Artificial Intelligence Meets Blockchain to Put (Another) New Spin on the Traditional Time Capsule

Whether it’s using a DNA test to track an individuals’ family tree and migration, or investigating how the ancient Egyptians lived, one thing about humanity is undeniable: we all share some kind of interest in our history and how we’ve evolved over time. This is evidenced in the emergence of all kinds of new technology: from the aforementioned DNA tests to 3D-imaging platforms that enable researchers, scientists and historians to blend scientific knowledge with AI to accurately peel back the layers of time and see how the world looked before humans had even entered it. 

But have you ever thought about how our current world will look to future historians? While we do have the internet and its seemingly infinite amount of data on the human experience, it’s not without limitations. Data rots, social media platforms lose popularity, and news outlets eventually disappear into obscurity, taking the masses of images, articles and status updates with them. This also doesn’t take into account the possibility of natural disasters, which can damage the physical servers our plethora of digital information is stored on, introducing the possibility it could be lost forever.

Thankfully, with a recent collaboration between NotForgotten, the creators of the first digital, blockchain-powered time capsule and Veritone, an AI company, the historians of the future won’t have to rely solely on cobbled-together written records and imaging technology, nor will they have to spend hours combing digital archives to pull records from a certain year. Instead, they’ll be able to easily search a set time or place in history through one central archive to get a glimpse into the sights and sounds of our time through a multitude of personal viewpoints. 

Having launched in September 2019, NotForgotten enables users to capture their personal stories and significant life events through video, and store them securely in ‘digital time capsules’ for up to 300 years using a combination of blockchain technology, personal genealogy records and on WorldCat, a global catalog of library collections. These digital time capsules become public property – after an optional time period prescribed by the user – with each acting as an edition in NotForgotten’s library of shared human experience.

The collaboration with Veritone brings NotForgotten one step closer to realizing their goal: to facilitate machine learning about a time and place in history. This is achieved through Veritone’s aiWARE cognitive abilities enabling automated video transcription and metadata creation, while the Veritone-built, white-label Digital Media Hub empowers users to search and access videos stored within the NotForgotten archives to get a glimpse of a set time and place in history. 

What does this mean for future historians? Adrienne Liebenberg, Co-Founder at NotForgotten believes it will add a whole new dimension for those looking to understand our time, stating “While researchers currently have to rely on extrapolating the written opinions of the few for sentiment on events that happened in history, they will be able to see, hear, and most importantly understand how people feel around certain events from our time, from a personal perspective. NotForgotten will essentially be an easily-searchable, purpose-built window into the past.”

NotForgotten enables this glimpse while facilitating machine learning through the implementation of a highly-consistent video capturing format that prompts users to answer a specific set of questions ranging from the practical to the philosophical. Once uploaded, Veritone’s AI analyzes these videos and adds AI-enabled insights about society and people within a set time and place, and the Digital Media Hub enables an advanced search experience. 

“Instead of searching for a date or time, researchers or historians will be able to search for sentiment, like ‘young people rejoicing in the United States, 2021, for example,’ Liebenberg explains, “From there, researchers will be able to analyze and draw conclusions for themselves around the events happening that caused young people to rejoice in 2021, backed up by videos featuring first-hand accounts.” 

As for the aforementioned data rot and potential for server damage? NotForgotten combats this possibility by creating three versions of each digital time capsule: one for the user, and two stored separately within secure server facilities, both in different locations in the United States. To further this longevity, NotForgotten is backed by an enduring Digital Preservation Trust and Guarantee Fund, which works hand-in-hand with an official library entity to achieve their sole mission: the survival of these digital time capsules for hundreds of years to come. 

“Our partnership with Veritone is a monumental step to fully realizing our vision for NotForgotten,” says Liebenberg.“2020 is obviously a turbulent time, brimming with divided opinion, political throwdowns, whisperings of wars, a rapidly changing climate, the emergence of coronavirus…the list goes on. It’s exciting to consider what all this will look like to researchers in 2320, and now, with NotForgotten and Veritone’s partnership, future researchers will have a full, accurate, personal, and easily-searchable viewpoint of how everyday people lived through these events.”