Lesson from a Simple Old Key

Gatekeepers and Key Masters Know

What secrets did you protect old key?

The Backstory

I have found a lot of things while mowing the grass. Army men, old Polly’s from Polly Pocket, and some cool looking rocks.

But, the object I found this summer is the best so far, because of the historic mystery that surrounds it and what it brings to mind. Maybe it was from growing up in the best movies decade of all time… the 1980’s… I immediately thought of the Key Master. You know…

Vinz Clortho, Key Master of Gozer

when Rick Moranis’ character in Ghostbusters (1984) searched for The Gatekeeper. But, the 1980’s movie mind-wandering gets better… what about the gate keeper from the Princess Bride (1987). You know…

when Westley and Fezzik (Andre the Giant) needed access to the castle and threatened the life of the gatekeeper. Have I seen these movies waaaaay too many times? Probably. Key masters from 1980’s movies aside, the key I found in the yard looks pretty old, and I wish I knew its story.

The Object

The old key looks like it came right out of a movie, with the classic old, wooden door style shape and simple design.

I wonder what secrets this key unlocked or what secrets the key protected? Who managed access, and who had access? What was so valuable that it needed to be protected?

We can only imagine what its story is… so, let’s give that try!

Story Abstract

Circa 1808. Log cabins and apple orchards dotted the forest — miles between one person and the next or hours of wandering before stumbling across signs of humanity. A tree canopy so thick that any sunlight that touched the ground was quickly consumed by a small animal seeking a little warmth.

Tucked away in the forest was a small fur trader that preferred to keep to himself. He only saw other people when he needed to find them. The man was skilled at his trade and only sought furs that were in demand or provided what was needed to survive. The man knew the land, and he mapped the territory better than anyone.

The fur trader maintained compassion and respect for the Earth. He had a small, one-room cabin for sleeping, cooking, and solitude and a tiny, detached building — neither of which had any windows. But, only one building was locked… the detached building. But, why?

The Lesson

Who or what was he trying to keep out? What are the odds that someone was going to take what he was hiding? What treasure was worth so much that it needed to be locked up?

Those are usually the first questions that come to mind when coming across a locked door with unknown treasures stored behind them. But, there’s a better question…

What is considered treasure?

Was it the furs? Was it the weapons? Was it food? Or… was it a territory map… the map of the terrain that allowed anyone to find their way. Back then, the furs or food may have been locked away to keep the people and animals away from the man’s livelihood, but nowadays, it’s information.

Information is our greatest treasure.

Security Keys are Just the Beginning

We spend a lot of money and time to protect bits of data — and not just the obvious stuff like bank accounts. We encrypt our saved video games and don’t trust anyone to touch our smartphones let alone access them.

Career paths are built around keeping information secure. People need to manage information security, in order to try to keep up with the bad guys… the concept of cyber warfare has only scratched the surface.

With all the technology and knowledge that is stored in the world continuing to increase (5 years ago in 2011 the BBC estimated it was 295 Exabytes or 295 billion Gigs), the people who hold the keys to this technology will continue to expand and lock down life, simultaneously, as we know it.

Just like the 14 people who literally hold the keys to the Internet (the ICANN representatives), we all hold keys to our treasures.

The take-aways from the old key:

  • Understand what it is you treasure
  • Know how many “keys” you hold and what they access
  • The easiest way to protect your digital information is to unplug.
  • Movies from the 1980s knew how to tell a great story.

Knowledge is the livelihood of our species now. We go to great, no, EXTREME, lengths to protect our information. Privacy. Game keys. Passwords. Identity. Information and account security is what drives our culture and protects our greatest assets.

If only we could protect our information with a simple key from the 1800s.

BONUS: If it made sense for me to bury my treasure in the Earth, I totally would… and I would make a map for my future, grown-up kids to find it.

Written by Shaun Holloway.