Saving Your Life on a Hard Drive

Who doesn’t wish to keep a record of a beautiful sunset that particularly impressed us in childhood, our first kiss or, for that matter, an important conversation with the boss that took place a few months back? One of our shortcomings is a constant struggle to remember. How difficult it can be sometimes to recall the name of the person you need to meet in an hour, the important phone number your secretary just read you on the phone, or that very important item your wife told you not to forget to bring home this evening. But what if you had a magical device that would allow you to rewind reality and see exactly what happened? —Iddo GennuthSaving Your Life on a Hard Drive (The Future of Everything)

One passage reads, “But hardware issues are slight in comparison to the problems on the software end.”

Let’s talk about problems on the ethical end. Such a device would not only record information about yourself, but information about the people with whom you live, socialize, and work. How will a juror in a mafia murder trial feel, knowing that eleven other jurors are recording everything he says during deliberations? How will a student feel, knowing the professor is recording everything the student says during a conference in which the professor points to a passage and says “This looks like plagairism”?

The author does refer in passing to “socio-psychological and legal problems,” but this is a rah-rah article about technology, not a thoughtful essay about the possibility of cultural change. (Actually, Neal Stephenson’s Diamond Age does a good job imagining what a society would be like, in a post-privacy future, where manners replace secrecy.)