One of the keynote addresses at RootsTech posed an interesting question. He asked what we would do with unlimited bandwidth, unlimited storage, and unlimited CPU.
His comments related to cloud computing and the continued cost reduction in computer storage, CPU, and bandwidth costs. It is possible, with cloud computing for anyone in the world to build a system able serve millions of customers. This can all be done from the comfort of our homes. A teenager, with the right skills, can now set up a system to compete with Facebook, if he or she has the right idea and the ability to create it.
I have thought about this many times since the conference. I have considered the profound difference that this can make to our world. Systems that only fifteen years ago that would have required an investment of millions can now be set up in minutes from home with only several hundred dollars.
I have laughed sometimes at Star Trek, where they talk about no one needing to work because society has become so productive that basic needs can be met and they only work on what gives them fulfilment. This talk was the first time that I considered whether that future might one day be a reality.
You might ask what this has to do with family history? My answer, “everything.”
I sometimes joke that our task in family history is simple. All we want to do is to discover every person who ever lived on the earth and their relationship to everyone else. Billions of people, trillions of relationships, trillions of documents, photos, life histories, and other items.
In addition to the storage and relationship challenges with family history there are the technical challenges. When will we be able to do handwriting recognition? Once that technology is mastered, the world of family history will completely change. Virtually every record on the planet will then be available to be searched instantly once it is digitized. I hope that this is not too far in the future.
When will computers have the logic and artificial intelligence to sort through records and find conclusions based on indirect evidence? I suspect that I will see this in my lifetime.
We live in a world of wonders. Technology creates many barriers, but many more opportunities. So I ask you the question Josh Coates asked at RootsTech. What will you do with unlimited computer resources?