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Create a Digital Archive of Your Entire Life

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A Digital Life – 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

Microsoft is looking a way for you to record every second of your life. It’s called MyLIfeBits. Gordon Bell has already been recording every moment of his life for 6 years. The system is imperfect, but he has already amassed:

…a digital archive of more than 300,000 records, taking up about 150 gigabytes of memory. The information is stored on Bell’s dual-disk notebook computer and his assistant’s desktop PC, which are backed up locally and off-site. Video files grab the lion’s share of the storage space–more than 60 gigabytes–whereas images take up 25 gigabytes and audio files (mostly music) occupy 18 gigabytes. The remainder is shared by 100,000 Web pages, 100,000 e-mails, 15,000 text files, 2,000 PowerPoint files, and so on. Bell has found the system particularly useful for contacting old acquaintances and finding other people with whom he needs to communicate. He has also employed MyLifeBits to retrieve Web sites for citations in his research papers, to provide doctors with records of a 25-year-old coronary bypass, and to obtain a photograph of a deceased friend for a newspaper obituary.

They imagine a day in the life of a fictional family that uses the technology:

Because most of their information is available via secure Web access, the family members can retrieve it anywhere and at any time. Particularly sensitive information that might put someone in legal jeopardy can be kept in an offshore data storage account–a “Swiss data bank,” if you will–to place it beyond the reach of U.S. courts. The children in the family can encrypt their recordings, but the LifeBits service will give the parents access to the data in case of an emergency. Likewise, some of the parents’ digital memories may be covered by employment contracts that stipulate that the data related to their jobs belong to their employers. When such employees leave their jobs, they may have to perform a “partial lobotomy” on their copies of the memories, expunging everything deemed to be company property.

Now, bypassing the privacy issues, imagine handing over the security of your childhood memories to Microsoft, and the enormous dread the thought of this gives me, doesn’t it seem like a technology like this will do away with storytelling? Listening to a great storyteller is leaving the idea of literal truth behind. Hearing people describe what has happened to them, from their perspective, is one of the great joys of life. Exaggeration. Misunderstanding. Lies. These are very human things.

Communicating perspective is the cornerstone of art. In the future, instead of listening to a fantastic story of your friends night out, you’ll be forced to sit through an 8 hour tape of the entire boring ordeal.

I don’t care if this technology exists as long as I don’t have to use it. The loss of humanity far outweighs the benefits of remembering tiny details. In fact, I’m going to go purge the history in my browser right now, just to prove a point.

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