Imagine you own two 1kg gold bars, and you highly value these items. Imagine also that you have two options regarding their storage. By the first option, you can keep them in a safety-deposit box at your bank. By the second, you can strap one to each calf and walk around with them attached to you at all times. On one hand you're trusting that the bank won't swap them out for silver or lose them to thievery, but you don't have to have them on you all the time in order to ensure their safety. Carrying your assets with you everywhere you go is the more sure path to security and knowledge of whereabouts, but it can impede the speed at which you navigate the world. Which to choose?
The better option in any scenario might be the option that yields the greatest net benefit, and this metric describes a target that's constantly on the move. Depending on the subject, object and all given context, that which is to be considered the optimal choice isn't set in stone. So, how do we decide? Case-by-case.
We have to ask a series of important questions to come to any reasonable conclusion. Do we want the original data contracts, art, writings, etc) to have the ability to be overwritten by creator rather than owner, or updated by the owner rather than creator? Do we think this data has the potential to be censored by any single authority, and if so, is that a problem? Will the data gain or lose importance over time, and depending on that, are we interested in watching the journey the data takes in its entirety?
These are a difficult series of questions to ask, because we largely don't know the answers until long after the decision would've been made. Did we know at the time that the now-famous-artist's last work would be the subject of much provenance debate? We may have made the decision to store the art off-chain thinking it was a short term display of current cultural values from a specific viewpoint. But isn't this all of art? Is paying the extra expense to make sure art is on-chain on the heartiest blockchain in existence possible or reasonable for everyone whose viewpoint might hold significant cultural value? I'd posit that the ability to afford such heavy, long-term storage is one presented to only those with the resources to do so, which colors strongly the narrative that later generations will find when all other systems of storage fail or cease operation.
Navigating what belongs where and by whose perspective is going to be a bumpy and confusing road. If one is to buy a piece of relatively expensive art, it may be nice to know that the creator of that art no longer has the ability to discard or modify the art without your consent. Conversely, this ability might be a part of the draw, in some way. If you're an artist, do you like the idea of proving provenance (origin, path, etc) easily or do you want the ability to stay more of less anonymous and provide as little context as possible?
Different storage methods yield a variety of types of control from both owner and creator and will appeal to different folks for different reasons. All we can do is make the decision that best fits our lives given our access to information and resources. The tech landscape changes at an incredible pace, so fear not-- new innovations and collaborations will bring more of the services we want but maybe can't afford to an increasing number of people, which will allow the story we're telling to be more accurately interpreted when the future comes.
See you there.
Thanks to Bankless DAO for the ongoing support.