The possibility now exists of capturing a cradle-to-grave record of everything a person says or does. No longer must a personal history be a partial picture. Technology has made it possible to record, process, store, and retrieve all the text, sounds and images that are required to paint a complete picture of an individual’s life. The efforts of future historians will be directed more to forgetting than to remembering. By default society will forget nothing. For almost all of human history, remembering has meant the judicious selection and organization of observations about events and people. There used to be an information frontier beyond which the past was a tabula rasa. That information frontier has gone the way of the dodo.
The social memory of events in an individual’s life is not only detailed but permanent. Although physical storage is fallible and changes in technology may make some devices effectively unreadable, these limitations are more than made up for by the negligible cost of duplication and distribution in a network. The record of one’s triumphs and tragedies will haunt one forever. Gone is personal privacy since facts buried in the past can be uncovered at any moment. Gone is personal memory since it is easier to rely on the external social memory of cyberspace. In what follows we explain these observations and trace their consequences.
[Read More] »