[via Shiv] Scientific American writes about “new systems may allow people to record everything they see and hear–and even things they cannot sense–and to store all these data in a personal digital archive.”
Digital memories can do more than simply assist the recollection of past events, conversations and projects. Portable sensors can take readings of things that are not even perceived by humans, such as oxygen levels in the blood or the amount of carbon dioxide in the air. Computers can then scan these data to identify patterns: for instance, they might determine which environmental conditions worsen a child’s asthma. Sensors can also log the three billion or so heartbeats in a person’s lifetime, along with other physiological indicators, and warn of a possible heart attack. This information would allow doctors to spot irregularities early, providing warnings before an illness becomes serious. Your physician would have access to a detailed, ongoing health record, and you would no longer have to rack your brain to answer questions such as “When did you first feel this way?
In a sense, the era of digital memories is inevitable. Even those who recoil at our vision will have vastly more storage on their computers in the coming years and will expect software to help them more and more in utilizing it. Although some may be frightened at the prospect of ubiquitous recording, for us the excitement far outweighs the fear. Digital memories will yield benefits in a wide spectrum of areas, providing treasure troves of information about how people think and feel. By constantly monitoring the health of their patients, future doctors may develop better treatments for heart disease, cancer and other illnesses. Scientists will be able to get a glimpse into the thought processes of their predecessors, and future historians will be able to examine the past in unprecedented detail. The opportunities are restricted only by our ability to imagine them.