The other night on OnPoint (npr show hosted by Tom Ashcroft), the focus of hour one was the latest digital life concept from microsoft researchers Gordon Bell and Jim Gemmell, co-authors of “Total Recall: How the E-Memory Revolution Will Change Everything”. (go here to listen to the show: http://www.onpointradio.org/2009/09/e-memory-and-you/comment-page-2#comment-27025 )
The human and more critical counter point guest was Douglas Rushkoff, author of Life Inc: How the World Became a Corporation and How to Take It Back, among many others – author, teacher, and documentarian who teaches media studies at the New School University, serves as technology columnist for The Daily Beast, and lectures around the world.
The soft-heads are trying to sell us some form of data recording for every single moment and fact of our lives. I don’t really understand how it currently works, but they have plans to streamline it for the future. It’s the overall concept they are selling right now, and one of them has already been busy doing it, digitally recording and storing all of his personal data and everything he does on a daily basis.
Admittedly, I’m close to being a Luddite. At the least, I am certainly very suspicious of the whole digital cyber “revolution” – despite having this blog. If it ain’t written down on paper, I worry about where it actually is. What happens if the plug gets pulled?
And as it is, thanks to adding machines no one knows how to do basic math anymore, and thanks to spellcheck, no one knows how to spell anymore – though that is not necessarily a bad thing. Old manuscripts, pre-printing press, can be a lot of fun to read, just to see how many different ways the same person would spell Englynd in one letter.
But the idea of recording my whole life into some cyber library of data goes to a whole nother level.
As many folks who left comments on the OnPoint site noted, the Big Brother aspect looms large. And there’s no way anyone from microsoft could convince me that they wouldn’t sell that info to the highest bidder, or just turn it over to the ruling regime to ensure their own safety.
(all content in brackets is paraphrased. for fact checking, listen to the show via link above.)
These micro-soft heads were as snotty – read arrogant and ignorant – as could be.
One woman called in saying she sees it as a form of hoarding – she said we’re not meant to hold onto it all – it is going to change us and she wouldn’t want to be changed in that way. After she hung up, one of the soft-heads said:
“Well, she shouldn’t record her [self and] she’ll be happy with those people with Alzheimers” –
How illogical – as much of what they said was. Seems to me recording everything is something I would do only if I anticipated GETTING Alzheimers. And comparing Alzheimers to not recording every bit of my life just doesn’t make sense! Forgetting what I ate in some diner in Arizona is not the same as forgetting who my own children are.
A few minutes later one of them said:
“[I might wanna add], she should go back and get rid of all her files and her file cabinets –”
Now, I keep journals and they’re like notes on my life – more of my feelings than data – and they’ve proven to be checks on my memory and reconstruction – and valuable for that – but I even feel crazy about that; I feel like I’m hoarding. And I’ve yet to go back and look at most of it.
It’s true that keeping notes is what has helped us to know what happened in the past– HISTORY –
But: Recording everything – ?
One of them said “Don’t’ Delete” should be a general rule. Hmmmm.
Doug Rushkoff said he’s concerned that the whole idea is “more towards the past than less” – enslavement to a certain kind of “old map” versus. “future focused”.
If you spend all of your time revisiting everything you’ve already done, hours of it, it IS like living in the past! If you’re recording every bit of shit and revisiting it, when are you living your life?
– “Luke; Go back; It’s a trap!”
Also: Seems to me if you’re using a machine to do for your brain, just like a body, your brain will get flabby and weak, eventually atrophy (eventually maybe give you Alzheimers!)…
I’d been thinking that all along, when finally a 70 year old called up and said he was concerned “our brains will become flaccid” – “a peanut floating around in a Mason Jar.”
The older of the two soft-head dudes attempted to respond with what sounded like a brain going flabby already: “Oh, I don’t know if, if, if, people will, if, if, you know, you know, don’t you feel more confident having your cell phone remember everything?”
HELL NO! I feel totally fucking nervous –
He continued, and added: “- you always know where they are – ”
How many times do people lose their cell phones and that’s it – all gone – and they’re screwed!
As for the amount of time spent doing all of this:
“The task of recording” -: “We’re on the threshold [of being able] to make it automatic.”
Well, I saw that coming! What, can we inject a total-record chip into our brains? Or will it be something more ominous, like that unexplained UberVision Eye in Star Trek, the original series.
Doug Rushkoff kept laughing, I would assume at what is the faulty, weak, and absent reasoning skills of these two guys – don’t get them up in a court of law; they’d get eaten up – as well as a certain absurdity about the whole proposition – which doesn’t mean it won’t go over.
Eventually, folks started calling in talking about the Data Cloud out there in cyber space. One of these snotty guys said:
“Well how do you keep your gmail [private/protected] now?”
I say: YOU DON’T! Ever hear of hacking? The FBI? Big Brother??? And don’t tell me you don’t believe in that stuff, ‘cause anything you’ve ever written or signed can and will be dug up and held against you; just investigate your/our history.
From wikipedia: “After 180 days in the U.S., email messages lose their status as a protected communication under the Electronic Communications Privacy Act, and become just another database record. This means that a subpoena instead of a warrant is all that’s needed to force email providers such as Google’s Gmail to produce a copy. Other countries may even lack this basic protection, and Google’s databases are distributed all over the world. Since the Patriot Act was passed, it’s unclear whether this ECPA protection is worth much anymore in the U.S., or whether it even applies to email that originates from non-citizens in other countries.”
Personally, I don’t post anything on gmail that would overly require my privacy, and if the rest of the idiots in the world do, that’s just cause they don’t know their history, or how devious, twisted, panicky, and stoopid manipulative people in power can be!
And the soft-heads’ final point in favour of this plan?
“In a way, we’re already there”
I mean, on the positive side:
Just think – Holocaust Memories: we’d have maggots, scabies, dying babies; and grinning Nazis dashing babies against brick walls, and eating lush meals complete with champagne – along with the Jewish collaborators/leaders eating lush meals, while having their own children tutored by hungry others in rags.
But ultimately, I don’t think these guys are really concerned with folks having memories to look back on and check in on and watch over and over again. I don’t believe they care about human beings at all. And given their arrogance and refusal to consider the broader implications, I don’t think they even know anything about being human.
Call me paranoid, or call me informed, I think there is a deeper motivation here: to collect data about humans, for ends that might not even be in sight right now. Data first; plan later. For now, it’s about changing human behaviour, getting people used to recording all their data, living in their minutiae, and forking it all over to the big server in the sky – or is it at microsoft?