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Total Recall

Gordon Bell and Jim Gemmell

Bell and Gemmell argue for the eternal archive but extol the virtues of capturing and storing every last detail of our lives within it. "With the same ease with which you can now search for just about any subject on the Web, you will be able to search your own electronic memory for any arbitrary item of knowledge you have ever encountered, any snippet of conversation to which you have ever been party, any document that has ever passed before your eyes, any place you have ever visited, any person you have ever met. You become the librarian, archivist, cartographer, and curator of your life."

Thus began CARPE - continuous archival and retrieval of personal experiences, the heart of Bell's MyLifeBits project. Capture everything, discard nothing. Bell devised his own 'memex' - a device worn around his neck to collect it all . "As of this writing I have 261 gigabytes of information save don my main computer and about 100 gigabytes accessible in my cloud [network]. I add about one gigabyte a month. This doesn't include continuous audio and video, but that's on the horizon." In the future, "your e-memory follows you wherever you go, accessible from any device you happen to be using."

"Our culture will need to develop a whole new body of etiquette about who may record whom when and where," conclude Bell and Gemmell with giddy understatement. Fairfield Porter once said that technology is dangerous because it is "idealism put into practice."

So you don't want to preserve unwanted, hurtful memories? Shame on you for cowardice. The authors simply quote Harvard psychology professor Daniel Schacter: "confronting, disclosing, and integrating those experiences we would most like to forget is the most effective counter to [unwanted recall]." (Mayer-Schonberger also quotes Schacter who says elsewhere that the constant reconstruction of our memory, entailing a benign faultiness, may provide major benefits.)

Bell asserts that total recall will also cancel the drawbacks of false memory. The authors cite the example of adults who "claimed that they had recovered long-repressed memories of sexual molestation" - implying that had they been recording their youth, such memories could be sorted out. Apparently it didn't occur to the authors that a child rapist could just turn off all devices and proceed as usual.

Much of this came from Ron Slate's blog here

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