The life of a transaction

A speculative chronology…

Date: 20th of September 2020

On this date, the transaction was created. The transaction took a small amount of money from a single UTXO which it spent to create three outputs. The first paid the company hosting the data, the second paid a developer, and the third contained a short looping video of cultural relevance at the time. This video was fully contained within a False Return script rendering the output containing it unspendable. Mining nodes across the network simply peeled this output from the transaction and discarded it almost immediately from the UTXO set, keeping only the spendable outputs as needed to validate future transactions. Their copy of the Blockchain held the output such that the Transaction’s hash could be re-validated against the other scripts at any moment.

Around 10 minutes after being broadcast, the Bitcoin consensus network agreed on a valid timestamp for it and 1,954 other transactions, and rewarded the miner with 6.25 bitcoins fresh from the treasury and around 1 million satoshis in fees.

The video was viewed and shared a few times by the transaction’s publisher through a portal operated by the company managing the file on their behalf and then forgotten about shortly after.

Date: 21st of September 2020

Unbeknownst to the wider world, an archive service was already taking steps to build a long term backup of the world’s global public ledger, and when the block has been built upon 100 times, triggering the validation of the Coinbase transaction rewarding its creator, the transaction was simultaneously written into an archive grade server stored on a rapid access disc as well as a pair of geographically separate tape drives to ensure the longest possible retention. The archive was not paid to do this, but acted on capitalistic instinct, assuming that the data would retain value over time.

Date: 29st of September 2020

Nine day later, the company who wrote the file on behalf of the publisher used the funds allocated to them in the first output to pay hosting fees for their website, spending the coin out to a new owner, leaving just one live output attached to the transaction.

Date: 12th May 2027

Seven years after the transaction was created, the developer who received the tiny payment for his work finally spent the output while purchasing an insurance policy for an original Satoshi Doodle he was renting to a local museum. At this moment, the final unspent output linked to that transaction was removed from the pool, and the nodes in the consensus network almost simultaneously acted to purge the transaction from their working copies of the block chain. As the merkle trees in each node pruned out the transaction it became apparent that it was also the last remaining unspent output from that block, allowing them to complete the total pruning of that block, leaving just an 80 byte header stored in their dataset.

By this time the archiving service had created an additional 12 copies of the transaction, successfully monetizing their investment by selling access to the full history of the Bitcoin ledger to new nodes performing initial block downloads, to services hosting files such as the one written by the user and as a utility for users trying to recover lost files.

Date: 24th October 2047

A school student scanning the early ledger finds the video stored almost 30 years ago and circulates it among his friends. It goes viral, reaching over 600 million people’s feeds and making almost $10,000 for the archive service who first catalogued it. Many people take an offline-copy including the merkle root, but within a year most have purged it from their storage devices, replacing it with the more up-to-date content needed to participate in the meme economy.

While the original archive company are a market leader, over 400 other businesses now operate with a similar model and collectively they reap almost $1 million from people demanding to be shown the content. It is a highly competitive industry and many of the new players operate with advanced storage materials that vastly outperform the dated hardware being used by the original archive allowing them to undercut their retrieval prices heavily.

Within 12 hours the flurry is over and the video is forgotten once again…

Date: 18th January 2049

The original archive’s owners capitulate, filing for bankruptcy and the servers holding the original copies of the file finally go dark. The hardware is stripped from the racks and replaced by servers conducting neural learning for the purposes of generating more powerful memes to grab the attention of an intensely jaded population. The copies are placed in an archive at the Smithsonian.

Thankfully, these original records are duplicated across over 12,000 ledger archives, some of the full history of the ledger, some holding only outputs containing files, and some holding only outputs containing files of the particular type used by the original publisher. Each archive caters to a specific user base and manages their data in a way that maximises their profit.

Most archives have migrated to facilities stored in the upper layers of low earth orbit which serve their data via satellite internet to devices everywhere in the world.

Date: 3rd May 2180

When the last remnants of the Tong-en-Chiek Empire’s authority is overcome, the trans-orbital citizenship authority votes to remove all technology from earth’s surface, making it illegal to keep non-sanctioned data-storage units below the troposphere or within 100 meters of the surface. Over the next 18 months, all but the deepest and most hidden data complexes are taken off-line and the hardware either rendered inert, or moved off-planet for recyc. Of the 4,700 copies of the file that existed just 800 remain, safe in several different layers of orbit, as well with additional backups across the solar system.

Date: 83rd day, 142nd Post-unification annulus

A student conducting research on culture and religion over the first 3 decades of the datum point discovers the video, sharing it closely within his department and family. Pre-unification cultural content is still very misunderstood and the video is labelled as religious iconography. The evaluation triggers some interest, and once again the video goes viral, being viewed by over a billion people’s AI feed managers, and fed directly into the cortex of around 100,000 of those for further consideration.

Each one makes a copy with a full merkle proof, establishing the provenance of this item as one of the earliest in the datum-line. His 128 page analysis of the video is read twice, once by his partner who subsequently leaves him, and once by his superior’s AI who awards the student a passing grade.

Date: 12-Jup 2493 PUA

Reptilian raiders invade the solar system, first attacking stations on Ganymede and Callisto before moving into the asteroid belt. Their technology allows them to detect the P-Fold units that hold humanity’s data in a space-time substrate with density approaching that of a Neutron star. The positioning systems that hold the condensed matter in space are destroyed and within a month 97% of all archives are pushed into Sol where they descend rapidly to its core, creating a localized gravitational anomaly and accelerating its eventual transition to a black hole.

The last accessible copies are blasted from existence as part of the Kay-Yan data purges just 12 years later as humanity reverts to an agrarian society, once again forgetting the technological basis of its history.

Date: 15-349 Budan Dynasty

An archaeological dig finds a perfectly preserved solid state drive holding the first 40 years of timestamps on the ledger. While the archaeologists can see that the device is some sort of assembly, its origin is unknown. It is placed on a museum shelf and labelled as an early capacitive storage array.

Oh, by the way, here is the transaction

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