, distributed and verified fashion, it is indeed conceivable that Archain could be the platform on which the next Universal Library is built.

The digital archiving that Archain supports provides benefits over archives of physical media in a number of ways. The principal and most obvious was is that, while traditional media can be subject to destruction, information on the Archain cannot be destroyed. The use of our Blockweave data structure, a blockchain derivative, cryptographically ensures it is impossible to destroy archived data. Furthermore, the decentralisation and redundant data storage inherent to the use of the Blockweave means there is no central authority or source of data — further securing the Archive by avoiding the creation of any weak point. Cryptographic verification also means that the data cannot be vandalised, forged or otherwise mutated. This has particular implications for censorship and freedom of expression — once data is on the Archain it cannot be altered.

Not only does the Archain provide the infrastructure for true permanent information archiving, once populated, it yields access to new information in an novel manner — as a live feed of hand picked information that users find historically important, valuable or worthy of storage in some way. This abstract notion of having access to information that someone finds important enough to pay a small amount to store, in a live stream could have an unprecedented effect on data mining and trend prediction in terms of Geopolitics, stocks and shares and language and culture. Over time, as the resources on the weave expand, Archain will become the trustworthy oracle of history on the internet. As the internet is not just a resource of abstract knowledge but also a catalogue of human events and culture, Archain will naturally come to represent a store of human experience, politics and understanding over time.

The Library of Ashurbanipal represents the pinnacle of the world’s contemporary technology in terms of information storage. We hope that Archain will become the next logical step in the precedent set by the Library, millennia ago.

For more information on the Archain project, visit us at archain.org, find us on twitter or email the team.

-archain-jon

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