Offloading Memories

Among its “Year in Ideas”, the NYTimes has one by Steven Johnson on using the computer to remember all the details of one’s life:

In a way, it’s already starting to do that. Your e-mail files contain a good portion of your personal communication, and your calendar software has a record of every dentist appointment and staff meeting you’ve had in the last few years. But while it’s easy to track down an address that your colleague e-mailed you six months ago, it’s a bit more challenging to reconstruct a joke your friend told you during a phone call sometime in the late 90’s. So why not take matters a step further and record everything? Now that most of our information streams are built out of zeros and ones, it’s vastly easier to capture all those bits for posterity: every phone call, every passing conversation, every book you read or face you see — the totality of information that flows through a human life.

Think of it as a TiVo for real life, according to Johnson. He adds on his blog: “For space reasons, the piece dropped down a few hundred words, and lost a (somewhat predictable) little riff about how this connects to Vannevar Bush’s original vision of the Memex, which was all about using machines to extend our memory. But of course, the Bush vision is really about academic memory — it’s all about being able to track down that reference to the Gettysburg Address that you read five years ago and have almost forgotten. These new projects, on the other hand, are much more clearly directed to the stray details of everyday life. It’s not so much remembering some academic treatise as it is being able to determine, for once and for all, who really started that marital spat that’s been simmering for three weeks now…”

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Rajesh Jain

An Entrepreneur based in Mumbai, India.