Note to the future about notes to the future

Back in 2009 Mike Linksvayer reblogged Hal Finney’s blog post about his own death.

Sad news from Hal Finney, diagnosed with ALS. I’ve only met him briefly, but have been following his writing, mostly on mailing lists, for nearly two decades. Very few if any people exist whose thoughts I trust and respect as much as his. Titled Dying Outside, Finney’s post about his diagnosis, is a fine example of his writing, for the future.

Hal Finney became famous for his impact on Bitcoin, but at the time he was known to me as much as to Mike for his exceptionally sharp and insightful writing on mailing lists. In Mike’s post he linked “for the future” to a message that Finney had sent to a mailing list for people interested in extropianism, the practice of mailing your frozen body to the future in the hopes that future people will open the envelope and revive your mind.

One thing we should keep in mind when writing here or in any online forum is that we are writing not only for the present, but for the future. Our words may well be read many times, even far into the future. They are recorded in public and private archives and will be available indefinitely. Given the likely increase in future levels of intelligence and attention, it may even turn out that more eyes see our writings in the far future than in the near present.

Hal Finney in 2004

I came across that message a few days ago, in the present moment of 2024, after Mike referenced his 2009 blog post referencing Finney’s 2004 email. Realizing what I was reading – a long-ago prediction coming true precisely in the moment I was reading it – gave me a shiver of ecstacy. It’s such a powerful insight that I forgive the utopian silliness about future intelligence and attention (note to people in the future reading this: you are not so smart!).

Blogging is a strangely isolating experience. It is a monologue with no listeners. A message in a bottle. But if it’s a message to the future, the odd social dynamics at least make sense.