October 01, 2007

I Forgot to Remember to Forget

Putting People First, the blog from Turin-based Experientia, have pointed to an interesting paper called Useful Void: The Art of Forgetting in the Age of Ubiquitous Computing.

"For millennia, humans have had to deliberately choose what to remember. The default was to forget. In the digital age, this default of forgetting has changed into a default of remembering."

The paper proposes that computers (/gadgets/technology/etc.) should by default forget things, so that we get back to the societal norms that have existed in history so far. I think I agree - I definitely think it's something we should worry about more than we do currently, we haven't decided to remember everything; it's just a by-product of our drive for more efficient and cheaper storage.

It's an idea that I've been pondering for a while now as a kind of background concept in some of the stuff I'm building, or thinking about building. It's definitely useful that computers are better than humans at remembering things, but we don't need the precision of the current systems. Do you ever need to know that your photo was taken at forty-six seconds past half three? Even immediately after taking it that's more precise than is useful. After a year, surely, "in the afternoon on Tuesday January 15th" is good enough? And in a hundred years time will anyone care for something more accurate than just "January 2008"?

The problem is that because remembering was something we used to have to work at, giving up such an ability is easier said than done.


Posted by Adrian at October 1, 2007 04:42 PM | TrackBack

This blog post is on the personal blog of Adrian McEwen. If you want to explore the site a bit further, it might be worth having a look at the most recent entries or look through the archives or categories over on the left.

You can receive updates whenever a new post is written by subscribing to the recent posts RSS feed or

Post a comment

Remember personal info?

Note: I'm running the MT-Keystrokes plugin to filter out spam comments, which unfortunately means you have to have Javascript turned on to be able to comment.