The Personal Database – Unary Relations in a single-object data store

The Vision:

Each persons will have data stored in a single, secure, managed separate storage container made up of only that persons information.  Six Billion unique Single Object Datastores ™  for all 6 Billion People on this planet, (Akin to … A computer on every desktop and in every home) providing an on-line proxy for each person, an irrefutable single version of the truth.

If you are under the age of 50 you have probably done this….gone to the Google search page and typed your name into the box.  Surprised by what you saw?  You would be even more surprised by what you never see.

The ultimate query….

Select all information where <my personal identification> equals “me”

There are many “killer” technologies (Google, Facebook, The Internet) that have delivered a lot of digital “change.” What has not changed, however, is the way we store and manage information. Our once innovative Relational Database technology (circa 1970) has now become an anchor, one that we have been dragging around for far too long. We need a new technology that will go to the heart of the issue that will be in-sync with the physical, legal, and moral control information that protects the individual in a free society. A technology we have labeled as the Personal Database (the unary relationship) using a Single Object Datastore ™.

Tipping Point:

Computers used to supplement our analog world and provide data processing.  Today our digital lives depend on the storage and access to primary digital information where no analog format exists.  We can no longer rely on analog backups and ledgers but have to rely on digital information solely.

If you read the textbooks on relational databases by E.F. Codd and C.J.Date they mention in passing the unary relationship and dismiss it as trivial or irrelevant.   Our view is that the unary relation or single-object data store is the most significant model for data management in the emerging digital world.  In our transition from an Analog to a Digital world we have come to the tipping point where we can no longer rely on a paper copy or other archival record storage.  We have to rely on our digital storage as the primary and singular source of information.  To achieve that reliability we need to completely re-engineer our information management structures.  Security, reliability, authenticity, credibility and audit-ability have to become the basis for information management.  We can no longer rely on outsourced corporate islands of information where no laws can be applied.

“The Singularity is Near”

The Personal Database is where we augment the human mind similar to the ways described by Ray Kurzweil. The Personal Database is where we proxy for ourselves under our control. Our information, WORM (Write Once – Read Many) data, is stored in the Personal Database. It is the non-repudiated, irrefutable data about us. “Good or bad” (some data we might not rather share) it is our data.

We choose agents that operate in our Personal Database. We choose Macros that are executed on conditions, triggers, or a periodic scheduled basis. We interact with others from our Personal Database. We have a place for transactions to be executed and recorded from our Personal Database.

We use historical data from our Personal Database to analyze what we have done and what we should do. Our financial manager “lives” in our Personal Database. Our training coach “lives” in our Personal Database. Our personal shopper “lives” in our Personal Database. We have moved non-discretionary tasks to our Personal Database and interact with our Personal Database on a continuous basis. We have ubiquitous connectivity to our Personal Database…and this creates our “virtual self” that operates when we sleep. When we choose to avoid others our Personal Database can be our virtual receptionist and help them with basic functions.

You can’t do this with a multi-person relational database model.

Too many risks..
Too much data…
Too many processes…

Our personal data has to be segmented from other personal data.

Even if you could do this (and you can’t) in a relational database model, why would you? What is the advantage?

We have to model the person.

We should model the brain. We don’t all share one common brain. That would be a mess.  (a mess is just what a relational database is.)  We don’t have our brain carved up in little pieces scattered about the world. We keep what we have in one place. Why do we do that with our data? Our digital data is just a representation of ourselves shouldn’t we want to manage it?

The Solution

The solution for the future is to reverse the paradigm and do the exact opposite – separate personal data from other forms and store it in one place it by creating a unique Single Object Datastore ™ Personal Database for each and every one of us. If each man, woman and child had his or her own Personal Database, a safe and secure environment that only others with a need-to-know (or with the owner’s permission) could access, then personal information could be protected physically and by the rule-of-law. It would as if each of us had a safety deposit box in a ‘information bank’ where we could monitor all deposits and withdrawals. We would know who was accessing our data and why, every time, all of the time, at any time. While we would not have complete control of our data, we would have enough control to limit access to those who have the legal right (law enforcement, the IRS), or to ‘sell’ data to those who were willing to pay (marketing, sales).

Most importantly is the capability to know the extent and content of our data, its accuracy, and who is using it and for what purpose. Our data would, in effect, be copyrighted with any unauthorized access and use protected under the law. Resolution of errors and disputes about accuracy or content would be resolved by a trusted public agency. The position would be that each use of personal data would be with the expressed permission of the owner or the governmental authority, not the current situation where personal data may be used at any time unless specifically prohibited by the owner.

An Example

In a medical center the most common query was…

Select all information where patient equals <my current patient>

Several times a day for each patient this query was processed. It was the doctor asking for the patient’s chart. It was the medical review person checking data. It was the file clerk placing new information in the patient’s chart or a nurse making an entry.  It was an analog system but it worked pretty well. That information container (the patient’s chart) was well understood by everyone and had structure. It was protected as best it could be. It was organized as best it could be.

That same query is nearly impossible to execute for disparate computer systems networked with multiple disparate relational databases and consumes lots of computing resources.


Until we implement the Personal Database Single Object Datastore ™  vision we will not be able to effectively handle electronic medical records or any other personal information. Using relational technology online medical records will be a disaster and either push individuals to demand changes or convince us that the luddites were right.