CLOUD Dimensions: WHEN I Am™

Time is the greatest innovator.  — Francis Bacon, “Of Innovations” 1625

We live in a world measured by time.  The earth has always moved around the sun; the earth has always rotated on its axis; but we have not always measured WHEN in the same way.  We’ve gone from sun dials to sands through the hourglass to uranium clocks and Greenwich mean time.  This makes thinking about WHEN I Am™ an interesting issue, not only from a metaphysical perspective but especially with respect to both the way in which WHEN captures the specific aspects of time and how WHEN impacts our WHO, WHAT and WHERE.

A History of Time

Before delving deeper into WHEN I Am, it is important to brush off some aspects of the history of time, a topic eloquently considered in detail by Daniel J. Boorstin in Book One of his tome, The Discoverers.  As Mr. Boorstin captures in his preface to Book One — Time in the Discoverers: “The first grand discovery was time, the landscape of experience.  Only by marking off months, weeks and years, days and hours, minutes and seconds, would mankind be liberated from the cyclical monotony of nature.  The flow of shadows, sand and water, and time itself, translated into the clock’s s staccato, became a useful measure of man’s movements across the planet.  The discoveries of time and of space would become on a continuous dimension.  Communities of time would bring the first communities of knowledge, ways to share discovery, a common frontier of the unknown.

As becomes clear in his text, although we may fix time; time is not fixed.  As man wrestled with calendars marked by solar cycles, rather than lunar ones, we had to come to grips with “lost days.”  Since the earth moves around the sun in 365 and 1/4 days (and a few extra minutes and seconds), we’ve also had numerous fights over how to keep the months and days in the right spots and aligned correctly with the seasons.  In the case of some world religions, lunar calendars are still the official ones.  This history of time even lands on the shores of our own history in the United States.  “It was not until 1752 that the Protestant American colonies were persuaded to make the change” to the New Style calendar.  By adding the 11 “missing days” for the New Style calendar, George Washington’s birthday “moved” from February 11, 1731, Old Style, to February 22, 1731, New Style.  Of course, our founding father will still born at the exact same moment, we just tracked his WHEN I Am a bit differently based on the “new” calendar.

Is WHEN I Am a Time Stamp or Something More?

At this point, you may rightfully be asking what in the world this has to do with CLOUD’s new language for the Internet and ME 1.0! However, when one steps back from the clock, one realizes that the issue of WHEN isn’t as simple as applying a time-stamp to a document or an event.  There are already some well developed standards for this time issue, standards like X9.95, for example. There are even some intriguing patents out there that deal with “marking” time, but one might ask the USPTO can you really patent time, when we’ve changed it so many times over our history?

Putting WHEN in the Context of a Health Example

Using a similar example to the one discussed over in CLOUD Health a couple of days ago, a visit to the doctor’s office is an interesting way to consider not only WHEN but its relationship to WHO, WHAT and WHERE.  As we tackle this example from the perspective of WHEN, it is important to recognize that with a multidimensional standard one can pivot around any axis to view the others from this new vantage point.  So, if WHEN is fixed, then the many WHOs, WHATs and WHEREs are considered in relationship to the WHEN axis.  However, if I move to the WHO axis, then suddenly WHEN is no longer a static axis.  We may have chosen a specific convention for measuring time, but the measurement of time is not the same as marking WHEN I Am.

This is where this concrete example is useful to understanding the future of this aspect of CLOUD’s language.  During the visit to the doctor’s office, there are at least two WHOs to which WHEN matters.  There is my WHO, and there is the doctor’s WHO. There is also at least one WHAT to which WHEN matters.  That WHAT is the health record (hopefully an electronic one) that will be updated with the doctor’s diagnosis.  From the perspective of these 2 WHOs and 1 WHAT, there are 3 different WHENs that are affixed to our CLOUD-enabled profiles.  These WHENs may indicate the exact same time, but they are still 3 different WHENs for the purpose of “marking up” these events.  If I pivot to the WHEN axis, of course, these WHOs and WHAT will be seen as coinciding in that moment in time.

From a cross-tagging perspective, the fact that WHEN can be tagged to different WHOs and WHATs can be quite useful to determining the authenticity of records.  As the YouTube on our homepage describes, a health record can be cross-tagged by both patient and doctor to validate authenticity.  If all we had was WHO and WHAT for this cross-tagging, we will still be establishing a huge leap forward on the Internet, however, adding WHEN to the equation really cements cross-tagging as a powerful tool for authentication of records.

With only WHO and WHAT, even if the doctor is not present at my visit, an EHR could be compromised and a health fact added to my record unknowingly.  However, if the doctor’s WHO and WHEN are not congruent with my WHEN and WHERE, then the cross-tagging immediately becomes suspect because not only axes have “aligned” themselves around a diagnosis.  New Style or Old Style, our WHENs simply aren’t the same.

CLOUD Dimensions

This is only a first taste of the meaning of WHEN I Am within the world of CLOUD Dimensions.  We will return to this topic after fleshing out WHO I Am and WHAT I am a bit further.