The shifting concept of permanence

Over the past week, my latest geeky little project has been to take a look at all the IT infrastructure that I operate and rearrange things around a little to match its current utility. Nothing drastic, just tweaks here and there, consolidating a few VPS‘s, swapping out email services and setting up a more robust DNS solution.

Which has brought me to today’s reflection on permanence and the irony of how such a concept survives in our hyper-transient digital world.

Permanence is typically associated with physical mass and tangibility, while transience, the lack thereof. A dead-tree bank statement bears far more permanence than a PDF. Molding a lump of clay with your bare hands, more than pushing polygons. Capturing light on photo-sensitive celluloid more than voltages on a CMOS chip.

But something dawned upon me as I was fixing up some mail forwarding settings for my primary email address: I’ve changed my physical real-world address at least 5 times since I last swapped email addresses. Going a little further, I must have gone through many more mobile phone devices since I signed up for my current mobile number.

Somehow, or some why, these very transient entities (email addresses, mobile number) seem to have lasted far longer than items that we traditionally deem “more permanent”. Don’t even get me started on how difficult it is to mop up an incriminating information leak, or an embarrassing photo on your social network.

This surely begs further and more thorough discourse, but here’s where my thought ends today. Maybe you’d like to chime in: how does such a shift affect the we live, and the way we value things?